The 'Dairy Farm' farm, Pokfulam [1886- ]

Current condition: 
Ruin
Date Place completed: 
c.1886-01-01 (Month, Day are approximate)

Now 'Dairy Farm' is just a brand name, or as its website says, "a leading pan-Asian retailer".

But originally the company did what its name suggests: owned a farm, raised cows, and ran a dairy with the results.

The farmland straddled Pok Fu Lam road, near where Chi Fu Estate is today.

There's a brief history of the company in "Hong Kong hongs with long histories and British connections", by Dr Dan Waters.

Photos that show this place

Comments

One of the founders of Dairy Farm, Dr. Manson had three small children when he moved to Hong Kong in the 1880s.  There was no hygenic milk supply then, which was his reason for opening Dairy Farm.  Here is a photo of Dr. & Mrs. Manson and the children.

Imperial medicine: Patrick Manson and the conquest of tropical disease
 By Douglas Melvin Haynes

Thanks Annelise, that's an interesting link - though the mosquito-borne diseases he researched are quite gruesome.

As the government likes to remind us - "Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water!"

my mother was singularly incapable of switching our family on to powdered stuff and ultimately gave up.  we did, however, have to drink a bottle at junior school mid-morning.  foulest of fouls especially when it had been out in the sun for a couple of hours

In 1958 I was on a bus travelling from Shek O.  On the lower slopes of the Dragon's Back on the East side of the Shek O road the barren hill side had been planted with thousands of clumps of grass.  I asked why this was being done and was told that the Dairy Farm was experimenting with growing additional grass there for its dairy herd.   I wonder whether that was true and, if so, how long did the experient last? I have a vague memory that a sign near the road had 'Dairy Farm' on it but I could be wrong!   Andrew

In its day the Dairy Farm at Pokfulam occupied the hillsides above Pokfulam Village, between Pokfulam Road and Victoria Road, and below Victoria Road where Bel Air (not) On The Peak now stands. I recently had a look around the part of the site between Pokfulam Road and Victoria Road and was surprised to find how much of the Farm still remains.

Some of the original site has been redeveloped and is now occupied by the Vocational Training Council and others. An easy point of access to the un-redeveloped part of the site is through this garbage collection point on Pokfulam Road, opposite Chi Fu Estate.

 

Gate Post
Gate Post, by gw

 Note the old gate post, which I presume was once one of a pair, but now stands alone. I wonder if this was the main entrance to this part of the Farm? Behind the garbage sheds an old path runs south, largely unobstructed, for a few hundred meters. Along the way it passes a high wall.

Wall of water tank
Wall of water tank, by gw

 It's actually a water tank which will be passed again later. The path ends in the largest flat space in the area.

Large, flat area
Large, flat area , by gw

The presence of a trough against the wall running around the left (east) side tends to support the idea that dairy cows were kept here.

Trough on upper terrace
Trough on upper terrace, by gw

 To the south the land drops to a smaller terraced area where there's another trough.

Trough
Trough, by gw

Here there is extensive use of stone walls, apparently to restrict the movement of cows, but also to support terracing. 

Stone walls and terracing
Stone walls and terracing, by gw

The degree to which the local trees have enveloped the man made structures is quite striking in places.

Stone walls and terracing
Stone walls and terracing, by gw
Stone walls and terracing
Stone walls and terracing, by gw

 A ruined building stands at the western end of the lower terrace.

Milking Shed
Milking Shed, by gw

Again, the trees have taken over.

Milking Shed (north end)
Milking Shed (north end), by gw

 I think it's a milking shed because of the row of what might be stalls for milking, but actually I don't know.

Inside the milking shed
Inside the milking shed, by gw

Here's the view from the other end.

Inside the milking shed
Inside the milking shed, by gw

 From here it was back to where the path from Pokfulam Road meets the large, flat area. The land rises gradually to the north and there's an easy path up the west side of the ridge. This building soon comes into sight.

First unknown building (south end)
First unknown building (south end), by gw

The path runs up the side and brings you to the other end of the building. Here it is - I love the pattern of the roots.

First unknown building (north end)
First unknown building (north end), by gw

 Inside is a bit of a surprise, for me anyway.

Inside first unknown building (north end)
Inside first unknown building (north end), by gw

 The building is dug into the ground. A narrow stone staircase drops down from the entrance into the middle of the room. 

Inside first unknown building (north end)
Inside first unknown building (north end), by gw

An internal wall divides the building. It once had an opening in it, now bricked up. 

Around at the other end of the building there's a similar arrangement.

Inside first unknown building (south end)
Inside first unknown building (south end), by gw

The wire like things hanging down are roots.

Inside first unknown building (south end)
Inside first unknown building (south end), by gw

Obviously this building did not accomodate cows. I've no idea of its function. 

A toilet block stands a short distance away.

