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SANDFIELD TOWER 

Sandfield Tower is a 3 level Grade II listed building in the south of Liverpool, set back from the main road and lost in time compared to the neighbouring houses.  Now derelict and fire damaged throughout most of the building, it is left to the mercy of the weather  and elements from many of the open windows and part missing roof.
 
The original name for this building was called Sandfield - The Tower, due to its location and the fact that there is a beautiful sandstone tower rising through the centre of the building but has more recently been known as 'Gwalia'. A last ditch effort is in place to highlight the plight of this listed building, its poor state and the unusual history surrounding the building, now lying empty save for the mercy of time.

24 years ago, I personally highlighted that this building was at risk to Liverpool City Council. Each year I have e-mailed the City Council for an update. I have also e-mailed English Heritage, Save Britain’s Heritage (each year) and attempted to understand exactly where this building features under Liverpool City Council's remit. It was heavily featured in the Liverpool Echo Stop the Rot Campaign. 

This fine structure was built in 1854 for the rich merchant, Joseph Edwards. He was a South American merchant, but little is known about his trade, but he was registered at number 4 Cook Street, Liverpool. He would have made his money and acquired the land to build the grand villa on.

Looking at the OS map of 1840-1880, Sandfield Tower would come to stand in the centre of the main square field. But not Queens Drive as we know it, originally this road was called Black Horse Lane and would not be named Queens Drive until it’s extension from 1903 to 1927 when the ring road was constructed and completed. 

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When Joseph Edwards passed away in the property in 1878, it stood empty for a couple of years but it was then owned from 1880-1881 by Miss Alice Houghton who married William Kinsman and they jointly owned the property from 1882-1890. Ralph Lyon Broadbent owned the property from 1891-1900.In 1931, the building was purchased by Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist who gave it a new lease of life!

I, Jonathon Wild (Historian and Proprietor of Braygreen) have campaigned to have this building recognised, and somehow restored to its former glory over a twenty-four-year campaign. I have researched the history of the building with the help from local historian Natalie Jones, and produced this website which is well known and well visited.

I have authored a book on the building and have campaigned to local councillors, every Mayor of Liverpool, and been featured in the Liverpool Echo as well as appeared on BBC Northwest over twenty years ago to highlight the plight of this building. Both Historic England and Save Britain’s Heritage are well aware of my campaign. They have been sent a copy of my book. Save Britain's Heritage featured this as their Building of the Month in September 2021! A copy can be found at www.sandfieldtower.co.uk 


In 1880, Miss Alice Houghton moved into the property. She was born in 1834 and by 1881, she was listed in the census as the Head of the property. At this stage, the property was still known as ‘Sandfield Park, The Tower’. She lived with her sister, Susan, her stepsister Pattie, a niece, Mary Smith,  and a couple of servants. One wonders whether this was a rented agreement or whether she had purchased the property? It must have been a pretty penny if she had purchased the property without any support from a partner at the time.

William Nutter Kinsman, unconnected with Sandfield Tower at the time was  born on the 29th July 1829 in Handsworth, Warwickshire. His occupation in 1851 was a Clerk in the Bank of England and by 1856, he was described as a Gentleman of Liverpool and was married in Manchester Cathedral to Eliza Pearson a spinster aged 23 of Yew Bank, Broughton.

From 1931 till 1981, the building was used as a Church for the Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist. This is a stunning building and must be saved! 

NAME AND LOCATION:

Sandfield Tower, Queens Drive, West Derby.

BUILD DATE:

1854

LISTING & OWNERSHIP

Grade II - Privately owned 

CONDITION:

Poor, collapsed gable end, collapsed main part of roof structure, collapsed first floor, no staircase, collapsed main floors. Tower structure is the most original part (internally) with very little original cornice left in the property. Unsure how structurally safe the building is now due to the lack of roof and collapsed internal floors.

LAST CONTACT WITH CITY COUNCIL:

In 2024, the grounds of Sandfield Tower have been cleared of bushes/trees and has been scraped back to soil. The City Council were informed over this work, and we have stated that we will keep them updated (and vice versa). No planning application has gone in for the building and it may just be to keep the vermin at bay from neighbouring properties.

SECTION 54 OR SECTION 48 SERVED:

No response from the City Council over either being served. 

NEXT STEP: 

The City Council are aware of the plight of this building. What I fail to understand is how it has got to this poor state even thought I have campaigned on this building for 24 years. I have liaised with the council each year and for all the good it has done for the publicity of the building, not a single brick has been restored in all this time. I fail to understand whether the owner has something on the council and thus they cannot bring him to task, or whether the City Council washed their hands on this building years ago and have no desire to push any urgent works notices forward.

