Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Alfred Sandover (1866–1958)

by Jenny Mills

This article was published:

Alfred Sandover (1866-1958), hardware merchant and benefactor, was born on 24 November 1866 at Plymouth, Devon, England, youngest of five children of William Sandover, a hotelkeeper who became a politician, and his wife Mary Billing, née Bate. His English-born parents had left Adelaide to visit their homeland. Alfred was considered a delicate child. Educated at North Adelaide Grammar School, he gained first-class honours in the senior public examination in 1881.

In 1884 Alfred joined his brother William in Perth where William had established a pharmacy and hardware business. Dismayed by the temperature of 106°F (41°C) on the day he arrived at Fremantle, and by the dust and glare of the limestone roads, Alfred vowed that he would not stay a day longer than his five-year contract demanded. Despite his initial reaction, he spent the rest of his life in Perth. William Sandover & Co. expanded rapidly after the opening of the Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie goldfields in the 1890s; the firm was described as 'brimful of all the latest ideas in machinery, mining, agricultural and domestic requisites'. On 11 July 1895 at St George's Church of England, Malvern, Melbourne, Alfred married Rose Allen (d.1943). In the following year he bought an 8-acre (3 ha) property at Claremont, Perth, and built a house which he named Knutsford.

Both brothers were invited to join a group of Fremantle merchants who, concerned about the high freight rates charged by English shipping companies, had formed (1884) the West Australian Shipping Association Ltd. The W.A.S.A. (of which Alfred was sometime chairman) chartered its own ships and came to control much of the Western Australian trade. In 1923 Sandovers Ltd acquired the Perth branch of the Adelaide company, G. P. Harris, Scarfe & Co., and registered it as Harris, Scarfe & Sandovers Ltd. Alfred was appointed chairman; he was to retain the position until he retired in 1957 at the age of 90.

The diminutive Sandover became prominent in the business, philanthropic and sporting life of Perth. A 'dynamic, colourful and kindly businessman', he combined 'shrewd foresight in commercial dealings with unfailing, old-world courtesy'. He was always willing to give a loan to someone down on his luck, but only after asking, 'not a betting loss, is it?' President (1910-11) of the Perth Chamber of Commerce, he served on the committees of the Chamber of Manufactures (1943-46), the Western Australian Employers' Federation and the Perth Children's Hospital, and gave generously to the Home of Peace, Subiaco. He was also a member of the senate of the University of Western Australia (1912-15 and 1919-31) and of the Council for Church of England Schools (1922-50), and provided land from his Knutsford estate for the establishment of Christ Church Grammar School.

In 1921 he had donated the Sandover medal, which has been presented annually to the fairest and best player in the West Australian Football League. Sandover held office in several cricket clubs, collected fine furniture and paintings, and loved to read. In 1951 he was appointed M.B.E. Survived by his daughter and two sons, he died on 4 May 1958 in his Perth home and was cremated; his estate was sworn for probate at £68,978. A building at Christ Church Grammar was named after him. His son (Sir) Eric Sandover succeeded him as chairman of the family firm.

Select Bibliography

  • Studies in Western Australian History, vol 13, 1992, p 49
  • West Australian, 5 May 1958, 2 June 1979
  • J. S. Pocklington, Sandover Story—Looking Back Over 90 Years (manuscript, privately held)
  • E. M. Goode, Some Record of the Sandover Family (typescript, 1989, Claremont Museum, Perth)
  • K. Goode, reminiscences about her father, A. Sandover (manuscript, Claremont Museum, Perth)
  • private information.

Citation details

Jenny Mills, 'Sandover, Alfred (1866–1958)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 14 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


24 November, 1866
Plymouth, Devon, England


4 May, 1958 (aged 91)
Perth, Western Australia, Australia

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