Sandfield Tower is a Grade II listed building set back from the inner ring road, Queens Drive, in West Derby, Liverpool. Now abandoned, fire damaged, vandalised and open to the elements, it stands forlorn now little more than a folly and yet can be seen from the thousands of people travelling along Queens Drive each day.
The building has been given many names over the years, and has been known as ‘Sandfield Park, The Tower’, ‘Gwalia’ or ‘Sandfield Tower’, the name needs no introduction from the central sandstone tower rising through the building.
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.
The land around Sandfield Tower was far greater than the present boundary. The main entrance and carriageway was roughly where Gorse Hey Ct entrance now stands. The carriageway led to the main building and for the ‘exit’, the carriageway led to North Drive. The entrance that Sandfield Park Nursery use is the original exit for the carriageway from Sandfield Tower!
When Joseph Edwards left the property, it was 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!
We will go in to further detail on the owners on the following page.
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 PDF of the book can be found HERE for anyone wishing to see further high-resolution images. However, how did this all start?
Back in 2000, I regularly travelled up and down Queens Drive from South to North Liverpool. One day I was stuck in a traffic jam on the road and happened to glance to my right and saw this fine building. The tower was of great interest being a church bellringer and yet I knew nothing about the building. I was surprised that I had not come across this building before and was determined to find out as much as I could about this.
A quick review on the internet at home brought nothing. Older maps were dug out and the name Gwalia was given. Yet other maps gave the name as Sandfield Tower. As with many abandoned buildings in Liverpool, this (even back then!) was on a knife edge with regards to its condition and I vowed to gain access to the building to record as much as I could before any demolition work took place.
Very early one January morning back in 2000, I decided to investigate further. By happy coincidence, the entire boundary wall of the land had been removed and one was simply able to walk directly on to the plot of land. Not one for wanting to break into the building, after all it was private property, the main window frame had been completely removed and there was a large stone propped up against the building. A quick run up and one was able to gain access through the window frame and into the property.
Standing still on the floor to make sure that there were no other people inside, I switched on the torch and found that had I tried to gain access to any other windows, I would have found myself crashing straight into the basement as the floor was completely rotten on the right-hand side. Perhaps the building was already looking after me?
The torch was lit, and I started taking photos. I was aware that there was no ceiling in the front room, but you could make out where walls and floors had been. Looking up to the actual roof was something else too, which would years later, crash down into this area, but for the time being it looked safe.
Access was safe to the left-hand side ‘doorway’ which led into the hall. In this section, seemed to be the most complete part of the building. A full ceiling looking up at the base of the tower, and some original coving and plasterwork on the walls.
The floor was missing at this point and a single wooden beam was in place to gain access to the left-hand side room. At this point, you could see that the main hallway had disappeared and there was no trace of the original staircase, although there were markings on the wall to see where it had once been.
The side room then lead into the main rear room. Learning at a later date that this is where the main Church services were held, the room was an absolute mess. Beams above you looked ready to collapse taking brickwork with it, but still I went in and took my images. I’m glad I did.
There was no access to the first floor, but you could make out the upper rooms as well as working out that there were two rooms higher up on the 3rd floor in the attic. A quick jump down into the cellar system gave way to 13 rooms in total. No doors, but a concrete floor. Each one empty with rubble and rubbish strewn around and on my next night visit, I would choose one of the back rooms as my bedroom where I slept over in Sandfield Tower huddled in a corner of this basement room panic stricken by the noise of the pigeons that were flying in, thinking that the entire building was going to collapse.
I visited Sandfield Tower on many occasions to take my photographs and wonder around the building and I was able to map out a floor plan of which I have added on this website.
Perhaps my happiest time was in the second visit where after a night’s sleep, I woke up in the basement of the building as if I had owned it myself and sat by the window in the side room to see the daylight and to start on a little bit of breakfast that I had packed with me to keep me going.
The 'Bedroom' for the night in one of the basement rooms. As you do!
Climbing out of the basement in to the ground floor side room for breakfast.
THE HISTORY OF SANDFIELD TOWER