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Suffolk Road house

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Suffolk Road house

my mother Sheila Staple, Maureen  and Denny Maclean captioned by my grandmother, Joan Staple as 'on lawn Suffolk Road' 


further to comments so far, this seems to be taken looking across to the house in my first picture (with the two amahs) - so in both pictures the children seem to be standing or on bikes  in more or less the same place (with the helpful tree) just inside the front gate of the Suffolk Road house that was the family home -so the one across the way with the curved white balcony (which I hadn't noticed, thank you eagle-eyed Liz) is not the family house (I originally presumed it was). The one featuring my mum with racquet and in school uniform definitely is ... one more pic to add ...      

Hi Deb, I can only concur with David and say that Suffolk Road has never had houses on the south side of the street. The Mapping Hong Kong book has a picture on page 182 that shows the layout of the Kowloon Tong estate in 1934 and the large area of land between Suffolk Rod and Norfolk Road (the next road to the south) was reserved for Govt use. Unless the land was ringed by the wall you see above then I doubt this is Suffolk Road. The position of the hillside at the back (in this case part of Beacon Hill) definitely puts it on one of the east-west running roads. Yoprk Road to the south seems too far away so I go back to my previous comments about this location (and the picture with the amah) as being on either Dorset Sq or Somerset Rd.



all I can say here, is that I have concluded, as I've said in another comment,  that looking at David's maps and comments, plus my pictures, I feel our family house was on the north side - I have several pictures all clearly written on the back (by my grandmother, the tall lady with my mother) that the family house was Suffolk Road and the clue that they weren't visiting is that she writes, 'on our lawn' and one captioned 'our wee house'.  Trouble is, picking up your comment, I can't see in front of me which of my pictures you're looking at. The first one with the amahs and the one with my mother and the Denny children in the same position (posted yesterday) seems to have been taken within the gate at Suffolk Road, looking across to a house that is a red herring and had me fooled. But of course it is not the same house as the one I thought was ours, at first, wrongly (as pointed out it has a white balcony and ours does not).  As I don't know the angles, don't know what address that house would be.  When you say reserved for Govt use - would the Govt have built any of the Suffolk Road houses - as my grandmother was in government service and became a widow when her daughter was two (my mother pictured) plus had a step-son to care for.  Perhaps she became entitled to a house?  

I can now see that you are commenting on the picture of the children on the lawn (seems to take a while to load, sorry) - you say no houses were built on the south side so presumably the place across the road is not the south side - in my pictures there is a path running up to the right, apparently between the first block of houses on Suffolk Road, then another block behind (looking north) with Somerset Road? behind them ...back to the maps methinks 

Yes, your house must have been on the north side on Suffolk Rd, as we know the south contained no houses. Please understand that I am not saying that your house wasn't on Suffolk Rd. What it appears to be is that of the several pictures you have posted they seem to be of two different locations. The first location is, of course, your house on Suffolk Rd and appears to be the house without the extended curved balcony. The second location, of which the above photo is an example and the one I have inserted below, appears to have been taken elsewhere because they are taken from a garden occupying the south side of a road. We know it's the south because we can see the mountains on the opposite side of the road.

Initially I guessed that these other two photos (taken inside the gate) were taken on either Somerset Rd or Dorsett Crescent. But after looking more closely above I am fairly certain it shows Dorsett Crescent. My reasoning is that 1. Dorsett Crescent has houses on both the north and south sides of the road 2. The house which you had mistakenly thought was your own (with the curved balustraded balcony) is identical in style to the houses that used to sit on Dorsett Crescent. and 3. The most important fact for me is that looking at your picture above, it appears the houses on the opposite side of the road are curving away towards the mountains. This is the curve that Dorset Crescent makes as it bends up towards the junction with Cornwall St.

So to sum up, most of your photos look to have been taken at the property on Suffolk Road, but the two that show the inside of the gate (i.e. the one above on bicycles and the one I have pasted below) show a separate property on (I believe) Dorsett Crescent. Hope this clarifies things. 

'Maureen, Denny & Sheila with Amahs, Suffolk Road'
'Maureen, Denny & Sheila with Amahs, Suffolk Road', by debcoxon



apologies, my last rather convoluted comment was started before you posted your last comment.

