Gloucester Building / Gloucester Hotel [1932-1977] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Gloucester Building / Gloucester Hotel [1932-1977]

Current condition: 
Demolished
Date Place completed: 
1932-01-01
Date Place demolished: 
1977-01-01

I had the feeling that the Gloucester Building and Gloucester Hotel were two separate places (or possibly different buildings on the same plot). But the first mention of the hotel in the newspapers was the 4 Aug 1935 issue of the Sunday Herald, noting a wedding reception held there. That means the Gloucester Building and Gloucester Hotel were in existence at the same time.

So was the Gloucester Hotel the business name for the 'apartment house' described in the Feb 1932 clipping below?

Does anyone know when the building was demolished? And were the names Gloucester Building and Gloucester Hotel still both in use at that time?

Here are the early mentions I found of Gloucester Building in the newspapers:

Feb, 1930: "The pile-driving, I am glad to say, as I expect also are the occupants of all adjacent buildings; is now almost completed and the erection of the steel frame work will commence very shortly. It is hoped that a portion of the building will be revenue-producing in about a year's time." From Chairman's speech at AGM of the Hongkong Land Investment and Agency Co. Ltd, quoted in 11 Feb 1930 The Hong Kong Telegraph.

Nov, 1930: The nuisance caused by the smoke emitted from the [coal-powered] hoisting gear on the Gloucester Building site was the subject of a series of questions by a member of the sanitary board at the fortnightly meeting held yesterday afternoon. 26 Nov 1930 The Hong Kong Telegraph.

Feb 1931: The construction of Gloucester Building is proceeding satisfactorily. In spite of loss of time owing to bad weather, it is anticipated that the greater part of the ground and mezzanine floors will be ready for occupation in May. The whole building, granted no unforseen delays, is estimated to be completed before the end of this year, some two months ahead of contract time. Chairman's speech at AGM of the Hongkong Land Investment and Agency Co. Ltd, 11 Feb 1931 Hong Kong Daily Press.

June 1931: Gloucester Building [...] is rapidly nearing completion, work having just commenced on the tower [...]. Several shops opened for business on the ground floor for the first time today. 29 Jun 1931 The Hong Kong Telegraph.

Dec 1931: The four top floors [...] when ready are to be utilised as a residential furnished apartment house, to be operated by the Hongkong Land Investment and Agency Co., Ltd. itself. [...] A feature will be that each room will be equipped with a bathroom, with hot and cold water. Provision is also being made for a restaurant, a bar and a tea lounge, while there will also be a private dining room. [... The eighth floor restaurant] will be fitted with a special spring dance floor. 11 Dec 1931 The Hong Kong Telegraph

Feb 1932: "Gloucester Building is now nearing completion. The installment of the internal fittings in such a large building inevitably takes time and is liable to be attended by unforseen delays. However it is hoped that the finishing touch will be completed by April.
There have been various rumours I understand of our intentions with regard to the upper floors. In case there are still any doubts I must say that it is proposed to run them on the lines of an apartment house. There are numerous fully furnished single rooms, double-bedded rooms, and a number of two-roomed suites. There will be a restaurant and lounge on the top floor."
From Chairman's speech at AGM of the HK Land Investment and Agency Co. Ltd, quoted in 16 Feb 1932 The Hong Kong Telegraph.

May 1932: Gloucester Building "Flats" Opened. 2 May 1932 Hong Kong Daily Press.

May 1933: I think it's fair to assume that 31st May was a quiet day for news in 1933. The headline in The Hong Kong Daily Telegraph that day was "Gloucester Building Band Slander Action", with sub-headlines "Manager sued by leader", and "Alleged criticism of trumpet-playing"!

Oct 1938: CNAC placed an advertisement noting they are the general traffic agents for Pan Am, and that their offices are moving to Gloucester Building.

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Photos that show this place

Comments

Note the Gloucester Hotel sign has been removed.

1950s Gloucester Building

A couple of messages via e-mail. First from Andrew Tse:

Gloucester Hotel is the same as Gloucester Building. Situated north of Central Building where Landmark is today. Corner of Pedder St and Des Vouex Rd. West of Gloucester Building was Windsor House and Lane Crawford. Lane Crawford was later exchanged for Jardine House and became The site of today's Wheelock House.

I remember there was a large arcade on the ground floor of Gloucester Building. Offices and hotel rooms on the upper floor. A coffee shop was situated within the arcade. I recalled the hotel was closed when Mandarin opened. The area occupied by the hotel rooms became the Gloucester Chinese Restaurant.

Second from Chris King:

I have just checked in Tom Briggs "The Vanishing City" published 1977 and there is a sketch of the Old Gloucester Building with the comment ".....the site...... has considerable interest....."   The cars and buses appear to be about that period or a little earlier.

The comment refers to the text by Colin Criswell:-
        "Today there is little in Pedder street to evoke the past.  Gloucester and Pedder Buildings, the last with colonial style arcades are scheduled for early demolition.  The site of Gloucester Building has considerable historic interest.  It was first occupied by Dent and Co Jardine's principal rival and one of the promoters of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. The Chinese commissioner, Ki Ying, stayed in these offfces in 1843 when he came to exchange ratifications to the treaty of Nanking and they were subsequently known as Keyling House.  In 1866 Dent and Co suddenly collapsed and the premises were taken over by the Hong Kong Hotel which became the colony's leading hostelry.  The Hotel was burnt down in a fire on New Year's Day 1926."

Thanks to Andrew and Chris for the extra information. I also noticed that on this map from the 1960's it is marked as 'Gloucester Hotel'.