While 24 years the building wasn’t in the best of condition back then, it was in a far better position than it is now. It is not going to fall down soon but is not just an embarrassment to the thousands of people who travel down Queens Drive each day, but it is a frustration and a health hazard (especially the ground) for the local Sandfield Park Nursery and also the residents at the rear. Surely at this stage, the owner and the City Council can sit around the table to ask the future of this building and what needs to be done – we are all 25 years older than when I started on this campaign!

For all the information and images for Sandfield Tower, please visit my website. 

If we fast forward to the last five years, the building has been ignored by every single ward councillor I have been in touch with. Past Mayor’s of Liverpool ignored 7 e-mail’s and no one would give me the time of day on this building. It is only with my latest contact at Liverpool City Council who has been absolutely sterling in contacting me with concerns on not just this but also other listed buildings. (I won’t name you – but thank you!)

In July 2020 I e-mailed my contact at the City Council stating that lockdown may have held things down for Sandfield Tower and asked whether new dates had been selected to move the CPO process on. Their reply:
 

Thank you for your email enquiring  about progress at Sandfield Tower. I am awaiting an update on the Councils financial situation. The Council had already implemented a spending freeze in the financial year before Covid. Since then, the Council has spent £60m on measures to counter Covid but has only received £6.5m from the government's latest coronavirus funding settlement The Echo has reported that the Council only has 16m left in reserves.

I have campaigned on this building for twenty-four years and successfully researched the history of the building and its owners. I have written a dedicated website on the building and also launched a Facebook group. Further to this, I have also written a book, ‘The History of Sandfield Tower’ which all 50 copies were sold out within a month as local residents and those interested in the building wished to find out more. To date I have not received any response from the owner on their intentions for the building.

The building, twenty four years ago, was in poor condition back then but structurally sound. It had a near full roof, and there were floor levels that could be seen, though there were no stairs in the property. I have taken photographs of the exterior for the last twenty-two years and it is now little more than a folly. How many more years will this building be ignored?

After seeing new images of the interior of the building, I sent over an e-mail to the three Knotty Ash ward councillors, Alison Clarke, Nick Crofts, Harry Doyle as well as Liverpool City Council's Townscape Heritage Initiative Manager Peter Hoey - no response. 

Hi Alison, Nick, Harry & Peter,

 

As you may know, I have campaigned on Sandfield Tower (Queens Drive) for over 20 years, written a website (www.sandfieldtower.co.uk) and written a book on the history of the building. I know the building better than my own house and have liaised with Peter in the past over many years providing history on the building as well as past and present images on the history of the building. I will continue to campaign for the restoration of this building as long as it still stands. 

 

I'm well aware of the current stance with regards to the City Council and its funds for Heritage. However, please can I draw your attention to the attached images. 

 

These appear to be the latest images of the internal structure of Sandfield Tower taken very recently. (sourced via Facebook - they are not my images). While it shows that the building is little more than a folly now, I would like it to be known that some of the internal walls still in situ now appear to be very close to collapse. The large wooden beam at the rear of the building is taking the weight of the wall above, which in turn is holding the roof up. Should this portion of the wall collapse then it will not only take out this section of the building, but will take out the rear of the roof and probably the rear of the building itself. Given the fact that the rear of the building is so very close to resident's gardens, when will the City Council take seriously of the danger of Sandfield Tower and enter the building to try and stabilise what is left of the building? 

 

As you can see, the building is 'open to all' and poses a great risk, not just to anyone foolish enough to go in, but I fear most for innocent families whose houses back on to the rear of Sandfield Tower and it can only be a short time till this wall collapses and takes half the building with it. 

 

I am aware of the council having no money for our heritage, yet having seen the shocking state of Sandfield Tower now, something must be done to stabilise this building before someone is killed if this building starts to collapse. 

 

I have attached images for your perusal and wait for your response. This is not an e-mail about 'saving our heritage' but to report a very unstable looking interior so close to resident's gardens. Please please please can something be done to stabilise this building once and for all before it is too late and there is a serious accident. 

 

The building's boundary needs to be fully secured, and the building itself needs to be locked down with metal sheets. This is now an accident waiting to happen. 

 

Kind regards

Jonathon. 

Back in June 2022, I sent an e-mail to Ian Byrne MP and received no response. I sent a follow up e-mail at the start of September and this was ignored too. 

 
My name is Jonathon Wild. I am a local historian in Liverpool and a campaigner on abandoned buildings to be recognised and brought back to life.
 
