Gwulo: Old Hong Kong


Welcome to, and over 30,000 pages about old Hong Kong.

If it's your first visit, you might like to use the search box at the top of the page to find what you're looking for, check out the latest old photos, or just scroll down to browse through recent articles.

I hope you'll join in too, and share your questions and knowledge with us. Most pages let you leave a comment, it's easy to upload a photo, and the Forum is waiting for you to post a new message.

Finally, if you're interested in Hong Kong history, please stay in touch by signing up for Gwulo's free weekly newsletter.

Kind regards,


PS 'Gwu lo' is roughly how '古老' sounds in Cantonese. It means 'ancient' or 'old-fashioned'.

Felix Villas Murder

Guest author Patricia O'Sullivan describes this bloody murder, and the flawed police investigation that followed.


Often, waiting at the bus stop at Pacific Place, I’d see a No.1 bus roll past and wonder about the murder at Felix Villas.

Bus #1 to Felix Villas


I knew that Tim Murphy had been involved in this case, but, aside from noting the headlines, I’d not properly looked at it. Murphy was the ‘poster-boy’ for the Newmarket HK policemen, being one of the first constables to rise through the ranks to become a gazetted officer, and I had plenty of material about his police activities from the papers as it was, so I’d never quite got round to reading the case. But then I stumbled across the Antiquities and Monuments listing for the residential building and became curious.


Tim Murphy, poster-boy policeman

Tim Murphy, whose career spanned most of the first 40 years of the last century, had been born in Newmarket, Co. Cork, Ireland in 1882 and came to HK on the urging of his uncle, former Naval Dockyard Police Inspector-turned-property developer, William Lysaught.

Tim Murphy
Tim Murphy, by patricia


A wiry, sharp-witted and hardworking young man, he soon gained a command of Cantonese and was quickly moved into the Detective Branch, as the CID was then called. He had the rare distinction of gaining two (of a possible four) merit medals in one year, and by the 1920s his name was rarely out of the papers in connections with some daring arrest or successful investigation. In 1923 he was awarded the highest honour, the King’s Police Medal, for his leadership in the Canton Road Affray. By 1930 he had assumed charge of the Criminal Investigation Bureau, becoming an Assistant Superintendent the following year, thus joining the executive team of just twelve men. But, as I found out, the investigation of the brutal murder at 9 Felix Villas in the early hours of 12th December 1930 would not be his, or the Bureau’s, finest hour.

77 years ago: Hong Kong's wartime diaries

December, 1941.

77 years ago tensions were high as war with Japan seemed inevitable. On December 8th, those fears were confirmed when Japanese planes attacked Kai Tak, and Japanese soldiers crossed the border into the New Territories. The fighting continued until the British surrendered on Christmas Day.

The end of the fighting marked the beginning of the Japanese occupation, a time of great hardship for Hong Kong's residents. They would have to endure for three years and eight months, until the Japanese surrendered in August 1945, and Hong Kong was liberated shortly afterwards.


What was it like?

Let the people who lived through these times tell you themselves.

We've collected several wartime diaries, and split them into their day-by-day accounts. Each day we send out an email message containing all the diary entries written on that day, 77 years ago.


How to sign up to receive the daily messages?

Please click here to subscribe.

You'll see another screen that asks for your email address. Enter your details, hit the "Subscribe" button, then each day you'll receive an email message with today's diary entries.

It's free of charge, your details stay private, and you can unsubscribe at any time.


What do the daily messages look like?

Here are sample extracts from the messages you'll receive:

  • 30 Nov 1941: "Topper says we are as near war now as we have ever been, that Japan with her militarist Govt. can't very well back down now."
  • 1 Dec 1941: "Government advising further evacuation.  Only hope seems to be that Japs now say they will keep on talks with USA in hope that USA will change viewpoint - that isn't thought likely."
  • 7 Dec 1941: "There must be something in the wind, G.H.Q. staff are preparing to move into Battle HQ, a huge underground structure just behind the Garrison Sgts. Mess."
Extract from Barbara Anslow's Diary
Extract from Barbara Anslow's Diary: "war had been declared"
  • 8 Dec 1941: "I started my birthday with a war. Kowloon bombed about 8AM."
  • 10 Dec 1941: "Sid has been wounded.  Bullet through shoulder.  He told Hospital to phone Mum at the Jockey Club and she went to see him."
  • 13 Dec 1941: "We hear rumours that

New on Gwulo: 2018, week 49

A summary of what's new and updated on Gwulo:



Memories of:



Gwulo book news

The new Volume 2 books were delivered on Tuesday last week, and I'm happy to see they've turned out well. At first glance this looks like last year's photo:

Happy Birthday Barbara - 100 today!

Today is Barbara Anslow's 100th birthday.  Barbara is a regular contributor to Gwulo, and has generously shared her memories of life in Hong Kong in the 1920s, 30s, 40s, and 50s.


Below I'll look back at some of the major events from Barbara's first century - usually reported in her own words, as she is a keen diarist and letter-writer.

The Best Hotel in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Hotel


This photo shows the view looking south along Pedder Street, across its junction with Des Voeux Road and Chater Road.

It was sold as a postcard, and its title comes from this pencil note on the back.


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