During the time when Sandfield Tower was at the mercy of the passing trade of people, the side wall to the property was missing, as was the entire front window board and this is where most people would climb in to survey – or in most cases – damage the property further. Wanting to survey the interior before the building was demolished, this was the only way to capture the interior brickwork and design on a cold winters morning. It was achieved with two thoughts in mind. One of utmost safety with suitable protective gear, hard hat, torches, mobile and notice of where you are, but also to only take photographs and leave footprints.
The floor was badly rotten in places and the constant rain made things interesting, but this was the only way to discover the inside of Sandfield Tower – perhaps for the last time before the building was to be demolished.
But going back in time, the entrance will have taken you off the road in to the sweeping long driveway up to the main door. One would walk up the stone steps and enter main door and find themselves in the porch way. Here, beautiful plasterwork is present over the inside of the door and on every wall. Above you is a white period ceiling with intricate plasterwork.
Entering the main foyer of the building, at this point, one can turn left in to the left-hand side of the building, or turn right towards the original staircase and rear of the property. Turning left brings one in to a small but spacious room, and a doorway leading to the next room on the right. A fireplace in the left hand, again to warm the room in the side corner, but the attention turns to the large window that looks out towards the side of the property.
This is a good 8-ft window, four panes of glass and surrounded by original paneling around the entire window. With the sun streaming in and lighting up the whole of the white washed plasterwork on the wall, it is a nice setting as a private room.
One leaves the room through the centre door and finds themselves in the hallway. Here it is possible to go up the stairs on the right hand side, cross the hallway to the rear of the front room, or turn left and head down the hallway towards the right hand side of the house. Taking a left turn, there are steps that lead down to the basement, another entrance to the front room, plus three more exits. The left exit leads to a small room at the rear of the house, for the use of the kitchen area. The doorway straight ahead leads to the outbuildings, and the doorway to the right leads to the side exit to the front of the house.
The left hand side door being arched, the centre door being of straight topped, and a beautiful plaster archway leads to the front side exit. Leading towards the front side exit, is another side room, which is used for a side cloakroom. Returning to the hall, one can enter the front main room through the doorway below the stairs. There are three exits to the room, the doorway just entered, the door in to the hallway and the side door from the porch area. This room takes up the right hand side of the front of the house and is very bright due to the three large windows at the front of the room. Here is also a fireplace on the outside wall to keep the large room warm. The internal decoration is grand with high ceilings and painted plasterwork on the walls. This is an excellent front room and provides good views over the entrance drive and the main road, and is always kept warm by the open fire.
As one can see, the ground floor of the property is in a very poor condition. Little parts of the ceiling of each room remains and rain is getting in from the holes in the roof. No internal decoration really remains apart from the small alcove, part ceiling and wooden panel surrounds on the rear and side windows. The ground floor is at the mercy of pigeon droppings, which have rotted the floor in many parts of the building, making it very unsafe with the cellar system directly below.
I was recently contacted by a lady who used to go to Sunday School when the building was used by the Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist in the 1970's and she has kindly given me her words of a guided tour of the building from her memory. This is a fascinating read to hear of someone who has been in the building when it was in full use:As you went in through the front door, straight ahead was the foyer, with two alcoves, one to the left and one to the right. We never really knew what they were for. Then to the left was an archway and another hallway with a fireplace in it to the left and straight ahead a large window looking out to the garden. There was an entrance to the Church auditorium at that point. There were two doors one at the back and one at the front.
The were windows down all one side and a platform at the front, with two podiums and an organ in between them. There were seats down either side and an aisle down the middle. If you went out the door at the top on the left side it brought you back into the foyer.
Opposite was a room which was at the front of the building, which was partly used as a cloakroom, with a partition down the middle. The other part of the room was a meeting room and had a fireplace in it. If you continued past the staircase on the ground floor was what led to the back stairs and the living quarters of the Wilson family who used to live there as caretakers.
The staircase had a smooth wooden bannister with a curve at the bottom and at the top was a doorway straight ahead and one to the left. Straight ahead was the Sunday School, it had a foyer area, and then to the right was an archway and there were three rooms off it. A large room on the left acted as the Sunday School, the middle room was a small room for the Soloist before the service to prepare, and to the right a large room which acted as a room for administration, it contained a large board table and a gestetner machine for copying documents.
Once this would have been a highly kept Villa with splendid panelling, high ceilings and roaring fireplaces, now left to the mercy of the weather. It was possible to view both the upper floor and the lower floor while standing on parts of the ground floor. Where the roof was intact, the floor was well covered and had little wear, but with sections that were exposed to the rain, the floor was very brittle and often missing in parts. The front room would have been an excellent welcoming feature of the house when you came up from the winding driveway.
