香港大專學生社會服務隊 Hong Kong College Students Social Service Team


Old Hong Kong Part I

The City Hall, Hong Kong (1869)

At the heart of Central, Hong Kong, stood the domed statue of Queen Victoria, commissioned to commemorate Golden Jubilee in 1887.

Statue of Queen Victoria, Central

The statue was unveiled in 1896 and was once moved to Japan during the Second World War. It is relocated to the Victoria Park in Causeway Bay since 1952..

The statue was originally intended to be of marble, however it is made in bronze.
In January 1841, a navy official , Edward Belcher led a fleet to land in Hong Kong. On 26 January 1841, the commander of Far East Fleet James John Gordon Bremer came to Hong Kong by HMS Calliope. A flag rise and gun ceremony marked the official possession of Hong Kong. And the landing venue was renamed as Possession Point.

水坑口街前稱佔領街,位於香港上環,為香港最古老的街道。水坑口街南接地勢較高的荷李活道,正北壤文咸東街,西北連皇后大道西,東南連皇后大道中。當‭ ‬1841年1月25日,英國的義律與清朝的琦善訂定《穿鼻草約》,海軍軍官卑路乍率領英軍乘軍艦登陸香港,英國海軍測量人員早已測定香港西面有一片突出的高地,既平坦又臨海,可用作軍旅紮營,於是命令工兵開闢從海旁到這片高地的道路,叫作水坑口(Possession Point,即佔領角),也就是今日的水坑口街。而這片高地就是今日位於水坑口街西荷李活道公園一帶的大笪地。

1841年1月26日,英國遠東艦隊支隊司令伯麥(J. J. G. Bremer)乘高爾合號(HMS Calliope)來港,沿着小路登上香港島西區的一座小山崗,並且正式舉行升旗儀式,並在海面鳴炮,表示正式佔領香港。這條小路,就是今天的水坑口街了。‭ ‬水坑口街本來設有妓院,至彌敦任港督期間,把妓院西移至石塘咀,然後改建民居。另外,為減少華人對佔領街這個名稱的反感,於是根據街旁的大水坑,以及平民在此打水的特色,將波些臣街的中文名稱改成水坑口街,英文名稱則仍然保留。

Possession Street, the starting point for collaboration
between the Chinese and the British since 1841

The first single track tram service from Kennedy Town in the west along the waterfront to Shaukeiwan in the east, began operations in 1904. It is the only exclusively double-decker operated tram system in the world, and one of only three non-heritage tram systems in the world that use double-deck cars.

A first-generation tram in Hong Kong.
The tram service began with a fleet of 26 single-deck tram cars in 1904.
(All Photos Provided to China Daily)

Double-decker trams were once popular in the United Kingdom and some European cities, like Berlin. Throughout the British Empire countries in the early half of the 20th century including Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington in New Zealand, Hobart and Tasmania in Australia and in parts of Asia, double-decker trams were in use. They are still in service in Hong Kong, Alexandria, and Blackpool, but Hong Kong Tramways is the only tram company in the world that operates double-deck trams exclusively.

Double-deck trams were common in the United Kingdom until the 1950s. Apart from the Blackpool tramway, the Glasgow Corporation Tramways were the last to close (in 1962). Some have been preserved at the UK's National Tramway Museum, New Zealand's MOTAT Museum in Auckland and Ferrymead Museum in Christchurch. From 1910 to 1964 double-deck trams were in use in Mumbai. They were also in use in Johannesburg where trams were operational from 1906 to 1961.

Trams became operational in Hong Kong in 1904, and the first double-deck tramcar was introduced in 1912. The initial tramcars were open-topped with garden seat design. These were replaced by enclosed double-decker trams in 1925. All the 163 double-decker trams in operation today are closed roof, but two of them are open-balcony types used for tourists. The trams themselves are sometimes called the "DingDing" by Hong Kong people, after the double bell ring trams use to warn pedestrians of their approach.

