TODAY is the 150th anniversary of the birth of one of Bolton's most famous sons.

Lord Leverhulme, dubbed the Soap King, was born on September 19, 1851, and has left behind a legacy which lives on today.

William Hesketh Lever, who later became the first Viscount Lord Leverhulme, was a renowned industrial entrepreneur who launched his industrial success with a bar of soap.

Eventually, he became one of the town's most generous benefactors.

He was born in Wood Street, Bolton, the son of a grocer.

His business life had humble beginnings when, as a shrewd teenager, he worked in the family shop and cut up and wrapped the long bars of yellow soap used at the time.

As the firm grew, he decided to manufacture his own brand, which he named Sunlight.

Premises were rented and within the first year, a thousand tons were produced. From earning one shilling a week, his finances rocketed and, by 1918, his estate showed a surplus of an amazing £5,000,000.

It was no more than his strong Bolton family background expected of him as he had been born to a long line of hard-working Levers, counting among his ancestors Robert Lever, the founder of Bolton Grammar School in 1641.

Place names like Great Lever, Little Lever and Darcy Lever also forged his Bolton connections.

As the business expanded, a new site was found near the River Mersey and work began on a showpiece of workers' homes called Port Sunlight.

But he never forgot his Bolton origins and familiar names were immortalised in Port Sunlight including Bolton Road, Wood Street and Edgworth house.

Lord Leverhulme was a forward-thinker who made his employees partners in his flourishing business and campaigned -- still ahead of his time -- for a six-hour day, arguing that production would not fall because on present working days staff were too tired to give their best.

His empire grew beyond even his own dreams and continued to be successful long after his death in 1925, at the age of 74.

His products had names which are still familiar to many people today, including Lifebuoy, Lux and Vim. He used the slogan "see how this becomes the house" to help sell his products.

Lord Leverhulme's interest was not confined to his business. Throughout his life, he collected paintings and gained a reputation as a connoisseur of the arts.

Earlier this year, a three-day sale of the contents of his last home, Thornton Manor on the Wirral, raised almost £10 million, a record for any UK country house sale.

Robert Holden, London fine art agent, speaking on behalf of members of Lord Leverhulme's family, said the sale was an historic tribute to the taste and quality of the art and antiques acquired by Lord Leverhulme.

Lord Leverhulme also had a keen interest in architecture which resulted in a bold scheme for Bolton which included a tree-lined boulevard into the town centre, from a restored Queens Park.

He gave the town Leverhulme Park, Lever Park and the Blackburn Road Congregational Church, which later became the United Reformed Church.

In his time, he restored Hall i'th' Wood museum, saving it from demolition by buying it and restoring it, then donating it to Bolton, and he funded the rebuilding of Bolton School, establishing a trust which still helps to maintain it.

In 1898, he was appointed governor and contributed buildings and a swimming pool.

He loved his extravagant house and its grounds in Rivington included Babylonian terraced gardens, a miniature zoo, lakes, waterfalls, pagodas and oriental tea houses.

He was devastated in 1913 when his famous bungalow, built on the flanks of Rivington Pike, was burned to the ground by suffragette Edith Rigby, the wife of a Preston doctor.

The tycoon never understood why he had been singled out because he was in favour of voting rights for women and had said so when he was a Liberal MP.

He had voted in the House of Commons for such a move to become law.

After he died, the gardens which Lord Leverhulme had lovingly developed became derelict.

But, over the past 20 years, volunteers have restored them and uncovered miles of previously impassable footpaths making the area a popular spot for walkers.

Probably the most influential man in Bolton's history left a legacy of land and liberalism that will never die.