Priceless bust of Lever stolen from memorial

A PRICELESS bust commissioned in memory of the Second Viscount Leverhulme has been stolen from a family plot in the grounds of a Wirral church.

The portrait bronze bust, created by renowned artist Sir Charles Wheeler after the death of William Hulme Lever, son of the founder of the Port Sunlight village, was discovered missing last week.

Police say their investigation into the theft of the life-size sculpture is “at an early stage” but have appealed to witnesses or anyone who has been off-ered the bust to contact them.

The bust was part of a family plot in the grounds of Christ Church and, although hollow, is a life-size bronze representation of the former Viscount.

Christ Church secretary Chris Maple said it was unlikely to have been stolen to sell as it is, and it is feared it might have been taken by someone planning to melt it for scrap.

He said: “It’s difficult to say how valuable it is because there is only one of them, but created by a well-known artist of the time.

“It was taken from the Lever family tomb, where it had been since the 1950s.

“After the Second Viscount died, the family commissioned the artist Sir Charles Wheeler, one of the most famous sculptors of the time, to create the bronze bust.”

Mr Maple said the Lever bust was probably heavy, despite being hollow, and would be too recognisable to be sold as an artwork.

He said: “Whoever took it wouldn’t be able to sell it, because there is only one of them and it’s too well known.

“We suspect maybe it was stolen for the meltdown value.”

However, he said it had been stolen once before, around 15 years ago, but following a public outcry had been discovered abandoned half a mile away.

Mr Maple said: “We are hoping it will again be found. The spikes are still there where the bust was positioned, in the hope that it will be returned.”

Anyone who has seen the sculpture – or been offered it for sale – is asked to call Bromborough police station on 0151 777 2530.