Sandfield Tower is a four story Villa and has a very large basement area, such is the norm for a house of the period. There are 10 doorways in total. Although they have been standing empty for sometime, they are still in good condition, although it is difficult to tell how well they were furnished, if at all.
The exterior of the building shows that upstairs appears to be the same dimensions as the ground floor, with the porch area now part of the sandstone tower rising up through the building. From the ground floor hall, the staircase is a single flight up to the second level. It finishes on the right hand side and meets the second floor where it is possible to access all rooms from this location.
From the second floor, we walk down the landing in to the floor of the tower. Here is a well-lit room due to the main window facing from the front of the building. The room is L shaped and it is possible to walk through from this room to the next room which is in the left hand corner of the building, above the small room which is downstairs to the left of the porch.
There is a side door from the left hand side room which leads in to the main back bedroom. Here is a room of good size which matches the footprint of the room downstairs. Three large windows let the natural light in to this room, and although not as grand as the windows downstairs, they are of good proportion.
A fireplace sits on the right hand side of the room which has a door either side to adjacent rooms, perhaps leading to a private bathroom. There is still a high ceiling to the bedroom and it is very spacious in overall dimension. Crossing the landing from the rear rooms to the front room, here again is a very large bedroom with the same size dimension as the front room below. Although it is not possible to get to the second floor due to the absence of stairs in the property, it is plain to see that most of the rooms are in a very poor state. Missing roof space to the right hand side of the property is damaging all the woodwork for the ceiling, or at least what is left of the ceiling and most of the ceiling on both floors disappeared when the building was fire damaged. It is still possible to get an idea of the upstairs rooms as they appear to mirror the size of the downstairs rooms and are large in proportion. How splendid it would have been to take a view from the finished Master bedroom when first built to see very little built up in the surrounding area.
Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist, Liverpool. The History.
I recently received a copy of the Forth Church of Christ, Scientist, Liverpool, a copy of the history booklet on the building and the background of how Sandfield Tower came into their hands. Janet Finlayson remembers the building well and is as frustrated as much as I am, more so because she remembers the original interior to the building and how it was well kept. I have reproduced the history in full below:
It was on August 14th, 1927, that a Local Practitioner, a member of the City Church, felt the need for Christian Science Services in the district of West Derby, where she resided, about five miles from the city. She called together about sixteen loyal students, and a committee was formed to look for suitable premises. Everything was most harmonious, and the committee were guided to a very small room over a shop on the main road.
The students were called together, and a Christian Science Community was formed. The first appointments were: Readers, Clerk and Treasurer. Our finances amounted to £20 and the cost for the hiring of the room was 10/- a week, including lighting, heating and chairs. Very loving friends from neighbouring churches presented us with the Readers’ desks, Hymn boards and collecting bags and another church sold to us a supply of Church hymnals at a reduced rate. The next purchase was a piano, and this was paid for by monthly payments.
We then appointed a Sunday School Superintendent, and four teachers. The Sunday School was held every Sunday morning and the Church Service every Sunday evening. Testimony meetings were held from the first Wednesday, and both the Testimony meetings and the Sunday evening Services were very soon well attended, so much so that although the room held forty-five people it was filled to overflowing. The Sunday School started with ten scholars and very quickly grew to twenty-five.
All the workers worked together for the love of the Cause; each one of them had proof of the healing power of Christian Science, and their desire was to give it out to others, so that we had no salaries whatsoever to pay. We had a collection every Sunday evening which was devoted to Church expenses.
At the end of 9 months, it was found that the room was far too small, so we had to turn and look for larger premises. This seemed an impossibility, but one member had a basement to her house which was not being used, and very lovingly offered it to the Community. It was accepted with gratitude, and as the premises were rent free, we had no expense beyond the cleaner’s expenses with the result that our collections were entirely devoted to furnishing the room. Just at this time, a member of the Community passed on, and left us the sum of £400, from which we were able to furnish the basement.
We had a Church Hall and a cloakroom, but at the end of three months we found that this basement was too small, and on the advice of a building constructor, we had a wall removed, which gave us a Hall capable of holding eighty people. The Sunday School numbers had increased to between 30 and 40 and although we remained in this basement for 2 years and 9 months, and were very grateful for our progress, we found it very necessary to enlarge again.
This time we knew that we were to do something on a bigger scale, so the Board called a Church meeting, and put the matter before our members. A committee was appointed to look for suitable premises. At the meeting, a resolution was passed that no salaries would be paid to Officers until we were free of debt.
The Committee inspected what they thought a very suitable building – a gentleman’s large house standing in its own grounds, but the price asked was £1800. However, we had confidence and knew that if were acting rightly, nothing could hinder our progress and we had no desire to take one step unless it was God’s will. Our prayer was that we should be prevented from making any mistake or leaning to our own judgement.