I was just about to hit the maps again and your new comment appeared - yes I think it does clear things up -  so thanks for your trouble. It is all so hard to picture when not on the ground and yesterday looking at the maps they jump around unhelpfully because of  my touch pad (perhaps invest in a mouse!). The Dorsett Crescent theory seems good based on your knowledge and because it explains the different angles in my pics (I have more not posted because they only show tiny bits of other houses).  Yours and other comments are helping me with the difficult job of 'archiving' these pictures into a story/timeline - I'm grateful.  

It is interesting to see some old views of Kowloon Tong (there are only a few of these original houses still left) and the children and amahs add a lovely poignancy to the photos. Thanks for sharing them with us, and I hope you are eventually able to figure out where they were taken.

4 Dorset Crescent 2010? Side view
image.jpg, by Google Streetview

So, proceeding on the basis of Phil's suggestion above, and looking this Streetview of 4 Dorset Crescent (which is already outdated, as the old house was unfortunately knocked down after it was taken, a few years ago), could it possibly be the same building as the one in the old photo above? There are some real similarities, but I'm not totally convinced, as there are some little differences, eg tiled roof, pillars at front slightly dissimilar, no piping along side wall etc. but it may be that such minor changes could have been made to the house since it was first built I suppose.

4 Dorset Crescent 2010? front view
image.jpg, by Google Streetview

Actually, I just found the front view of 4 Dorset, and although the facade looks very similar to the Amahs and Children photo above, the front stone wall looks to be original and is completely different, as is the entrance, so now it doesn't seem likely to be the one...

it is so tantalising - the above view looks so like the house with the children on bikes - angle , hills behinds and what you can see of detail, balconies etc ... even the grey stone wall could match but  not direct enough angle ...     

now I seem to be madly counting courses in walls - the above appears to have about 10 plus narrowing coping.  The picture with the children on trikes across the way has a wall of five, plus thick coping. In the pic with the amahs, the wall apears to have been added to but as the children look much the same ages, I think it's because it merges with the wall of the balconied house across the way ... which could be about same number of courses as above house! ...  Meanwhile, looking again at theories re Nos 3 & 4 Suffolk Road, in the pics with my grandma and mother, the house next door looks side by side with narrow path and wall beside but same white curved balcony, pillars etc. as above house.   In other pictures it looks slightly set back, unless that's the back of a house on Somerset Road ...  I think there was a small garden at the back of the Suffolk Road house as I also have a picture of mum helping male version of amah in the veg plot - his 'makee learn' (it says on the photo). Also interesting that what appears to be No 3 has the white balcony etc but ours seems to have been more basic i.e. filled in balcony -  pretty confused ...   

just put a comment on re jurors list but not sure if this its own thread - anyway, Liz, I have found a William McClean (the children in apparent Dorset Crescent pics were Maureen and denny McClean) lived at 3 Dorset Crescent in 1933 so Phil's Dorset Crescent theory looks good ... I wonder if 'Mac' as he is described by my Gran on pics, might have helped where he could (I have a lovely pic of him) or perhaps his wife was also a nurse - seems likely the children wd all have gone to Kowloon Primary School.

Looks like you struck gold with the Jurors List, Deb, that was lucky. I completely agree, that the house they were visiting (belonging to the Macleans) should be 3 Dorset, and that its front yard and wall are in the foreground of the amah & children photo. This would make the house across the road in the same picture, most likely 4 Dorset - sorry I confused things in my comment title above. Maybe the title of the two old photos taken in Dorset Cres instead of Suffolk Rd can now be changed, if you think the mystery is solved?

I am pretty sure these are 4 Dorset Crescent (closest to the camera) and 6 Dorset (behind the dark tree). I have referred to the 1950s map of Kowloon Tong to reach this conclusion, as well as comparing all the available photos.

whoo hoo, thanks - so looks like Phil's hunch re No 4 correct. The dreaded No 4 again - hope it was not as unlucky for the people who lived there.  Husband thinks looking at angles that No 4 is the one under construction and though it seems quick for a house to go up and the children look much the same age, the tree seems to have put on some growth so that  would allow a few months. And with all the labour, they probably did go up quickly. 

You see, I go away for a few days, come back and the mystery is solved. Well done to Liz and Deb for some nice investigative work. It's a big shame that #4 was knocked down only a short time ago (about 2 or 3 years) and yet nothing has been done to the site since then.

agree - such a shame Phil - but I can take least credit - this would not have been solved without your hunch re Dorset Crescent - I got lucky only through all the help from you Gwulo guys and gals - thanks again.  Of course one mystery tends to throw up another so much work still to do  may be calling on your knowledge again! 

