This image was scanned from the Royal Photograph Gallery, introduced by one John Clark Ridpath and published in New York in June 1893. The publisher's aim was "to select and preserve the best" photographic materials and "to reproduce... the most striking aspects of the natural world and the highest and most beautiful works of man."

This substantial volume of more than 460 pages was almost certainly a wedding gift to my great-grandparents Henry Fine Chong (Cheng Fan Chong) and Lily May Ah Poo, who were married in Parramatta, NSW, in June 1896.

The three photographs in this set appear on pages 112 and 113 of  the Gallery's eleven-page section devoted to China. This first photograph is captioned:

The island harbor of Hong-Kong formed one of those maritime spots whose advantages were early perceived by England and quickly appropriated. As the name implies, it is the place of "sweet streams." It is one of a group of islands, none of them large, which lie close in against the mainland, and which in the hands of a powerful naval nation serve to command the cities and commerce of the Chinese shores for hundreds of miles. The Governor's Residence, so stately in appearance and here so finely photographed, is on one of those elevated knolls overlooking Victoria, the capital. It was in this residence that General [– and former President – Ulysses S.] Grant was so royally received and handsomely entertained by the then Governor [in April and May 1879], during his trip around the world. The numerous islands adjacent to Hong-Kong are all picturesque, and in the distance one may see the symmetrical peak of Mt. Stenhouse, on the island of Lamma, whose crest rises to the height of 1140 feet.

The confident assertion that 'Hong Kong' = 'sweet streams' is a curious translation, but presumably reflects a commonly held belief of the day.

The presence of a substantial brass telescope in the middle of the image, attended by three uniformed Chinese and a nonchalant Britisher, is sadly unremarked!

Date picture taken (may be approximate): 
Friday, August 8, 1890


Is it possible to post the remaining images?

this shows the first incarnation of the Governor's summer residence on the Peak. It would be knocked down within the decade as its condition deteriorated in the damp conditions and rebuilt on a slightly higher position. A discussion about where the governor should live, and overly high rents on the Peak - follow here: 

Thanks for your interest, 'hfsiu'. You've probably seen that the other two HK photos are already up on Gwulo, so I'm wondering if you mean the rest of the China photos from the book?

They don't belong on this specialist site, but if you want to see them, check out the digitised public domain version of the Royal Photograph Gallery at

Each page can be saved as a JPEG file, but if there's an image you would like at a higher resolution please let me know and I'll see what I can do.


The Governor was renting Craigieburn during this time. This looks like. Government house to me.

I agree that it wasn't Mountain Lodge. Here's a photo dated 1890, with Mountain Lodge at the top-left:

Eyrie and first Mountain Lodge

There are hills either side of it, which aren't shown in in the main photo above.

But I don't think it was Government House either. I count 7 or 8 windows across this building, but Government House was much bigger, see:

I don't have any better guesses though - can anyone else recognise it?

Regards, David

Then. I suggest that it is the rental house on the peak that fit this time frame Craigieburn. That would be Mount Kellett on the left and Victoria Peak on the right.

Thanks, I've set the Places shown to Craigieburn, and hopefully other photos of the building will confirm.

Regards, David

GW has posted a good view of Craigieburn:

craigieburn 1880s from eternal1966.jpg
craigieburn 1880s from eternal1966.jpg, by eternal1966e

It's the single-storey building in the foreground. So the building in the original photo above is still a mystery.

This looks like the Observatory on Mount Elgin with the cup anemometers on top. I think the Peak escarpment is on the left. 

The 7 arches match, and that would explain the presence of the telescope too. Good find.

Perhaps the telescope was also used to view the obelisk across the harbour near Bowen Road as mentioned in another thread. 

Well done Moddsey Sir! I'd pondered over that one for ages and got nowhere. To save face I'll blame all the guff about it being the Governor's residence, where General Grant stayed (in fact at Government House) and the view of Lamma Island.

The raised fenced path leading to the building, the fence around the lawn and even a tent on the lawn seen in the original can also be seen in if you zoom in.

Not sure re your comment about the Peak escarpment.



Had missed the photo first time round. I had  just noticed the meteorological instruments on the roof. I guess looking south west towards the western side of Hong Kong Island. Cheers

What a fantastic photograph of the 1883 Building of the Hong Kong Observatory - this is by far the earliest close-up view that I have seen of the 1883 Building!

The view should be towards the ENE direction as the axis of the 1883 Building is E-W oriented.  We can see part of the Kowloon Peak to the far left of the photograph.

I have uploaded the same image directly downloaded from 


Due to the different B&W contrast, one could vaguely identify the circular telescope mounting structure seen at: with a tent shape roof structure on top, in the direction of the gentleman with a hat.  This gentleman was probably Mr Frederick Figg (compare the photographs at:  The circular structure should have mounted the 6-inch Lee Equatorial telescope, which is now residing in the UK Science Museum (

I am not sure about the use of the small telescope shown in the photograph which seems to suggest some kind of measurement or survey.  However, it was not pointing in the direction of Bowen Road and it should be the Transit Instrument located on the eastern side of the 1883 Building (not visible in this photograph) that utilized the obelisk for calibration of the transit telescope.  Will try to review the Director's reports to see if further hints on the specific measurement/survey could be found.

CM Shun 


It is interesting to read the comments relating to the building and instruments of the Observatiry. Thanks. Difficult but will look out for the obelisk. 

So we should change the photo's title?

Hi Brad,

Thanks a lot for bringing this photo to our attention, which finally could be confirmed to be an early photo of the Hong Kong Observatory.  Indeed this is the earliest close-up photo of the Observatory that I have seen up to now.

As regards the date of the photo, I notice that the book was published in 1893 but the date of the photo is indicated as 8 August 1890 above.  Is there some more information on determining the date of the photo that you could provide?

Thanks again!