1950s 7-storey resettlement block

What: The 1956 Annual Report tells us more:

[...] the decision was taken in 1954 to embark on a gigantic programme for the construction of large Resettlement Estates of seven-storey blocks as the only practicable means of solving the squatter problem, and so releasing the land urgently needed for the houses, factories, schools, hospitals and other essential requirements of a rapidly expanding community.

The photo shows one of these seven-storey blocks. They were the latest in several government responses to the squatter problem. The 1956 report again:

Before 1954 the only form of resettlement offered to squatters was the allocation of sites in resettlement areas which consisted of terraced hillsides unsuitable for multi-storey buildings.

[In early 1954] temporary two-storey accommodation for 36,000 persons [was built as the initial response to the Shek Kip Mei fire].

By 1956 the hillside resettlement areas were still being developed "to the maximum extent possible", but the 7-storey blocks had become the government's preferred housing solution, as these figures from the 1955 & 1956 reports show:

Population1 Jan 551 Jan 5631 Dec 56
One-storey buildings in Hillside Cottage Areas57,00067,96872,843
2-storey temporary buildings35,00036,31230,147
6- and 7-storey permanent buildings19,00048,803102,901

Who: The blocks were built to resettle residents of the squatter areas. Squatter huts can still be seen on the hillside in the background of the photo:

Squatter huts on hillside

Which floor they'd live on depended on whether or not they'd run a shop in the squatter area. The 1955 Annual Report:

During the year it was also decided that settlers who had previously operated shops in squatter areas should be given the opportunity of renting ground-floor rooms for combined business and domestic purposes at a higher rental. Many have availed themselves of this opportunity. A rent of $100 a month is charged for a ground-floor room, 25 ft by 9 ft 6 ins (double the normal size).

Here's a typical ground-floor store, with barrels of rice out in front:

Shop

But most people would live on one of the upper floors:

Upper floors

The 1955 report again:

The blocks in the multi-storey estates vary in size and are in the shape of the letter H, the cross-bar of which accommodates lavatories, washing spaces and bathing cubicles, while the two wings [we're looking at a wing in the photo above] each contain anything from 56 to 128 rooms on each floor, each room measuring 12 ft 6 ins by 9ft 6 ins. The total number of rooms in an average block is between 500 and 600. The rent per room was provisionally fixed at $10 in 1954 [...].

Each room was 119 sq ft. By comparison, a typical double mattress (4'6" x 6'3") is 28 sq ft. You could lay four of those down on the floor have just enough room left to open the door.

Another figure mentioned in the 1955 reports is 35 sq ft, the legal minimum living space per adult at the time. So in theory the room could house three adults. When my wife was growing up, her family lived in one of these rooms. They were two parents and seven children!

Where: The 1956 report notes that:

The Education Department has also recently agreed that the penthouses on these roof-tops may be used for school purposes, and it is hoped that the present figure of three schools will soon be considerably increased.

From the writing on the side of the two 'penthouses', it looks as though these are already in use as schools.

Here's the writing on the closest one:

School name

Does anyone recognise the location, or the name of the school?

When: The location and / or school should help give a date for this photo. Another possible clue is the car. Does anyone recognise the model, or even the licence plate (number 3866)?

Car

I'll guess 1958 as the date - some time after 1956, when schools were started, but not too long after they began building these. Does anyone know when the last 7-storey block was finished?

Comments & corrections welcome!

Regards, David

References:

  • All facts and figures come from the 'Housing' chapter of the Government's Annual reports for 1955 and 1956.

Reference: EC004

Date picture taken (to nearest decade for older photos): 
Wednesday, January 1, 1958
Image node reference: 

Comments

I posted a photo which is in 1950s HK - the car is a Vauxhall Wyvern.

Vauxhall Wyvern

Stephen, thanks for the photo of your family's Vauxhall Wyvern. Wikipedia says they were made between 1948 and 1951, so unfortunately knowing the car doesn't help us with the date of the photo.

I also had a couple of replies by email. Kelly wrote:

Looks like Wong Tai Sin to me,just a gut feeling tho.....
The car seems to be a Vauxhall Velox,chrome strips on the bonnet,late 40's to 1953/4 when a new model came out.

Wong Tai Sin is a possibility, I'm still hoping we get an id on the school to pin it down.

Wikipedia also has a page for the Vauxhall Velox. Turns out that was a sportier model, but based on the Vauxhall Wyvern body - I can't tell them apart, but in any case their manufacturing dates were the same. ("sportier" means you could do 0-60 in 22.8 seconds. Goodness knows how long the Wyvern took!)

Peter wrote:

I would hazard a guess that the car belonged to the photographer.  Do we know who he/she was?

Yes, that would make sense. But sorry, I bought the photo on its own, so I didn't get any info about who took it.

Thanks for your feedback. Any more ideas on the location ?

Regards, David

Hi there,

That was the name of the school alright.  It looked like 基督教傳道會X恩學校分校 to me.  Could not recognize the X.  Is there a higher resolution copy of the photo please?  Don't know if it is a secondary school or a primary school just by its name though.  We might be able to pin point the block if the name of th school could be recognized.

Thanks & Best Regards,

T

Hi T, just thinking aloud from looking at the picture.  Can it be 聖恩?

Hi there,

It could be﹐ but I was unable to match them up in the list of  defuncted primary school or secondary school at Wiki.  We would need someone knowledgeable in post-war education for this, or have to lookup Government archives for resettlement blocks.......

The name of the school should also be seen on the other side of the building. I think this school was one of those roof top schools.  However this one at least has a few classrooms with its own roof.

Best Regards,

T

Hi T, You can zoom in a bit more on this photo. Is it good enough to read?

Regards, David

Hi there,

Unfortunately not.  All the brush strokes are muddled up.  It could be a '聖‘ or an '愛’﹐ however both of them could not be matched against the school lists at Wiki.  The Government might have another list, but I am uncertain since when did private schools had to be registered with the Education Department.  If that school was earlier than the ordinance then we might not be able to verify.

Best Regards,

T

Looking at the enlarge photo David posted, the shape looks like a possibility for 重 as well.  However, 重恩 doesn't sound very 'Christian' as a school name.  

Is it possible that in those early days (1957 or 58) of roof top schools, they didn't have to be registered, or their existence were simply too brief to warrant a mention?  My mom studied in one of these places (it was without a roof on the roof top) and she tells me they turned over quite quickly.  

Hi there,

I was unable to find any reference to '基督教傳道會' as well.  What I got was ‘中華基督教傳道會' from my google searches.  I'm really uncertain if the two would add up.

Best Regards,

T

Hi T - Re the church that the school in the photo was affiliated with:

1. Denomination - The closest present day match that I managed to find (on Wikipedia) is 中華傳道會 (CNEC).  However I agree that this may not be the same thing as 基督教傳道會.

2. Church - I think the name of the church is 靈恩堂.  There are actually 2 present day churches of that name, but they don't even belong to CNEC!  So unfortunately, it seems unlikely for either to be the church that we're looking for.

Hope others can chime in with fresh information.

Thanks for the extra detective work going on here. If we can't find something now, hopefully in future we'll catch someone searching for those names in Google, who can tell us the answer.

Regards, David

T, shall be read as "香港傳道會靈恩學校"

Regards, JW