Sorry to be a dog with a bone.  Having seemed to crack this case, I went to reinstate my photos in album - but back to where this started, it's still niggling that Grandma wrote 'on lawn Suffolk Road' and 'with Amahs Suffolk Road' on the pics that we now think must be Dorset Crescent.  As I also have to make some sense of this for writing their story, what are your thoughts re the fact that my a) my Grandma meant (while we were living at Suffolk Road) - or that Suffolk Road was a generic name for the 'estate' as it evolved. My builder husband's view is that as developments evolve, often later roads don't get officially named until complete. So if it started at Suffolk Road ( and it is in another thread that Dorset Rd was second phase) - perhaps it was a sort of local shorthand for the whole development.  Though this story has to be fictionalised to some extent, I don't want to fall into crass inaccuracies as a writer, and because I want my pictures to add to the Gwulo/Hong Kong archive.       

As seen in other old photos on Gwulo, sometimes the comments made about the photo location were inserted many years later and often by other family members. Not sure if this was the case. From HKGRO, it would appear that residences in Dorset Crescent preceded those on Suffolk Road. 

I know categorically this was my Grandma's writing, v. distinctive and not her writing as an old lady - but she could indeed have added it later as you say, perhaps doing what I'm doing now, sorting through. But I am surprised Dorset Crescent preceeded Suffolk Crescent as had got the opposite impression from thread on Gwulo about it being last phase - more records perusal for me I think!   

Deb, I'd say the possible time lapse between her living at Suffolk Road and writing the notes down on the photos is the most likely, rather than the alternative. I'm afraid I have no idea about how the development of the estate progressed, so I will defer to those who are better "in the know" here - and as you say, this topic was addressed in one of the other threads.

By the way, Phil, thanks for the comments, but I was largely following your lead! It probably never would have occurred to me about Dorset Crescent otherwise. This is a team effort for sure. It's also been good to find out just how useful the Jurors List can be, for finding out who lived where. That's a great resource to have. Something that is interesting when looking through the 1933 Jurors List is that the Kowloon Tong Garden Estate was home to a real mixture of (I'm assuming) Portuguese, British and Chinese (Eurasian?) people. I had wrongly assumed it was an affluent suburb intended mainly for the British. The more I find out about this area, the more intriguing it becomes.


Deb, about your grandmother's notes on the photos...maybe she was just writing 'Suffolk Rd" to distinguish those pics from the ones taken elsewhere in HK, eg Braemar Tce. Also, perhaps she didn't know (or remember) the name of Dorset Cres, especially given the fairly brief time they were living there, and the possible lapse of time.

I've Moddsey to thank for putting me onto the Jurors' Lists.  I was put off because I couldn't see anything between 1919 and 1941 (?) on Gwulo - but he led me to look at the lists on HKGRO - which led me to McClean at Dorset Crescent and also names on the accident/funeral report re my grandfather. Agree - a great resource, but so is the Gwulo community.  Also with your thought that my grandma probably put Suffolk Road to distinguish where  they were for that period of time.  Perhaps she's enjoying the capers she's caused (up there) but though she didn't talk of those times, she's inadvertently led to a more in-depth picture emerging from all your ideas. The lists have thrown up two more mysteries (aargh) - my grandfather doesn't appear until 1929 having appeared in in HK in 1919 and been married there before my grandmother and a 'prominent mason'.  Also the funeral reports say he worked at Palmer & Turner but on Jurors lists 1929/30 he's at Pilgrim (his best man was Pilgrim). Also does anyone know what 'on premises' against a name on the lists?   

Deb - I concur with Moddsey and Liz in that there may have been a long time lapse between when the pictures were taken and when your grandma wrote the captions. It's probably just a mistake that is easy to make after the fact. The estate was rather more homogenous when it was first built and I many streets looked similar - especially when you consider that the houses were very similar in style with a few minor cosmetic changes.

The fact that you found an address on Dorset Crescent is enough for me, and knowing the area fairly well, the picture on the bikes fits perfectly with that address - especially the way the road curves north where there is a small triangular garden at the junction with Devon Rd.

Anyway, looking for some more mysteries to have a stab at.