The reason for my e-mail to you is that I would like you to investigate the saga that is Sandfield Tower, Queens Drive, West Derby. I'm sure this building needs no introduction from the past publicity it has gained, but allow me a brief update to you.
 
I have spent the last 22 years campaigning for this building to be recognised and restored. At the very least for the official channels to have been processed with regards to an abandoned building. I have written a website on its history at www.sandfieldtower.co.uk I have been in the building numerous times to take pictures and to understand the deterioration of the property. It is safe to say that I know this building probably just as well as my own house from the amount of time I've studied it, been in, and gone past it every month on the way to visit family.
 
I am aware that the building is Grade 2 listed. I am also aware that the building is privately owned by Rob Feeley who runs a building company. I have had no personal interaction with Rob at all. Further to this, I have written a book (I am happy to send you a PDF copy over e-mail) on Sandfield Tower and its history and also provided details of the Fourth Christ the Scientist and their involvement with the building for 50 years.
 
With my campaign, Historic England and Save Britain's Heritage are well aware of this building. It featured on their Building of the Month Sep 2021! 
 
With regards to the City Council, I have e-mailed extensively over this building. Firstly, to the former Mayor Joe, and then to our local councillors. I have further e-mailed our current Mayor of Liverpool 6 times but failed to receive a single reply. I have also spoken to Peter Hoey numerous times over e-mail and have sent over all my documentation and information on this building.
 
In November 2019, there was to be a process of a possible CPO on the building by the City Council. This was a very long-winded process of which I saw absolutely no action against the owner. Since then, we have had the pandemic and we are slowly getting back on our feet.
 
However, the City Council state that they are in a spending freeze and have been since 2019. That our historical buildings are not at the top of their list regards to running the city. 
 
Sandfield Tower has been left to rot by the owner. They have made no attempt to restore this, make safe the building or cut back any of the growth in the plot of land. I have residents and business owners e-mailing me for help on the building via my website as their gardens are overrun with rats. I have absolutely no idea what the owners have on the City Council. But they must have something on them to be left to run riot over this building and just watch it slowly collapse. 
 
Despite the City Council being in a spending freeze, I cannot understand why they have not made any attempt to move this building forward. 
 
Therefore, please can you investigate and highlight the following and I ask you under the Freedom of Information Act 2000: 
 
1 - When the City Council last served a Section 54 notice to the owners. What timescale did they give the owner to complete this work? If the owner failed to respond to this notice, what are the next steps?  (An Urgent Works Notice is served under section 54 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended, and can be served on a vacant (or vacant parts of a) listed building where works are urgently necessary for the preservation of a listed building.) How much does it actually cost to serve this notice? 
 
2 - When the City Council last served a Section 48 notice to the owners. What timescale did they give the owner to complete this work? If the owner failed to respond to this notice, what are the next steps? (Section 48 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 enables a local authority to serve a Repairs Notice on the owner of a listed building, specifying those works it considers reasonably necessary for the proper preservation of the building.) How much does it cost to serve this notice? 
 
3 - If the above notices were not served by the City Council, why not? If they are in a spending freeze and are not able to assist Historic Buildings then why do we have a Townscape Heritage Manager for Liverpool City Council if we are spending wages on overseeing our Heritage but doing nothing about it? 
 
4 - When was this building last inspected properly? It beggars belief that this (now a folly) sitting so close to residential buildings has not been subject to careful inspections, especially after the last couple of storms? The last time I understand that the City Council went to see Sandfield Tower was to (and this is from the City Council) 'make sure that the perimeter gate was closed'. And that was it! 
 
5 - What are the City Council's forthcoming plans with this building with regards to the above process? Why are they refusing to service notices to the owner? The City Council know the owner well. He lives in West Derby. He even has a copy of my book on his building. 
 
I wish that the owner would come forward and ask for help so that local volunteers and local businesses could at least enter the plot to cut back the overgrowth and secure the perimeter of the plot so that has a chance of being seen.
 
I have campaigned for this building for 22 years and this is simply a managed decline of this building - not hidden in a field, on the front of Queens Drive - our major Ring Road for Liverpool. It is a disgrace to the local area and an embarrassment as the 'entrance' to the historical West Derby district.
 
How can we once and for all move forward with this building after 22 years of campaigning? 
 
Kind regard
Jonathon. 

SAVE BRITAIN'S HERITAGE 

HISTORIC ENGLAND

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LIVERPOOL'S HERITAGE - AT RISK 

These buildings do not belong to us only...they have belonged to our forefathers and they will belong to our descendants unless we play them false. They are not our property, to do as we like with. We are only trustees for those that come after us. 

 

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