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

Wanchai's seafront in 1902

Wanchai's seafront in 1902


When: The photo was taken in 1902 by R C Hurley [1]. He included it in his book "Views of Hongkong", published the same year.

Where: He was looking west along Praya East. In 1902 that was the Wanchai seafront, today it's called Johnston Road. 

What: We rarely get to see views of this part of Hong Kong's seafront, so we can use this chance to learn more about the area at the turn of the century. Whenever I need to know about the history of this area I turn to

A century of cinemas in Hong Kong: 1900-2000

Photos, maps and memories of Hong Kong's cinema century!

Back to the beginning, here's a map showing Hong Kong's cinemas at the end of the first decade:



[Subscribers: if you can't see the map, please view the website version of this page.]


There had been a few cinema shows in Hong Kong before 1900, eg:

The exhibition of the Cinematograph commenced at the City Hall to-day. This wonderful invention is well worth seeing, were it for nothing else but the pictorial representations projected upon the screen by M. Charvet.

Page 2, The China Mail, 1897-04-28

But the first purpose-built cinematographic theatres (ie cinemas) were built in the early 1900s. By 1910, the handful of cinemas shown above were in operation, all concentrated along the north shore of Hong Kong island between Shek Tong Tsui and Central.


1910s memories

The newest cinema in 1910 was The Coronet, remembered in

Mr. Triggs remembers

(This article originally appeared in the April 1977 edition of the Peninsula Group magazine, and is reproduced here with their permission.)

He lives in a large house in Kowloon Tong, one of Hong Kong’s fashionable residential districts, watching his plants grow and talking to his parrot who, in-between squawks, utters a civilized “hello”. He’s a big man, hearty despite his 85 years. And he smokes two packs of cigarettes a day. “But I don’t inhale,” he says. “It’s not good for you.”

Clifton James Triggs was, perhaps, The Peninsula’s longest-staying, non-paying resident. As Chief Engineer of The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels Ltd., he and his family lived “for some 35 years” in The Peninsula. If anyone knows The Pen, its ghosts, its every nook and cranny, and those of The Repulse Bay Hotel and the old Hongkong and Peak Hotels, Mr Triggs does. “My memory is not good,” he apologises, occasionally referring to a list he has made of important events during his career with the company. In fact, his memory is very good.

Mr Triggs


He remembers


More surprises from the National Archives

Here are a few more surprises from my recent visit to the UK's National Archives:

Naturalisation certificates, 1939-40

I'd asked to view what I thought was a single sheet of paper with details of a Mr Milenko, but instead I was handed this sizeable book [HO 334/254]:

Naturalisation certificates 1939 & 40

It contains copies of 500 naturalisation certificates received from around the British Empire in 1939 and 1940. Luckily the certificates from Hong Kong stand out in two ways, so it's easy to flick through the pages and spot them. First they're printed on slightly smaller paper, so your finger feels when a Hong Kong certificate passes by. Second they're printed on blue-coloured paper, unlike the rest which are on standard white paper.

Here's the first one from Hong Kong:

Jessica Wong's Naturalisation Certificate

It's the certificate for

Hong Kong surprises in the National Archives

Finding what you weren't looking for is part of the fun of a visit to the archives. Here are a few surprise finds from a visit to the UK's National Archives last month:

Refractory women on Kellett Island

The description of item WO 44/98 [1] looked relevant to the rusty iron water tank quest. Turns out it wasn't, but as I skimmed through it this caught my eye:

"The Barrack Master has [unclear] to state, as one cause of the state of disrepair of the small Barrack at Kellett's island, that it has been occupied by some refractory women of the 18th Regiment, who had been placed there by the Assist. Adjud. General without the knowledge of or any previous communication with the Barrack Master."

It was written in 1844, so it's the earliest reference to Kellet Island [2] I've read. I didn't expect to find it being used as a mini-Alcatraz!

Another document, WO 55/2962 [3], has several maps at the back including this detailed map of Kellett Island as it looked in 1853. By that time the main building on the island was a magazine to store explosives:

Kellett Island 1853


The other two maps in that document show


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