I suggest you retrace your steps and have a look at the Civil Establishments for 1920 and so on for your grandfather. It was common at the time for civil servants to be not included in the juror lists. 

thanks again - I appreciate your guidance, it's all helping build up the picture. I'm no historian, have only edited my son's history degree essays, teaching me the value of primary sources.  Finding my way around these lists and records is a learning curve for me, but a  real thrill to find the people in my story on lists and records.

yes, I think you're all right and it's now settling out into a picture which I think holds together accuracy wise re Hong Kong and re my pictures.  You keep looking and keep noticing i.e. when my gran wrote 'Maureen and Denny with Amahs Suffolk Road' andMaureen and DennyNcClean on lawn Suffold Road, both times 'Suffolk Road' was on written separately underneath: i.e.

Maureen and Denny Maclean

on lawn

Suffolk Road

I'll see what I can do re further mysteries!  Plenty of minor ones.  Still don't know if my grandfather was killed before they moved there from Braemar Terrace.  He isn't in any of the pictures after Braemar Terrace but I have two copies of the picture with my mum and the tennis racquet on the lawn at Suffolk Road, one captioned by my Grandma and the other in different writing which may be my grandfather's.  This caption says 'our "wee house" the future "Helen Wills".  I'm fairly sure that it is not the writing of my great-aunt Isa (Isabella Warbrick) who I think lived with them and is pictured at the house.  Also I wonder why on the Jurors List 1929 & 30 he is listed as Assistant, Pilgrim & Co, 'on premises' yet when he was killed in November 1931, the report was headlined, 'Young Architect killed. - Mr K.K.Staple of Palmer & Turner, also that he had recently surpervised construction of the War Memorial Hospital'.  These are probably more personal mysteries  but again I'd like to know how such discrepancies click with the War Memorial Hospital.  And why Mr A.J. Pilgrim, who was his best man, wasn't at the funeral.  However, really appreciate your help so far with Suffolk Road - good game!  Great when a hunch leads to a bingo moment!

cheers, Debbie       

I just happened to have finish transcribing the details of the building of the War Memorial Nursing Home (often refered to as War Memorial Hospital) here ...

"On premises" means he lived and worked in the business premises of Pilgrim & Co.  Palmer and Turner may have sub-contracted work to Pilgrim.

How brilliant - I've gone round in circles trying to pin down the War Memorial Hospital and thanks for the other info too.  Makes up for a frustrating day yeseterday not being able to get records to load - hoping for more speed today! 

Hi Deb,

Glad to see some of the pieces of the puzzle are falling in to place. Do you know if your family bought the house in Kowloon Tong, or rented it?

We had a discussion about what "On premises" meant a few years back (see The conclusion was that sometime it meant the man lived on the company's premises, and other times he was using the office as a mailing address.

Regards, David

thanks David, every little bit is helping though I still have a lot more poring and assimilating to do - no I didn't find out if they bought or rented and would like to know if it is possible.  As the crash report (which of course could have inaccuracies) had my grandfather still at Braemar Terrace when he died, I'm tussling with possibilities:

that he had bought and a move was imminent (house perhaps being completed) as there would now be him, Grandma, Aunt Isa, Jimmy and Sheila and amahs.  Perhaps when the pic of my mum with the tennis racquet was taken, they were about to move there and took that pic on which he wrote ' our wee house'.  Trouble with that is that the same writing is on the back of a pic (not posted with my mum as a toddler helping the male gardener in the garden - marked 'gardener wit his makee learn'.  

- or that when Grandfather was killed they rented the house  - I find it hard to believe that my grieving Grandma would have pitched herself into a move so soon - on the other hand she was a hard-headed lady (having had a hard life). She and Auntie were brought up effectively in a 'hovel' with seven other children and I think she was proud to have made something of herself.  How much could be afforded on two nursing wages, or before that whatever Ken earned, I have no idea!  

I've found records - having been guided by you and other Gwulo members, that have helped greatly - but tend to throw up more anomalies - and yesterday, nothing would load, so it's slowly, slowly ... and I'm nowhere near them getting into camp yet!

I'm also tussling with where my grandmother first went to work. I now know she  arrived in 1925 on same ship as Meg Wilson and a nurse called Cullinan who is on the tennis party pic - but the records don't specify which hospital they were appointed to, except Meg Wilson as assistant matron at the new Kowloon hospital. But they arrived in the summer and Kowloon not opened until Dec 24th after delays due to the strike.  The records all tend to come under the heading of the Government Civil so don't know if this was considered the main 'mother' hospital and nurses would move between them or worked exclusively at one. Could she have gone to the Matilda? The crash report has my Auntie Isa (who arrived 1928) working at the Peak Hospital (not sure if the Peak hospital was separate) at the time of the crash - then later I have pic of the nursing quarters at Kowloon Hospital and two of Queen Mary's where I think they were when HK fell.  Of course I also want to know how K.K. and my gran met - whether when he was working on the War Memorial Nursing Home or through tennis or whatever. Perhaps I'll have to stick with my fiction brain there. Trouble is, much of what I've already fictionalised (first draft) is already trashed as new facts emerge. So need to get as near as possible. It does get obsessive!  Ask my poor OH.

