Cross over Sandown Lane to the 'private road' portion of Long Lane, by the electricity sub-station, and walk along about 50 yards. Looking across the playing-fields to your left, you should be able to see in the distance a pale-coloured mansion. This is Sandown Hall, one-time home of the Hornby family and, more recently, Crawfords Biscuits' social club.
In 1821 Sandown Hall was advertised for sale: "The Mansion, Stables, Outbuildings, Grounds comprising the Eastern part of the beautiful and valuable estate in Wavertree called Sandown. 19 Statute acres formerly in occupation of Mr Willis Earle". It seems likely that Sandown Hall had been built for this Mr Earle, a coal merchant with a yard in Stanhope Street, Liverpool, in about 1810. The next recorded occupier of Sandown Hall was George Littledale, from Whitehaven, who married in 1822 but died, aged 43, only four years later. About 1827 the Hornbys moved in: Hugh Hornby being a merchant specialising in trade with Russia.
Sandown Hall provides a good, if saddening, example of the way in which Wavertree's rural character has gradually been eroded. Already by 1821 the western part of the estate had been sold off, and in the late 1840s it became the site of Sandown Park. Then in the 1920s - following the death of the three Hornby sisters who had inherited the estate from their widowed mother - Sandown Hall was acquired by Crawfords Biscuits (whose factory was close to Meccano in Binns Road) for use as a sports and social club. Sports pitches were laid out, and a few houses for senior staff were built in the grounds. With the declining interest in outdoor recreation, some of the pitches later fell into disuse, and in 1977 a large part of the estate was sold to Merseyside Improved Houses. Meanwhile, a new estate of private homes had been built on the other side of Long Lane, on the Wavertree Recreation Company's tennis courts.
In 1989 the City Council announced its intention of selling-off its own part of the Sandown estate: the playing-fields across which you are currently looking. Fortunately a campaign of resistance - led by the Wavertree Society - was successful on this occasion, and the field is now designated as Public Open Space. A few months later, however, planning permission was granted for the building of yet more houses on what remained of the company sports ground, behind the Hall.
At the time of writing (June 1999) the future of Sandown Hall is uncertain. It has been privately owned since 1990, but plans for its re-use have come to nothing and, in recent years, the condition of the building has deteriorated dramatically. In December 1996, following a Public Inquiry, the Secretary of State for the Environment rejected the owners' application to demolish the Hall (which has been a Listed Building since 1952). The Secretary of State agreed with the Planning Inspector's comment that "to allow demolition ... could ... raise doubts about the principles of preservation. It could suggest acquiescence with owners who, for whatever reasons, have allowed a building to fall into such a dilapidated state".