The 1851 Census recorded Hugh Hornby at Sandown Hall along with his wife, two sons, two daughters, a governess and nine servants. He was a prominent member of the Liverpool Town Council, having been Mayor in 1838-39 and later Chairman of the Finance Committee. In 1866 it was written: 'Whether we hear of him in committees, see him in the Council chamber, or elbow him smoking his fifteenth cigar on the knifeboard of the Wavertree omnibus, we find in him a well-informed man, an excellent linguist speaking several languages, an intelligent merchant, an able financier, a clear-headed debater, and one well fitted to lead in that Council chamber which is adorned and benefited by his presence'.
Hugh Hornby died in 1875, aged 82. Sandown Hall was bequeathed to his widow, though his eldest son Hugh Frederick lived close by at Sandown Lodge in Olive Lane. It was H.F.Hornby who became the most celebrated member of the family, as a result of his bequest to the City of Liverpool of the Hornby Art Library in 1899.
Louise Hornby, Hugh's widow, died in 1881 but Sandown Hall remained the home of the couple's three surviving daughters: the two 'Misses Hornby' (Helen and Mary) and their widowed sister Matilda Madden. The three old ladies were a familiar sight in Wavertree until their deaths in the 1920s; after which the Sandown Hall estate passed into the hands of Messrs Crawfords Biscuits for use as the company's sports and social club.
It was the sale of part of Crawfords' Playing Fields for housebuilding which prompted the formation of the Wavertree Society in 1977. Unfortunately planning permission had been granted before local residents became aware of the sale. Although the campaign to save the fields was unsuccessful, it led to a closer watch being kept on the weekly lists of local planning applications, which has continued to the present day.
Unfortunately the first permission also set a precedent, and planning permission was later granted for housing development on the remainder of the fields (except for the western portion, owned by the City Council, which is now officially designated as Public Open Space) in spite of the Society's protests.
In 1990 the Hall and grounds were sold - following the closure of Crawfords' Binns Road factory - to local businessman George Downey. He later sold the sports field to Wainhomes, who are currently building a housing estate called Sandown Chase. The hall itself - a Listed Building since 1952, with a particularly fine interior - stands empty, but has been proposed for conversion to a private nursing home.
This account of the history of Sandown Hall was written in 1993, before the building was even threatened with demolition. It was originally published in the Wavertree Society's NEWSLETTER 95.
© COPYRIGHT Mike Chitty