Aside from being an efficient environmentally friendly mass transit systems, trams are also a major tourist attraction in Hong Kong. Travelling in the lower deck of the tram allows travellers to have a close up view of the local street life, while occupying the front seats of the upper deck gives good views of the town as the tram rattles by. They are very affordable too. No matter how far you travel, each tram ride costs a flat fare of $2.30. Hong Kong’s tram system provides a good means for cheap thrill.

Hong Kong's tram system is an icon of the city.. As they run through the urban area of Hong Kong Island, the tram tracks has become an important icon of urban Hong Kong. Since the tracks were originally built along the waterfront, the tracks can be used to identify directions and locations throughout urban Hong Kong Island.

Whereas many cities plagued by congestion lament the losses of their tramways, Hong Kong hung onto its tramways, which retain an old world charm and a flavour of the colonial era.

The first major reclamation, completed in the 1880s, had advanced the waterfront. At the turn of the last century, the architectural jewel of neo-classical grace in Hong Kong was Queen’s Building, located on the waterfront. It was the blend of arcaded Victorian buildings crowding the waterfront that struck new arrivals. Rickshaws and sedans gathered at its base and its four storeys boasted all the architectural ornaments of the empire: porticoes, balconies, arches and cupolas.

皇后行 a late 19th-century neoclassical building located in Central

Few cities have witnessed as much change as took place in Hong Kong. The cenotaph 和平紀念碑 , constructed in 1923 and located between Statue Square and the City Hall in Central, Hong Kong commemorates the dead in the First and Second World War, stands continuously as one of the few remaining landmarks in central.

1945 liberation of Hong Kong at the Cenotaph.
Queen's Pier is visible in the background

The Cenotaph became the scene of some of the city’s most impressive ceremonies during annual Remembrance Day services and the laying of wreaths for the fallen of two world wars.

On 4th June 1989, the memorial acquired an added significance as the symbolic site of collective sorrow that united the people of Hong Kong in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square horror.

Hong Kong’s first colonial courthouse has played a symbolic role in the city that towers about it. Surmounted by a figure of blind justice, symbolically blindfolded to represent her impartiality, the Supreme Court Building was inaugurated in 1912, to commemorate the genius of the Far East.

最高法院大樓 1912 – 1985

Preserved as a historical monument, the two-storey neo-classical building is supported by ionic columns. Its most outstanding feature is the central pediment that contains the statue of the Greek Goddess of Justice, Themis who is blindfolded and holds a scale.

The neo-classical granite building rising on the reclaimed land looked onto Statue Square had plagued with construction problems – hundreds of Chinese fir tree trunks into the reclaimed site as foundations, shortages of granite and a lack of proficient stone masons.
The Chief Justice, Sir Francis Piggot observed that Hong Kong should be proud of the famous masonry and this building will remain like a pyramid to commemorate the genius of the far East. It was declared a monument and protected under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance in 1984.

The heart of Central, in the initial years of the 20th century, is dominated by 2 banks that have long contributed to the prosperity of Hong Kong:

  • HSBC – Hongkong and Shanghai Bank as it was known when established in the colony’s early decades, and
  • the mainland’s Bank of China

Old Hong Kong City Hall with the scaffolding of
the new Supreme Court building in construction on the right

Naval Dockyard buildings (centre), Queen's Road, 1894

HSBC Main Building (香港滙豐總行大廈) is a headquarters building of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, which is today a wholly owned subsidiary of London based HSBC Holdings. It is located along the southern side of Statue Square near the location of the old City Hall, Hong Kong (built in 1869, demolished in 1933). Wardley House, used as HSBC office between 1865 to 1882 on the present site

The second design of the HSBC headquarters building, used from 1886 to 1933.