After much discussion, it was decided to go forward, and the eleventh hour was upon us. An appointment had been made with the solicitor to pay the deposit on a certain morning – The evening before, at 11pm, we were informed by a friend to stop negotiations, for there was something very dishonest on the side of the seller. We were not dismayed. We had asked to be guided and for this demonstration of protection we were very grateful.
A brief time afterwards a much more attractive building was found. This was a large house with a tower, standing in large grounds and on one of the chief roads of Liverpool. The price was £2750, and although £1800 had seemed formidable, as we felt we had been so guided and protected in our earlier venture, we felt we ought to go forward, again trusting God to lead us and guide us so that any step we took was in accordance with his Will.
We then needed £750 for the initial outlay. We already had £350, and members were asked how much they could individually contribute towards the sum remaining to make up the required £750. The funds then grew to £600 and arrangements were put in hand with our solicitors. We had decided not to discuss money matters and feeling sure that if we were taking the right step our need would be met, we did not allow doubt or fear to come into our thought, nor any suggestion that the right amount would not be available. One Wednesday morning, the Solicitor telephoned to the Treasurer and asked if it would be convenient for her and her co-trustees to meet at his office the following morning to pay the deposit. She knew that there was only £600 in the Treasury but had the confidence to know that if we were taking the right step, our need would be met, and agreed to the meeting.
On that Wednesday evening, after the Testimony meeting, the Treasurer informed her co-trustees of the appointment. Nobody asked if she had the money. That night, the Treasurer had a rather troubled time, for materially there seemed to be no way to turn to get the further £150 required; but as the morning came, it was very clear to her that this was God’s work and she fell asleep. During the morning, the Solicitor telephoned asking the Treasurer if it would be possible to postpone the meeting for a fortnight. She said, Certainly, and felt very grateful that Love had once more come to our aid.
During the following week, donations and loans poured in and we not only had sufficient to pay the deposit but sufficient to pay for all our decorations and alterations, which were considerable. The house was quite a large one, standing in its own grounds, red stone building with a Tower and it was very imposing. A friend from one of the City Churches, who is an Architect, offered to do the work that was necessary but said ‘Don’t speak money to me – Let me just tell you the best that can be done with the premises, and then you can say if you can afford it’. We let him go on, and when he had told us of his decision, we knew that as the money had been supplied before, it would be supplied again.
Gifts poured in – Reading Room furniture, foyer furniture, furniture for the Reader’s rooms, and a three manual pipe organ and we had no anxious thoughts over finances, everybody knowing that this was God’s Cause and God’s work, and we expected the results which followed.
We opened our Church on Sunday 1st March 1931, during a very heavy snowstorm. The services were very well attended, people sitting in the aisles, on the steps and in the foyer. We were obliged to hold our Sunday School in the afternoon, because up to this time we did not think that we could find sufficient room to hold the Sunday School in the morning; but after a very few months it became clear that the upstairs floor could be used for this purpose. We again appealed to our members, and they gave their gifts cheerfully, and without touching our ordinary finances we sufficient money to alter and furnish a Sunday School that holds 60 to 70 children, there being six classrooms. The Sunday School roll now consists of fifty children, a Superintendent, Secretary and nine teachers.
We obtained the status of Christian Science Society of 3rd June 1931, and on 15th February 1945, we became Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist, Liverpool.
We have had many demonstrations, dry rot made itself manifest in various parts of the building, but this was very soon eradicated although it was found necessary o obtain a further mortgage advance on the Property. Central heating had been installed which is looked after by our resident caretaker, and now we have a very beautiful building, dedicated to the Service of God. Our Reading Room, which we opened at the same time as the Church, is at present open on 2 afternoons per week. Our Testimony meetings are very well attended, and testimonies of healing are interesting and progressive.
On this occasion, we should like to affirm our loyalty to the Mother Church, the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, Mass, USA, that body which is ever present to help and guide us from its long-established store of experience. It would seen fitting too, to record our deep gratitude to the pioneer members, who steadfastly pursued the ideas which dawned out of their desire to share with others the blessings they knew came from the teachings of Christian Science.
Miss Emma Parry
Mr Wallace Roberts
Mr and Mrs B Priest
Mr and Mrs S Rowland
Mr and Mrs J Morgan
Mr R Brighouse
Miss E Brighouse
Miss E Morgan
Mr W Blackburn
Mr and Mrs C Haslam
Mr and Mrs Hayton
Mr and Mrs McKie
Mr and Mrs Warriner
THE HISTORY OF SANDFIELD TOWER