Fairlea, West Point | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Fairlea, West Point

Fairlea, West Point

Centre building is back of Fairlea Girls School, to the left of it is the Church Missionary Society Mission House. Their chapel is hidden lower in the trees between the two buildings

The corner of Sunnyside can just be seen on the far left of the photo

Does anyone know what the houses below Fairlea are called?


Date picture taken (may be approximate): 
Thursday, January 1, 1880


Can we please add CMS compound as a place?

I'm a resident of St. John's College, the successor of St. John's Hall, which had stood at the site of Fairlea from 1912-1955. Would it be possible for us to use this photo for compiling our history? We would make all citations necessary to credit Herostratus!

Please feel free to use the picture, however the photo is not mine. Unfortunately I cant remember where I found it online, I will check once I am home. In the meantime I suggest you source it as Gwulo.com rather than me. 

Looking through my collection I have another picture of Fairlea from the 1890's taken from the opposite side. I have uploaded it here. A higher resolution version can be found in the HK Public libraries 

Fairlea & Bonham Road looking South West
Fairlea & Bonham Road looking South West, by Herostratus

Picture from HK Memory here

Original Source: Hong Kong Museum of History. Reference No.: E1979.12

Thanks very much! I'm unable to access HK Memory at the moment (some kind of site failure), but I will try again soon!!

As to the photo you've posted earlier, we've got a copy in the St. John's Hall 1912-1952!

Pokfulam Road-Water Street Area about 1882.jpg
Pokfulam Road-Water Street Area about 1882.jpg, by Loong, S.K.

Great photo, thanks for posting I have created a place for Mr Mow Fung's house here. One thing I am not clear on: did the Fairlea building become St John's hall or did they demolish it and construct something new. The St Johns website suggests that the Fairlea building was initially reused as St Johns until it was destroyed sometime during WW2 but other sources here indicate a new building was constructed in 1912

I will quote from Loong, S. K. (1952), St. John's Hall: History and Register:

"The Church Missionary Society were exceedingly fortunate in being already the possessors of a very fine site directly opposite to the gates of the new University. At that time the buildings were occupied by a Girls' School, known as 'Fairlea', but in view of the need for a new hostel, it was decided to move the school to another site.

"Under the direction of the Ven. Archdeacon E. J. Barnett the work of adapting the place to its new use was promptly put in hand, a building fund was opened for subscriptions, and the Dioceses of Liverpool did much to make accomplishment possible. The old Fairlea building was adapted for the residence of students and of one member of staff, and a fine new building was designed by Messrs. Denison Ram and Gibbs, to the East [i.e. East Wing], providing accomodation for 28 students and the warden.

"When the University was formally opened in September 1912, St. John's Hall was the only Hostel ready for occupation...

"During the following terms more students applied for residence... in January 1914, the Board of Control applied to the Church Missionary Society for permission to extend the buildings... The extension took the form of a wing connecting the old [Fairlea] building and the first block [i.e. East Wing] which had been put up, and provided possible accomodation for 24 students. This was completed in the autumn of the same year [i.e. 1914]...

"Such was the condition of affairs until 1920, in which year the old Fairlea building was condemned as a residence for students. The natural effects of old age (the building was certainly over 40 years old) had been hastened by the earthquake in 1918, though the results were not immediately apparent. The building continued to stand, unoccupied and unsightly, and it was most desirable that it should be pulled down and another more suitable building erected as soon as possible.

"... the Board of Control [of St. John's Hall] obtained from the Church Missionary Society the use of St. Stephen's House standing just to the west of St. John's Hall as an annexe [in 1922]...

"An appeal for money towards the Building Fund [for the building of the West Wing] was thus launched in 1923... Thus the West Wing was extended in 1925..."


According to my own research (mainly on SCMP reports), Fairlea Girls' School was opened in 1886 by a Ms. Margaret Johnstone, but the Fairlea building itself has certainly been standing at Bonham Road before that, and was then owned by Mr. R. Belilios. Johnstone rented Fairlea from Belilios, and it was not until 1899-1900 that CMS took over the school as well as purchased the land. 

Then, CMS decided to move Fairlea away from Bonham Road since it'd not be great to have a girls' school next to a University male-concentrated area. St. John's Hall moved into Fairlea and constructed the East Wing to the east, parallel to Hing Hong Road. In 1914, an extension was constructed connecting the East Wing with Fairlea along the Pokfulam Road side. And probably sometime before 1925 Fairlea was demolished, making way for constructing the East Wing which formed an L shape with the West Wing. This structure had been preserved when St. Paul's College took over the premises in 1955 (and St. John's moved to the magnificent site of 82 Pokfulam Road), and until 1960s, when St. Paul's reconstructed the whole place. However, it is believed that the foundation and the stone fence along Bonham Road of St. Paul's are the remains of St. John's Hall.

As to Fairlea, it was first moved to Prospect Terrace, and then into the Lyttelton Road campus of St. Stephen's Girls' College in 1924, where the 2 schools shared the campus for 12 years. In 1936, Fairlea merged with another school to form Heep Yunn School in Kowloon!

As said, Fairlea was already demolished in 1920s. In WWII, St. John's Hall was ripped to bare walls, and funds were advanced by the government and HSBC to rebuild the Hall after the war. What was rebuilt was the L shape West (in 1946) and East Wing (1947), not Fairlea.

Unfortunately, West Wing has never been used by St. John's after the war. The West Wing was first occupied by a primary school run by the government (as condition for funding the rebuild of West Wing) for 3 years. Then it was occupied by St. Paul's College, which had been forced out of her Glenealy campus after the war by Bishop R.O. Hall!

Thanks for the detailed response. The below photo from 1933 shows what I though was the corner of the old Fairlea building right on the edge of the middle left of picture as the arches are similar. However it sounds like this was the new west wing of St John's. 

HKU from the air, taken by Kenneth, Jan 1933
HKU from the air, taken by Kenneth, Jan 1933, by David

Here is an aerial photograph from 1963. The St. John's hall building is still standing:

University Aerial Photo 1963
University Aerial Photo 1963, by Herostratus

Yes indeed, the photo from 1933 should be showing the West Wing instead of Fairlea. It's not difficult to tell because Fairlea was very close to the footpath that you can see from the 1880s photo of yours, whereas for the West Wing it is closer to the Pokfulam Road and thus further from the footpath, clearly shown from the 1960s photo!

We've opened a Facebook Page to talk about the history of St. John's. Feel free to like and share!

URL: https://www.facebook.com/retracingstjohns/

May I ask: how come are you so interested in the history of this place?? laugh 

St. John's Hall in 1947 (after reconstruction from WWII)
St. John's Hall in 1947 (after reconstruction from WWII), by Loong, S.K. (1952)

St. John's Hall in 1952
St. John's Hall in 1952, by Loong, S.K. (1952)

Great photos! I am interested all Hong Kong history but I live on Lyttelton Road and I have found much less information available online of the history of Western district than there is on Central/the Peak so I have focused much of my research on the area.