Supreme Court Building / former Legislative Council Building [1910- ]

Submitted by philk on Tue, 11/18/2008 - 19:52
Current condition
In use
Date completed

Photos that show this Place


Legco's Research and Library Services Division has prepared a good summary of the building's history. Here are some of the interesting sections:

2.1 The Building formerly housed the Supreme Court of Hong Kong.
Incidentally, it was the Legislative Council which resolved on 28 February 1898 that "new Law Courts" , i.e. the Supreme Court Building, be built.

2.2 The Building was designed by Aston Webb and E. Ingress Bell, consulting architects to the Crown Agents to the Colonies. They were leading architects at the time and their notable works included the southern façade of the Buckingham Palace. They prepared the drawings for the Building in 1899.

2.3 The construction of the Building started in 1900 and took 12 years to complete. The foundation stone, built into a column facing Statue Square, was laid in 1903. However, the construction process was delayed by the insufficient supply of suitable granite and masons and the death of the contractor. On 15 January 1912, the Building was opened by the then Governor Sir Frederick Lugard. In the following seven decades, the Building housed the Supreme Court of Hong Kong
except in the period of Japanese occupation.

2.4 During World War II, Japan occupied Hong Kong between December 1941 and August 1945, and the Building became the headquarters of the Hong Kong Military Police.

2.5 In 1978, the construction work of the Mass Transit Railway led to cracks in the structure and the Building was closed for reinstatement works. On 24 May 1983, the Executive Council approved the declaration of the exterior of the Building as being of historic interest. In 1984, the exterior of the Building was declared a monument, protected legally under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance.

2.6 In 1983, the Executive Council also approved the plan to convert the former court house into the home of the Legislative Council, and the Architectural Services Department started the conversion work in 1984. In addition to the interior works, the Architectural Services Department was responsible for improving the immediate environs of the Building in a manner appropriate to the precincts of the legislature. In this  connection, a portion of Jackson Road was closed to link the
Building with the Chater Garden, and the boundary of the Building was delineated by cast-iron bollards and lamp-posts. The conversion work was completed in October 1985.

3. Foundation
3.1 To form the foundation of the Building, hundreds of Chinese Fir tree
trunks were driven into the mixture of reclamation materials and silt on the site. Therefore, the Building is in effect "floating" on a timber raft (see the figure below).
To be fully effective, such a foundation system requires the ground water level to be maintained at a constant level. Accordingly, a ground water replenishment system is installed to replace ground water as required.

Read the full document here.

Full history, details, photos here in Heritage Impact Assessment:

they seem to think the building was damaged by the retaking of Hong Kong in 1945 but I think they mean 1941.

the basement will be used as a museum. Incidentally, in case you were wondering, as I was, they won't repair the battle damage.

Traces of damages on the granite  surface, which are believed to 

have been caused by bullets during the World War II, are identified. 

Some of them were repaired in previous maintenance works. The 

damages and the previous repairing are considered part of 

the history of the building. No work will therefore be proposed to 

those damaged areas. 

Perhaps someone could go into the basement cells of the Supreme Court building, used to be referred to by the locals as 'Dai God Lau', to see if there are still messsages or last wills scribbled by detainees on the walls during the War.  It was the place where many were detained and tortured.

Any student of the history of Hongkong will find much of interest in a collection of relics connected with Supreme Court cases and official occasions, which is kept in a glass fronted cupboard in the office of the Chief Justice's clerk.


The exhibits are largely a crime museum with such things as an axe reputed to have been used in a murder, counterfeit coins, and forged notes, but one such relic at least is of historic interest. This is a piece of the poisoned bread used as a Court exhibit when the Chinese master baker was  tried in 1857 on a charge of trying to poison the European residents with arsenic. A significant feature about this piece of bread is its remarkable state of preservation after seventy-six years - even the rats and cockroaches appear to have left it alone: and while discoloured yellow by now, it retains its shape and form. The explanation is obvious; it is well impregnated with arsenic!


Source: Old Hong Kong by Colonial Vol 1

The foundation stone of the new Supreme Court building, which stands on part of the reclaimed land forming the Praya Central, was laid on November 12 1903 The building itself was not occupied until 1912. There is an interesting reference  to the Court’s history in the Hongkong Telegraph, which referred to the stone-laying ceremony in its issue of that day, as follows:


A granite block, bearing a suitable inscription in letters of gold, has been swung plumb and laid/true into its appointed place. In a hollow in the great stone are placed, for the edification of archaeologists of some future generation copies of the newspapers of Hongkong and specimens of each silver and bronze coin of the Colony, of the latest mincing. The official ceremony performed by His Excellency the Governor with the aid of the traditional silver trowel, spirit level, and mallet, attended with the appropriate speeches pronounced by the leading public servants, heads of the departments charged with the erection and future occupation of the massive pile, in the presence of the elite of the community is over. Now that the foundation stone of our new Law Courts is laid, it is of interest to recall the original precincts and past peregrinations of our Supreme Court.


Source: Old Hong Kong by Colonial Vol 1