Life on Leighton Hill in the 1950s and 60s

Submitted by David on Thu, 07/21/2011 - 16:00

Francesca sent in these memories of life in the Government Quarters around Leighton Hill in the 1950s and 60s.

The blocks under scaffolding [on the right of the photo below] were The New Blocks of Leighton Hill:

c.1956 Leighton Hill Government Quarters

I lived there in 1959 on the 4th Floor, Flat 36.  Later, we moved to the block at the far left, which was called The Old Block.  We were on the 5th Floor Flat 11 first, then later 3rd Floor, Flat 7.  The block in the middle was always referred to as The Middle Block:

Leighton Hill - old block

There was a large space between the New Blocks and the Middle Block which included a huge sunken playground with a small (constructed) stone pavilion.  In fact, we called it 'the sunken playground'.  I believe this was created out of the area where some tunnels [1] had caved in.

One of the tunnels could be accessed from Leighton Hill in the hillside leading down to Wongneichong Road.  It's difficult to assess the size of it now as I saw it from a 10-year-old child's perspective: 8' x 8'?  We never entered further than 50' - I seem to remember a metal grille obstructing our passage although you could see more tunnel beyond it - but the air was incredibly stale and you soon couldn't breathe.  We called it 'The 99th Dungeon'.  Sorry, I don't know the origin of this name. [2 - see below for the likely explanation]

There was also a small crater on the hillside, completely overgrown and not visible from the road or the flats, between the second block of the New Blocks and the top of Broadwood Road, which we children believed had been made by a hand grenade in WW2.

Under the hillside below Leighton Hill you can see the dark roofs of the old Wongneichong Road Government Quarters. [They run across the foreground of the photo below]

Leighton Hill

I also lived in them as a child.  First at No. 129, which was the second last 'house' and then at No. 131 which was the last house and had a corner garden (on its left if you were facing the houses).  It would have been almost opposite where the old Sports Road used to come out?
There is a narrow alley between the entrance to the new Leighton Hill development and the shops and another alley that runs behind the shops.  This alley also used to run behind the Wongneigchong houses all the way to Broadwood Road.  The hillside above it was concreted over and was known as ''Dead Man's Slide"after a worker fell down this slope and was killed.  He was apparently carrying a bucket of paint and there was a large splash of it down the slope for many years.  However, this may be an urban legend!
Finally, I'd like to mention that on the right of the narrow alley I've mentioned above there are some trees still standing.  They appear to be part of the new Leighton Hill complex.  I believe they may be the original trees that were in our garden at 131 Wongneichong Road in the early 50s.  They are on the same site as the trees which were in our garden. However, I know nothing about trees so I could be entirely wrong.

Thanks to Francesca for sharing her memories with us.

If you can add anything to this article, your comments are always welcome. You'll find a link to add comments at the end of every article on the website.

Regards, David


  1. The tunnels Francesca mentions are the tunnels dug as air-raid shelters  under Leighton Hill.
  2. The '99th Dungeon' most likely got it's name from the number '99' originally painted at its entrance. Each tunnel entrance (they were called 'portals') was numbered, and Portal 99 was on the slope below block B ('Middle Block') of the Leighton Hill Government Quarters. By the 1960s the numbering had probably faded away, but the name had survived, passed down from one generation of children to the next.


I too lived there, but in the early 1970's, when my late father worked for the HK Customs (Preventive Service). I can't quite remember which flat we lived in, but it could have been 19, in what looked like the middle block. I have just returned from a nostalgic trip back to HK, and the new LH looks abominable! Good to see St Margaret's Church still there, the Craigengower Cricket Club and HK Football Club (albeit in somewhat newer guises!). Whilst there have been many many changes in buildings etc., the essence of HK's local areas, Causeway Bay, North Point etc, have not changed - still the old mish-mash of streets, businesses (everyone has a business!!) and trams...!


Thank you indeed sharing your memories with us.

Tell me please though, how salubrious were these flats on the inside?

The remaining similar blocks around HK, appear quite basic and functional from the outside, and despite enjoying some of the best 'locations' in HK, sit rather heavily in their hillside and other settings.

I am thinking of the government blocks going up to the peak for instance, though some of these may alreay be going or gone, since I last looked.

The 1960's 'brutalist' style springs to mind.

I am often struck with the thought that if many of the old Government accommodation blocks were located in any city in the UK, they would be in the 'scariest' parts of town, and the lifts would not be working...

Forgive me, just curious.

best regards


I'm Keith Kilvert and lived in leighton hill twice.... first as a three and four year old in C/D block (the new flats) in 1966/68 then in B block in the ground floor garden flat in the 70's.. The A block flats were, I believe 4 bedroom, B block 3 bedroom.. they were very spacious and comfortable and had living/dining rooms (approx 20ft x 20ft) with a sliding/folding partition... they were built to same design in several places in the colony including the peak and midlevels... there was a reason for this.. they were originally designed to become emergency hospitals in colony wide emergencies.. hence the wide and shallow steps to each floor and the huge landings, the size of halls and bedrooms in each flat.... they couldn't be built upon for many years because of the tunnels under the hill and the risk of subsidence... I spent many happy years in leighton hill.. and wandering the streets of causeway bay...


Many thanks, David for coordinating Francesca's contributions and comments from Julian and Keith.

The design of these buildings was ideal for Hong Kong's climate - spacious, high ceilings, plenty of air circulation, and balconies often big enough to sit down for dinner.  Before air-conditioning became popular, appropriately place ceiling fans, did the trick!

I cannot guess what relic of the War David was hinting at, but the regular, squared-off scars on the wall of ?Broadcast Drive? might indicate a structure was once there, appearing to be storage lockers or similar?

