Where / by whom did the First Hong Kong orphanage start? | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Where / by whom did the First Hong Kong orphanage start?


A group of adult Hong Kong adoptees and I are organising an adoptee reunon in Hong Kong in Sept 2010 (www.caawr.com), so as part of our reunion I would love to understand the story behind the first Hong Kong orphanage, who started it, when and what brought it to past.

I thought it was part of Tung Wah hospital, but then thought it was started by a group of French missionaries.  I do know there were a lot of orphanages started up by internationals in Hong Kong during during the escape for the Chinese from the Japanese.  The closest story I got was around the Mildred Dibden time and Fanling.

Would really love to hear from anyone with any links and facts asap.

Lucinda Wu




In 1879 in the City of Victoria, there was a grants-in-aid school called the Diocesan Home and Orphanage (Boys and Girls). At the time 57 children were enrolled.

Here's an earlier one, dated to 1848:

In going over the records we find that the first welfare agencies in the Colony were set up by religious groups to provide homes and training for abandoned children. The earliest ones were founded in 1848 by the Sisters of St. Paul Chartres. These were the French Convent Centre for abandoned babies and the French Convent orphanage to provide moral and intellectual training for abandoned children.

Quoted from: "Social Welfare in Hong Hong - A Review of Welfare Services in the Past Twenty Years."

That organisation is still going strong, and runs the well-known St Paul's Convent School. Here's some more from their website:

[...] four Sisters of St Paul de Chartres [...] arrived in Hong Kong on September 12, 1848, after a perilous four months'journey by sea from France. [...] Sr Alphonsine, the first Superior, and Sr Gabrielle, still both in their 30s, would give their lives for this far-off mission within two years of their arrival.

The Sisters saw at once that the most urgent need was the rescue of unwanted babies, mostly girls, abandoned everyday by their mothers. On October 1 they took in their first baby and by the end of the year, they had received 170 children, three-quarters of them in dying condition. In 1851 the Sisters moved to bigger quarters, also in Wanchai, and called it "Asile de la Sainte-Enfant", after the Association of Holy Childhood based in France, which provided the necessary funds. Through the years, thousands of orphans were fed and clothed, taught reading, writing, religion and sewing, and when of proper age a marriage was arranged for them with good Catholic men. Successive developments in 1872 and 1893 allowed the accommodation of hundreds more, many of whom were also adopted by local and foreign couples.

An unsuccessful attempt to start a class was made about the end of 1856 which lasted for a few years. On November 1, 1876 Sr Benjarnin re-opened the school, forerunner of the present St Paul's Convent School in Causeway Bay. By the end of the century, it had two sections - French and English. A Chinese Section was added in 1925 in Causeway Bay and two years later in Happy Valley.

It doesn't give the exact location, but "In 1851 the Sisters moved to bigger quarters, also in Wanchai," indicates that their first location was in Wanchai. If you find out more (you may want to contact them directly), please let us know.

Regards, David

Hi there,

“1859: The Diocesan Native Female Training School was founded by Mrs Smith, wife of the first Anglican Bishop at the end of the year…The Government placed one of the houses in Albany Terrance at the disposal of the Education Committee and the Diocesan School was temporarily located there.”  [1]

“1863: The Diocesan Native Female Training School moved into a newly erected building on the corner of Bonham Road and Eastern Street.”  [1]

“1864: The West Point ‘Industrial Reformatory’ was opened under Ignatius Ip Uen… the forerunner (operating on the present site) of St Louis’ College.”  [1]

“The Diocesan Native Female Training School was organized in 1860 under patronage of the wife of the Anglican Bishop…When it moved to the new location [1963] its name was changed to the Diocesan Female School.  In 1869 … the name was again changed to the Diocesan Home and Orphange.”  [2]

“The establishment in 1863 of the West Point Catholic Day School.  Rev. J. Eitel in his account of education in Hong Kong suggests that this was the forerunner of the Industrial Reformatory opened in 1864 at the site of the present St. Louis College at Third Street and Hill Road.  This institution provided a hostel and training in useful skills to boys who had been picked up on the streets by the police.”  [2]

“A house not far from the Seminary on Wellington Street was opened in 1863 with twelve boys, who had come to the attention of the police.  Some homeless boys were also taken in.”  [2]

“Three Sisters of the Order of St. Paul de Chartres arrived in Hong Kong to take charge of an orphanage (‘Asile de la Sainte Enfance’)…This institution has strong claims to be regarded as the direct ancestor of The French Convent, St. Paul’s Convent School and St. Paul’s Secondary School.”  [3]

Extracted from:
[1] Education In Hong Kong Pre-1841 To 1941, Fact & Opinion. Anthony Sweeting, ISBN 962 209 258 6
[2] A Sense Of History. Carl Smith ISBN 962 290 313 4
[3] Hong Kong 1841-1862 Birth, Adolescence & Coming of Age. Geoffrey Sayer, ISBN 962 209 012 5