Victoria Harbour and Kowloon 1896-97 | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Victoria Harbour and Kowloon 1896-97

Victoria Harbour and Kowloon 1896-97
Date picture taken (may be approximate): 
Wednesday, January 1, 1896


This historical albumen print of the Victoria Harbour and Kowloon was recently acquired.  The date should be before 1907 as the signal station at Blackhead Point was not there yet.

CM Shun

Zoom-in showing the 1883 Building of the Hong Kong Observatory above the Knutsford Terrace (upper left) and the first-generation time ball tower, signal mast to the right of the TST Water Police Station (lower right). 

Victoria Harbour and Kowloon 1896-97 (Zoom-in)




The Hong Kong Club building (1897) is visible, but there isn't any sign of the Club Annexe (1903) next to it, so somewhere around 1900 sounds right.

There's also that building on the TST shore I'm still trying to identify.

Regards, David

Hi there,

I saw scaffoldings and ramps around the Hong Kong Club Building.   Would those be treated as another clue?

Best Regards,


Good point Thomas. Probably closer to 1897 then.

Regards, David

I could be wrong,

but there's no sign of Queen's building
so does that mean it's before 1899??


I'm not sure - would Queen's Building have been visible from here, or was it out of sight behind the Governor's residence?

Regards, David

My feeling (which may be wrong) is that the Queen's Building would be right behind the governor's residence as you think, but I believe it would be tall enough to be visible. The Hong Kong Club would still be visible, if the photographer had moved to the left.



The Butterfield and Swire Building was also built in 1897. Not very clear to see to the east of the Hong Kong Club.

So summarizing the above comments, could we settle the date of the photo to 1897 or even slightly earlier, e.g. 1896?

CM Shun

Yes, a date of 1896-7 sounds right.

Regards, David

Proof positive that this is 1896, probably middle-to-late 1896, and not 1897 is the large vessel on a mooring to the right. This is now the second image that has popped up on Gwulo showing HMS Tamar in the throes of conversion to a base depot ship.

My sense is that this is EARLIER than the other photograph, since it looks as though the work on the fixed awning is less far advanced. 

The Tamar was in HWD in Hung Hom for her engine and boilers to be removed in late 1895. By July 1896 this had evidently been done since there was an advertisement in the newspapers offering them for sale (no idea what happened to them, there were nine, which produced steam at 90 psi and had been manufactured by the reputable firm of Mawdsley in 1883/84).

At some time around that point (mid-1896) the ship would seem to have been moved across from Hung Hom to the mooring she would occupy once she took over from the Victor Emmanuel. She was then there, bar a possible visit to a dry dock for additional ballasting (though that could have been done afloat) in late summer 1897, until her commissioning in October that year, at which point she sprang a leak...but that's another story that you'll have to buy the book (should be out sometime later this year) to find out. The fixed awning was complete by July 1897, when a newspaper story reported that it leaked and that remedial work and the additional ballasting were needed.

So, onto the mooring off the Naval Dockyard in mid-1896 and with a complete (though leaking) roof by mid-1897. I think that implies this image must come from pretty early on - say late summer/autumn-ish 1896 given the state of work we can see.