On Stubbs Road, above the view from near Shiu Fai Terrace, looking out over the Jockey Club Stands, etc., opposite Craigmount, the stone wall is pock-marked with indentations of probable machine-gun bullets from the machine-gun post at Bowen Road above.

Thanks for the entertaining browse through these interesting photos, and contributions.  I have many happy memories of time spent in the company of Roy Kilvert and the Sunday lunchtime gang at the far end of the old Football Club Bar! Tony. 

I am interested in life on Leighton Hill as far as the local fauna is concerned in the 1950s and 1960s and prior to this time.Does anyone have memories of reports of tigers,leopards,large snakes or anything unusual,out of the ordinary,folklore related,etc?I would be very interested to know.Or fauna elsewhere in Hong Kong?Thank you.

Lots and lots of snakes.. Cobras, Kraits and once a bamboo pit viper(luckily at a distance.. very agressive) monkeys occasionally (possibly released into the wild) birds, this was down the "Banks", the jungle surrounding the hill. As for big cats, last tiger was killed on the island at the beginning of the  20th century... on the mainland in the 1930's I believe.. HK was very much part of the empire in those days... so people would work in india. africa etc and many had the kit req'd... several times I was allowed in the armoury at the HK Volunteers (set up as a local terratorial army regiment) and saw several very old but servicable elephant guns.. the bore on these was huge.. well able to take a tiger... We would of seen anything bigger as rightly pointed a very well built up area and we new our way around as kids.. not that we let on to parents... Worst I remember was being "tree'd" by a pack of "wild dogs"... They weren't really "wild", people who owned premises would feed them just before dark, which meant they would come home and lock them in their compounds overnight to act as watchdogs.. then leave them to roam around during the day.. they soon formed into packs... Once we were more confident they were not a problem... I was also told about "dead mans slide" but again, it was a "long time ago" urban legend thing.." hope this helpfull.  Keith

Hi Tony - you're not related to a Frank Carroll, are you - he used to be in tehHK Customs with my father?  I remember Sunday mornings at the HKFC bar in the 1960's...being handed out blue cheese and spring onions by my dad while I was outside with a Green Spot or similar and he was in the bar with a San Miguel! Brian Wake

This is a wonderful thread that brought back childhood memories having lived at Flat 21, 4th Floor, B Block from 1975-1987 - so a decade or so out. I recall running around in a gang of kids taking for granted the space that we enjoyed. The jungly "Banks" separated Leighton Hill from the Royal Navy staff quarters along Wong Nei Chung Rd and the "Navals", as we called them, were our sworn enemies. The wartime ventilation shafts, "Dead Man's Slide" and the wild dogs were all known to us. From memory, the dogs were chows and were reputed to be very fierce!

A favourite game at dusk would be to dare each other to walk down the "Banks"  from the children's playground between A and B Block and to climb onto the roof of the ventilation shaft (we called it a bunker) and then run back. All the while, the other kids would be standing on the playground wall shouting out "snake" or "dog" just to spook you! The dogs seemed to disappear in the mid-1980s when the slopes above Po Leung Kuk were shotcreted for stabilisation. A corner of the "sunken garden" also sank further from subsidence in the mid-1980s and was declared off-limits. It was believed that the collapse of the wartime tunnels had caused the subsidence.

Apart from the usual games of football, bulldogs and rugby, who remembers "four-square", "kerby", "SS-guns" and "catch-in-the-block" played in C & D Blocks? If it was hot, we all piled down to the HKFC pool and signed for ice cream on our parents' account.

As many of us were Quarry Bay School kids - at the original Quarry Bay premises - we had to be on our best behaviour as our headmistress Miss McKenzie lived in D Block. She would often drive past us in her blue Austin Minor and give us the impression that she knew exactly what we were up to. 

Agree with the other comments about the space, high ceilings, light and ventilation of the quarters, especially in A & B Blocks. Agree also with the comment about the hideous sight of the densely-packed modern blocks, all dripping in faux Louis XIV motifs

Derek Finch

Seeing the comments about Leighton Hill from Brian Wake prompted this reply - I knew Brian's Dad, Des, as my late father Jim Prisk also served in the Preventive Service, subsequently renamed the HK Customs & Excise Service. Just looking at the photos of Leighton Hill also brought back many memories - they are typical Govt blocks of the time period - I lived in Buxey Lodge, in Conduit Road, during the period 1966-1972, structurally very similar to Leighton Hill. Halcyon days!

I also lived  Leighton hill, in D block , top floor (I can't remember the number) around 1961-4 . I was back there for the first time last year. I was surprised how little I remembered of the surrounding area.

A memory I do have is of a communist school across the road (oposite the main entrance). At one stage they sealed themselves up with losts of banners and loud speakers blasting out readings from Mao.

As to the style of the flats. They were very similar to other government flats of the same grade ("C" ?). I think they were much like Chater Hall with parquet flooring. They were much smaller than A & B blocks but pretty spacious by HK, non-government, standards.

I don't remember any fauna, other than cockaroaches. I do remember a large monkey on the roof of the garages at Chater Hall once but I suspect that it was an escaped pet. In the 50's I remember hearing barking deer on the peak.


We Anslows lived in Flat 3, 1st floor, of the front block of Leighton Hill Flats.

They were so commodious and lovely, and only 3 years old when we first moved in.  We'd previously lived in one of the tiny Govt. bungalows at Black's Link (Mount Nicholson), and before that in a flat at Courtlands, Kennedy Road, which pre-war had been a boarding house.

Francesca perhaps knew my children, Patrick (10 in 1959), Kerry and Frances who all went to Quarry Bay School; we also had 2 younger children not of school age.

Dear Keith,

I would very much like to have your father's, Roy, email address as we were closed rugby friend in the 1960s.

Best regards,

Denny Dwyer