The HSBC Main Building in 1901 in Hong Kong, the headquarters of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation from 1886 to 1933 for its Hong Kong operation.The main feature of the second building design was the division of the structure into two almost separate buildings. The building on Queen's Road Central was in Victorian style with a verandah, colonnades and an octagonal dome, whereas the arcade which harmonized with the adjacent buildings was constructed on Des Voeux Road.The main characteristic of HSBC Hong Kong headquarters is its absence of internal supporting structure. Another notable feature is that natural sunlight is the major source of lighting inside the building. There is a bank of giant mirrors at the top of the atrium, which can reflect natural sunlight into the atrium and hence down into the plaza. Through the use of natural sunlight, this design helps to conserve energy. Additionally, sun shades are provided on the external facades to block direct sunlight going into the building and to reduce heat gain. Instead of fresh water, sea water is used as coolant for the air-conditioning system.

All flooring is made from lightweight movable panels, under which lies a comprehensive network of power, telecommunication, and air-conditioning systems. This design was to allow equipment such as computer terminals to be installed quickly and easily.

The 4th headquarter building was built when the bank had outgrown its headquarters and had departments scattered across Central. The huge investment was a welcome commitment (HK5.2 billion, roughly US$668 million) to Hong Kong’s future at a crucial time when the colony’s return to the People’s Republic in 1997 was still being negotiated.

The HSBC Building is an innovative building in Hong Kong Central that was designed by the world-famous architect Sir Norman Foster.  Built at a cost of over one billion dollars and completed in 1985, the HSBC Building was the most expensive building to ever be constructed.

HSBC Building in Hong Kong

Architecturally the Bank has evolved dramatically from domed colonial classicism to the futuristic façade of the present day structure.

The Bank of China had been established in Shanghai during the heady era of the 1920s and 1930s when Chinese industrialists amassed fortunes through their booming cotton mills, silk factories, chemical and engineering works. Chinese-owned institutions spring up to accommodate the influx of new money and at the forefront was the Bank of China.

Post-war Hong Kong was awash not only with capital that had fled from China, but also with cheap refugee labour. The entrepreneurs set about investing their capital in the industries that had made them fortunes in Shanghai, capital that subsequently put Hong Kong on the map internationally.

With no official diplomatic presence in Hong Kong, the Bank of China served this purpose for the People’s Republic of China. It also offered China access to capitalism through local businesses, trade, factories and real estate. It was rumoured that 35 % of the People’s Republic’s foreign currency passed through the bank in the years to come.

When the Bank of China’s Hong Kong headquarters was completed in 1953, it presented to the people of Hong Kong and to the business community an imposing granite façade not unlike that of its neighbouring British Bank. A reminder that it stood on what both Nationalist and Communist governments regarded as Chinese soil. The Bank’s granite –faced entrance on Des Voeux Road Central preserves its venerable appearance of dignified restraint.

2 pairs of granite lions in the Chinese tradition symbolically
guarding the building’s entrances

The HSBC bronze lions

The first pair of Bronze Lion Statue of HSBC was made after the model made by Henry Poole ARA in England, and began guarding the gate of the Shanghai branch office since 1923. The lion with his mouth open is "Stephen", named after the general manager of Hong Kong branch A. G. Stephen; the other lion is "Stitt", named after the general manager of Shanghai branch.

Since the opening in 1865, the four main office buildings are all located at One Queen's Road. The third main office building was completed in 1935. The second pair of HSBC bronze lion was situated at the Des Voeux Road entrance of the building. They are made by sculptor W. W. Wagstaff cloning the ones in Shanghai. Since them, Stephen and Stitt left their posts only twice. The first time is when the Japanese Army invaded Hong Kong in 1942, and took the lions back to Japan for military material. After Japan surrendered, the lions were returned through the Allied Army in Japan. The second time was in the 1980's when the current main office building was being constructed. The lions were temporarily moved to the neighboring Statue Square.

The third pair of Stephen and Stitt was cloned in 2001. They are now guarding the main office of the HSBC Group at Canary Wharf, London.



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