Toilet
Toilet, by gw
Toilet
Toilet, by gw

The water tank passed on the way into the site sits on the slope below the toilet. It's huge. 

Water tank
Water tank, by gw

Further north there's an old incinerator. I guess fuel was fed into those semi-circular holes in the base of the structure, with items to be burnt thrown in over the top or through the gap in the middle of the wall.

Incinerator
Incinerator, by gw

Lying around infront of the incinerator are a number of items that were apparently destined to be destroyed but escaped the flames. Here are a few. 

Bottles and bowl
Bottles and bowl, by gw

 A short flight of steps leads up from the incinerator to this.

Second unknown building
Second unknown building, by gw

There were originally two entrances, but only one is now open. Here's the view through the door.

Entrance to second unknown building
Entrance to second unknown building, by gw

 It's similar to the building visited earlier, dug into the ground to give a high ceiling and with a narrow staircase leading down into the middle of the room.

Inside second unknown building
Inside second unknown building, by gw

So what would such a room be used for? Obviously not dairy cows because they couldn't get in or out. Elsewhere it's reported that the Dairy Farm also kept pigs and poultry, but these buildings don't seem suitable for either. Can anyone tell me their function?

Modern buildings stand just to the north of this one, so a u-turn was made, and steps retraced to the road.      

Dairy Farm in Rate Books 1916-17.jpeg
Dairy Farm in Rate Books 1916-17.jpeg, by Jill
1935 Dairy Farm Piggery
1935 Dairy Farm Piggery, by Moddsey
1935 Dairy Farm Poultry Farm

1935 Dairy Farm Poultry Farm, by Moddsey

Inside second unknown building
Inside second unknown building, by gw

This reminds me of ponds I've seen in villages around Hong Kong. They are filled with water, and people walk down the steps into the water with a pole across their shoulders and a watering can or bucket hanging on each end. After dunking the buckets / cans to fill them up, they'd climb back up the steps and carry the water to where it was needed.

I wonder if the building in the photo was used in a similar way? Though the narrow doorway would be difficult to manoeuvre with a shoulder pole.

Hi gw,

Thank you for posting these fascinating pictures.  I remember I saw an article covering this historical site suggesting the unknown structure was indeed the underground fodder storage facility back in the old days.  I believe this makes sense since they would need a big cooling facility to store up the fodder (I guess they were mostly elephant grass) for their livestock and what's better way than hiding them beneath the ground.

Freddie

Hi

I was interested to read about the storage facility probably being for elephant grass and I have just looked it up on Google. The picture of the East Asian elephant grass exactly matches how I remember seeing the large tussocks of grass planted out on the otherwise rather barren western slope above the Shek O road in 1958.  As I previously suggested I have a recollection that a sign indicated that it was a Dairy Farm experimental plot.

Regards Andrew

Thanks to David and Freddie for the possible functions of the unidentified buildings. I'm inclined to go with Freddie's suggestion of them being fodder stores for the reasons already suggested and also because the photos of the piggeries and poultry runs posted by Moddsey don't show any similar structures.

There's a map of the Dairy Farm on the Industrial History of Hong Kong site ( http://industrialhistoryhk.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Dairy-Farm-Nig... ). Strangely it doesn't show any of the three ruins that remain on the site today. However, the key to the map lists the types of buildings that were present, and of those listed, fodder stores seem the best bet now that the possibilities of use by cows, pigs, poultry and humans have been dismissed.

A similar structure to the unknown buildings can be seen near the middle of this photo, beneath and just to the left of the white building which I presume was a cow shed.

1950s Pok Fu Lam Dairy Farm
1950s Pok Fu Lam Dairy Farm, by m20wc51

 The building  which can be seen in part on the left edge of the photo may also have been of the same design. I wonder if that's fodder in the lady's metal tin? Looks like long grass, but there is so little of it that it doesn't seem worthwhile carrying it anywhere.

We are currently involved in a research project linked to the Pokfulam Village and its connection with the dairy farm (formerly part of the Dairy Farm retail group). We would be interested in talking to anyone who any old pictures, information, etc, on this subject.

I've downloaded three pictures (which hopefully will appear in due course), which included one showing a farm cowboy, another showing a 1600 lb block of ice produced by the Dairy Farm Ice company (taken from a 1919 Dairy Farm 'manual'). I was with Jardine Matheson (which owns DF) for 27 years, hence my involvement in this project.

Many thanks. Ritchie Bent (ritchiebent@me.com) and Paul Cooke.

Ritchie, Thanks for posting, and fingers crossed you get some good replies. Once your research is complete, please come back and let us know what you discovered.

Here are the instructions for how to upload a photo to Gwulo: http://gwulo.com/node/2076

Regards, David

Thanks to Wallydog for the comments at https://gwulo.com/node/37526 identifying the cavernous structures with the narrow staircases leading down into them as being "manure pits".