View of Praya | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

View of Praya

View of Praya

This is the earliest photo that I have ever seen from this angle.

City hall had not been built yet. I would date this photo around 1865.

Date picture taken (may be approximate): 
Sunday, January 1, 1865


A very useful picture - thanks!

With my interests, I tried to make out the vessels, and I did spot something interesting - the one boat that is in focus, probably because she is lying to a buoy, appears to be a racing yacht. Long bowsprit; counter stern. Very typical of the date but a surprise to see such a boat in Hong Kong at this early date. 

HF, thanks for posting. We don't have many so early. Are you able to identify the buildings along the seafront? It'd be good to get places created for them.

Andrew, do you have any dates for when sailing races started in HK? Any idea if this would have been built locally, or shipped out?

Regards, David

I'm sure you can identify pedder street. On the left hand side was Dent & Co, right hand side was Jardine, Matheson & Co.

I understand Dent & Co bankrupted in 1867, so when this photo was taken, Dent was still running business.

PS, I also have one macao photo which was taken very early. Can I post here?

Looking at the curvature of the then Praya (Des Voeux Rd) the original City Hall site is actually not in picture, The building on the extreme left would later become the HSBC. Having said that, the photo is from the 1860s.

Definitely the HSBC building had not been built yet, which was openend in March 1865, that means this photo could not be earlier than 1865 (it took times to build a building) I could also see the new Zetland hall and the twin tower, which were said to be built in 1865 as well. Since HSBC record must be correct, then the date for Zetland Hall and Catholic must be wrong....

I'm a bit confused about the building on the left. As Moddsey says, it looks like the location for Wardley House, which HSBC would use as their first office.

However if you look at our notes for Wardley House, I'd read them to mean that HSBC moved into the existing building. Have you found any sources that say HSBC re-built the building before moving in?

PS Yes, please go ahead and post the Macau photo. I enjoy seeing your old photos.

What a wonderful picture.

I suspect this is how my great grandfather John Olson would have seen HK when he first arrived.

Forgive my ignorance but where is Wanchai Road in relation to this picture?


A comparison with hfsiu's photo.

I assume the building on the extreme left is Wardley House (forerunner to HSBC). I think the photo was taken before the construction of the City Hall, if not it would have been in the photo.

Sean - the area shown in the photo is the business and financial district of Hong Kong known as Victoria or Central these days. Wanchai is quite away to the east (left of photo). If you google Wanchai Road, you will be able to locate it.

1870 Praya Central (Des Voeux Road)


Moddsey, your photo was taken in early 1870 (earliest).

I would date this around 1875.

How do I know this photo was taken in early 1870?

Hints, you have to compare the photo taken by John Thomson & Floyd.




Type in John Thompson and view the photo of the Peak (circa 1868) on the first page. Looks like City Hall on the extreme left is being built.

HF - What are the differences do you detect?




This is a good start. He arrived in HK in 1869. Your photo was taken after him. That's why I said 1870 is the earliest.

The records of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, which began as the Hong Kong Corinthian Yacht Club in 1890, becoming the RHKYC in 1894 and moving to Kellet Island in 1938, suggest that there was organised yacht racing in Hong Kong from 1849, originally organised by the Victoria Regatta Club. I suspect that the yacht in the picture may have been associated with those races. Early yacht racing was often undertaken by professional crews for large wagers, rather like horse racing - the title "Corinthian", used by the 1890 club indicates that owners sailed their own boats without professional help.

I would guess that this boat was built locally, probably to English or Scottish drawings. Hong Kong had  a reputation for yacht building by the 1920s but I have no information on the 1860's save that, at this early date, interest in speed under sail was not just sporting - the opium clippers and the tea clippers depended on speed and, in the case of the opium clippers, the ability to beat to windward up the South China Sea against the monsoon. Indeed, several of the opium clippers were former large yachts that had once belonged to the Royal Yacht Squadron in the UK. This boat is smaller than those, but no minnow.   

Moddsey's photo is a part print of this photo.

When this photo was taken, the buidling (Circle 1) was already 3 storeys whereas the building shown in John Thomson was still 2 storeys. So I concluded that this photo must be taken in 1870 as a earliest date.

You can also spot that a pavillion was built in the Pedder Street Pier (circle 2). This pavillion was

View of Praya
not seen in photo taken in 1860s.


Since there was a typhoon in 1874 which damaged almost all the piers. I believe this pavillion was built when they repaired the pier (This is purely my guess, 90% sure, but I'm still finding more evidence to support this theory) . So I would date this photo around 1875.

View of Praya after typhoon


Photos taken by Floyd between 1868 to 1874. Please note the height of the building and the pier.

View of Praya by Floyd


Below the photo was taken from the same angle by Floyd. This photo should be taken between 1868 and 1874. He left Hong Kong in 1874. So this photo won't be taken later than 1874

View of Praya by Floyd (2)



You mentioned above that you could see the towers of the RC Cathedral in your original photo. I can see them in the circle on the photo above, but I can't see them in the original photo - though there is another single, domed tower that appears in both.

Thanks for the detective work, and the extra photos.

regards, David

PS no reply from HSBC about Wardley House yet

RC Church
I enlarged the photo. This is the part print. The twin tower was there....I believe.

HF, Thanks for the enlargement. I can see the towers now.


Given the date, it could be a despatch cutter. By the 1870s many would have been replaced by small steam launches (q.v. the Steam Launch Ordinance of 1875), but in the 1860s a small sailing vessel would have been used too. That might explain it lying to a mooring off Central. Of course that doesn't preclude it also being used for racing.

Stephen D