THE Lady Lever Gallery's South End annex re-opens later this week after a multi-million pound refurbishment.

It will open on Friday following the £2.8m revamp, which was part-funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The gallery is home to more than 1,500 objects, including the best collection of Wedgwood jasperware in the world, one of the finest collections of Chinese porcelain in Europe and outstanding 18th century paintings, furniture and sculpture.

A number of architectural changes have been made to the galleries in order to return them to their impressive former grandeur, including the opening up of original doorways to improve circulation within the galleries.

The Globe attended a press launch today ahead of Friday's opening.

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Sandra Penketh, director of Art Galleries for National Museums Liverpool, during unveiling of Lady Lever's South End gallery today. Pictures: Craig Manning

The striking, original double-height spaces with barrel vaulted ceilings have also been revealed by removing the low, suspended ceilings that were installed in the 1960s.

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One of the exhibits in the refurbished South End gallery

Sandra Penketh, director of art galleries at National Museums Liverpool, said: "The new South End galleries are a true representation of Lever's remarkable vision.

"He believed that art should be an inspiration to all, and the rooms in this spectacular space were re-imagined with this message at heart."

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The South End gallery reopens on Friday

Sandra continued: "We've reversed some of the changes that were made to the South End in the 1960s, opening up the galleries to allow us to display Lever's outstanding treasures in the best possible way.

"We're incredibly excited to reveal the new galleries to visitors and hope that they'll enjoy exploring the collections in new and inspiring ways."

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Among the exhibits on display in the Wedgwood jasperware room

New glazed doors will provide picturesque views of Port Sunlight village from the South End, while architectural lighting highlights some of the gallery's most beautiful and iconic features, including the South End glass dome.

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The Salambo statue on display in the South End Annex

The newly-themed displays feature:

  • Wedgwood Rooms - two interlinked rooms displaying the gallery's astonishing Wedgwood collection. In 1905 Lord Lever purchased a large group of beautiful ornamental ware, which is now regarded as the world’s finest collection of Wedgwood jasperware.
  • New displays will highlight very rare objects, such as two copies of the celebrated Portland Vase and three, of possibly only four in the world, complete jasperware fireplaces.
  • An Eighteenth Century Room will include some of the most outstanding examples of English 18th century furniture in the country. The display in this room will explore female portraiture and the lifestyles of women during this period.
  • Two interlinked rooms will demonstrate the importance and influence of Chinese ceramics on European art and taste.
  • There is also a rich collection which includes 17th-18th century porcelain (Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong periods), reverse paintings on glass, cloisonné, jade, snuff bottles and earlier ceramics of the Han, Tang and Song dynasties (2nd century BC - 14th century).
  • A new room exploring the ways in which European artists re-interpreted oriental designs and decoration in objects made in the West. Much of the gallery’s Chinoiserie furniture will be displayed together here for the first time.
  • Napoleon Room – a dazzling display of furniture and artefacts related to Napoleon will be given new life as visitors will be able to get much closer to the objects.
  • The room is not only a demonstration of Lord Lever's eclectic taste, but also his drive to collect, assemble and share those things which inspired him most.
  • The Sculpture Gallery and Vestibule – refurbishment of the stunning south dome will create a dramatic backdrop for fine examples of Victorian and early 20th century sculpture. While the plans for the south vestibule will connect the gallery with the architecture of Port Sunlight village.

Below: Pictures showing collections and artwork on display

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