26-28 Severn Road | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

26-28 Severn Road

26-28 Severn Road
Date picture taken (may be approximate): 
Saturday, January 1, 2011


Many years ago I saw an article that mentioned this house.  The magazine said that the taipan of Swire would be moving from this house (inconvenient because the taipan had to walk up the stairs after exiting his car) to Taikoo House on 25 Peak Road. 

I have only seen one picture of 25 Peak Rd (from the magazine).  If memory serves, the house has a beige concrete exterior and the driveway passes under a large portico, leading to a double garage.


I lived in both 26 and 28 Severn Road in the 1950s and 60s. It looks pretty much unchanged in this photo although an awning has been added. Number 28 has lost the tree which provided welcome shade by the garage, no doubt to allow for an extra parking space. 26 enjoyed a bigger garden managed by an old, Hakka speaking, fah wong (the gardener), who used to entertain children by standing on one leg and saluting. He used to tend terraces of vegetables and some mandarin orange trees, as well as cut flowers. The garden was infested with huge snails, as big as the palm of your hand which I was told, probably incorrectly, had been introduced by the Japanese during the war as a food source. Also to be seen were were barking deer and small monkeys, huge lizards and the ever present black kites wheeling on thermals over the Peak. The houses were on the southern, shadeless, side of the Peak where the vegetation was generally less lush. As soon as you got around the bend of the road to the northern, harbour side, the vegetation changed to shade- loving ferns and huge "elephant ears" plants. The north side also tended to be steeper and was cut by mountain streams, more like waterfalls, which exposed the shear granite walls of the ancient Peak volcano. Sometime I would climb up through the undergrowth to the ruins of the old chief justice's house, immediately above 26-28, which had been bombed in the war and afforded magnificent 360 degree views of Hong Kong. We always had dogs and one treat was a visit from the singing dog washing man who used to almost hypnotise the dogs with his singing to lull them into cooperating with this, to them, unpleasant requirement.

I believe the houses were built around the first world war and were set on massive foundations of granite, probably quarried on site. I did read somewhere that Swires had recently sold them for redevelopment which is sad, although probably inevitable given the status of Severn Road as the world's most expensive street, by square meter. In 1969 my father turned down the opportunity to buy number 28 when he retired from Swires. I'm not sure what the price at that time was, but it would no doubt have been a bargain!


Hi There I noticed your comments about this particular house and wanted to let you know that my mother in law, her sister and parents (Francis Leslie Ball and Frances Mary Ball) lived there between approx 1936-1942 until Francis' internment in Stanley Camp. We thought we had a photo of the house from that period but it appears to be a house in England instead. We appear to have a photo taken from the house down to Aberdeen. Anyway, thought I would make contact :-) Kelly.

We lived in no. 28 for 12 years from 1981 and it was a wonderful family house. We had visits from all manner of snakes, including a king cobra near the front door, blue tailed skinks that sunbathed on the wall.   Some years later a swimming pool was built on the east side of 26 for the use of both houses. We built a balcony on stilts facing the wonderful view over Aberdeen harbour, with access to the garden, and the fa Wong grew pot plants on the garage roof.  We spent many hours in the garden, growing lilies, freesias, bourgonvillia, and palm trees with wonderfully huge azalea bushes up the bank. There were huge snails too!  Twice a week a 'fish woman' would walk up from Aberdeen with a basket of fish on her hoho stick, and fillet them there and then. 

I have photos of the house before the war with a tiled pitched roof, but the Japanese removed them during the occupation. Also rickshaws on Severn Road.

What is a hoho stick, please? Does anyone have a picture?

 what we called a hoho stick is a pole balanced across the shoulders with baskets at each end balancing the load. The carrier had a special rhythm to their walk .....ho, ho, ho, ho!

Thanks for this explanation, claireallmand. I had wondered if "Ho ho" was something that the sellers called to advertise their wares.