Lastly, Annelise has helped with the War Memorial Nursing Home -  am I right in thinking it was nearby the Matilda? Both on Mount Kellett? Sorry, so long-winded!

Deb - to find out if your grandfather owned the house, you should be able to pay a fee and get a copy of the land deeds via the Land Registry IRIS website:


The two Hospitals were a 5 minute walk from each other. 

brilliant - thanks. Plenty to go at!

From Medical and Sanitary Annual Reports in HKGRO, the Matilda and War Memorial Hospitals were not considered as Government Institutions or Government Hospitals. However, the Victoria Hospital on the Peak was. As your grandmother and her sister were in the employ of the Government, I  assume they would have rotated between the Government Hospitals when the need arose.

The Medical Reports and Civil Establishments list in HKGRO will sometimes show the Government Hospitals that nurses had worked in during a particular year.

The medical reports - which you pointed me to I think, have filled in quite a bit - but no luck with civil establishments list yet as problems loading -will keep at it. Thanks re the clarification on the Matilda and War memorial - think that wd mean grandmother probably started at Govt Civil ... 

Suggest to view the captioned Report, Nursing Sisters Cullinan, Warbrick and Wilson joined the service on 25 July 1925. Upon entry, they were posted to the Government Civil Hospital. 

thanks - have pdf of 1925 - these three in medical records, haven't yet seen that they were posted to Govt Civil - will look again, thanks once again

apologies this posted 3 times - looking at 1926 report I have spotted a name I know from childhood, a Miss E. Riley, who I did not know was  in HK, but can't see appointments of Warbrick, and Cullinan, only Meg Wilson to matron - saw Warbrick and Cullinan on 1925 as appointed but not crystal clear which hospital - am I looking in wrong place?  happy to take your word it was Govt civil as you're clearly well ahead of me!

My error. It is the Civil Establishment list. Please type in "Civil Establishments of Hong Kong, for the year 1926 here . Scroll to Page 187.

hi Phil - followed link - shows a fee of $25HK which is fine but disclaimer re the address 4 Suffolk Road - saying it can't find the address so can only supply info on the lot no that appears in the box - then as part of disclaimer adds that it can only verify this from other sources which is an entirely different fee. Then you have to sign terms and conditions after which you can't  change the order.  $25 HK is OK but I'm nervous as to how much might be added and so far 4 Suffolk Rd is only a best guess anyway. Have you used this?  How do I know what they might add on? 

Hi Deb, I've never used it myself although I've been tempted several times. I think several regular contributors have used it though and would be able to offer guidance. When I did the search it found the address okay and gave me the corresponding lot number, but as you say, #4 is a best guess and there is no guarantee it is the house you're after.

Are there any other clues in your archives as to the actual address that may help narrow it down a bit more, or is it just the pictures?



so far, the best guess is based on Liz's shots on the ground - so nothing from archives -yet!

W. McLean only seems to have been living at 3 Dorset for a short time, as he is only mentioned there in the 1933 Jurors List (coincidentally, around the same time A.L. Landsbert moved to 3 Suffolk Rd!). In the 1931, 1932, 1934 and 1935 Jurors Lists, a James W. Lawson (an engineer for Jardines) is listed as living at 3 Dorset Cres.

Thanks Liz, but I feel I'm getting more confused - they seem to have played musical houses around the estate!! I had wondered when the Jurors lists so knowing it was March helps ... other than that I'm back to baffled ...

Maybe someone who knows more about the Jurors Lists can enlighten us as to why? Sorry to have confused you even more!

re your comment about someone who knows more about jurors lists ... as they are all male, we are in the dark as to my grandma's position, being a widow. Perhaps she had an arrangement with the Landsberts or perhaps rented the house from them - I presume my grandma, having my mother and a stepson for a time, had to have a house to live in (i.e.couldn't live in nursing quarters) but why not remain at Braemar Terrace?