1960s Map of Central

There is a small snippet about this place on Paul French's "China Rhyming" blog.

http://www.chinarhyming.com/2009/11/01/another-hotel-luggage-label-the-h...

and I remember T making a comment about it here: http://gwulo.com/love-is-a-many-splendored-thing-locations#comment-9075

1950s Pan Am Advertisement

Phil & Moddsey, thanks for the extra information. (And that China Rhyming blog looks interesting - I've subscribed.)

A confirmation for Andrew's memory comes from a Hong Kong guidebook I guess dates to 1964. In the introduction to hotels on Hong Kong island it says:

Replacing the Gloucester is the Mandarin, a true luxury Hotel constructed on the water-frontage (opened 1 Sept-1963).

Then in the map section (basically an updated copy of the earlier map shown above), it describes it as Gloucester Building instead of Gloucester Hotel.

According to Philip Snow's "The Fall of Hong Kong", the Gloucester was renamed the Matsubara Hotel during the war, but then returned to being called the Gloucester Hotel after the British regained the territory.

I took a look through Cheng Po-Hung's 'Hong Kong during the Japanese Occupation' to see if he can add anything. He mentions it was 'renamed the Matsuhara Building during the occupation, was the location of a broadcasting station'.

Snow's book looks interesting, thanks for the introduction.

Regards, David

I've been looking all over the place for photos of the interior of the Gloucester Chinese Restaurant.  Any ideas?  Anything that vaguely resembles it would do.

Thanks.  This is a great site BTW.

After the end of WWII, Radio Hong Kong operated from Gloucester Building before moving over to Electra House in 1949, later renamed as Mercury House.

Added demolition date from appendix of "The HK Land Co., Ltd.  A brief history" by Nigel Cameron:

  • 1977 Gloucester Building was demolished to make way for Gloucester Tower, part of the redevelopment of Central District.

1941 Liquor License

Paul Chessex
Gloucester Hotel

5-15 Pedder Street 1st-8th Floors
16-18B Des Voeux Road Central 1st-8th floors,
9-11 Pedder Street

There are some interesting glimpses of the Gloucester Hotel during the 1941 fighting in Phyllis Harrop's Hong Kong Incident.

The Hotel was turned into a police HQ - 'the first and second floors, shops and tea lounge are being got ready to house the whole of the police force'. In order to avoid casualties from flying glass, 'every pane of glass in the arcades has been smashed out (with) bamboo poles'.

Tap water disappeared on the 18th December and the lights went out on the 19th - the hotel used kerosene lamps instead.  Because of the absence of lighting (and of lifts), the dining rooms were transferred from the eighth floor 'to the fourth and fifth corridors'.

During the evening of December 25th, in the hours after the surrender, it was decided 'that all liquor in the hotel must be destroyed' and 'over $50,000 worth' was broken up and poured down the bath room drain' two doors from Harrop's quarters. This was obviously to avoid the alcohol further inflaming the Japanese invaders, although Harrop mentions the subsidiary problem of some of the Indian police already being drunk 'and giving trouble'

My father, Thomas Edgar, told me he took part in such a disposal operation, and, as he'd been ordered to report with the rest of the bakery staff to Lane Crawford HQ next door to the Gloucester, this was probably the one.  From his account, not all of the alcohol ended up down the drain, but under the circumstances it would have been surprising if it had.

PS Tony Banham records that the Gloucester was shelled on December 16th and on the 17th its clocked stopped!

I remember when I was young, I visited the building, there was a Gloucester Cake Shop inside. A good memory as I was too poor to buy any cake there. Anyone knows the history of this cake shop? Some Chinese adopted its Chinese name 告羅士打餅店when they emigrated & opened cake shops in Canada or other countries. Another famous cake shop in those days was 紅棉"Hung4 Min4" (Red Cotton literally meaning the red flower of the cotton tree), perhaps a metaphor to mean the softness of the bread. with one shop perhaps located in Wanchai & another in Kowloon. Near my home at Sai Wan Ho, there was a more "kai-fong" style bakery in the old red-brick Taikoo buildings near the present Tai On Building. One sort of bread selling there was in pistol shape, very attractive to us as little kids (plastic bean pistols were our favourite toys at that time). So big, so soft & delicious at only 10 cents or so. Very creative too. But nowadays breads are small, expensive, sophisticated but not really creative.

i certainly remember the aroma in the gloucester arcade and occasionally eating a warm spicy currant bun with a dollop of butter in there - divine :)  living on kowloon side our bread generally came from the russian bakeries of chantecler and cherikoff with the occasional sliced loaf of garden raisin bread for toasting.  i was never a fan of that white spongy stuff that you could get in most bakeries and sold at the school tuck shop made into sandwiches but toasted club sandwiches in hong kong  are amongst my best gourmet memories as are those of hk style french toast, rustled up at any hour, probably from that spongiform bread but miraculously tranformed into nectar from the gods

This cake shop brings back old memories. Their fruit cake, plum cake, tri color cake with a marzipan covering, lady fingers to this day are second to none.

I spent considerable time in my childhood days wondering aroung this shopping arcade which was basically the one and only one in Central. I still remember some of the shops.. Towngas Showroom, The Francis Wu Studio, Clover Flower Shop, the original Watson (with the distinct dispensary smell), Gilman, Frigidaire, HK Sports Shop with a distinct array of golf clubs, the Coffee Shop with its distinct coffee and smoke smell, The Argosy fur shop, The CNAC office with their huge display of propaganda material and Pak Hop Toy Shop where I spent endless time looking at its show window......

My parents lived in a company flat in the Gloucester Hotel when he was employed by the HK Hotel Co as orchestra leader for all their hotels, including the Pen and the Repulse Bay, back in 1937. They had to evict that flat when the Japanese invaded and ended up finding a place in Cameron Road, TST.

I remember Gloucester Bldg very clearly as my mother had an office there and also my dentist, Dr Staple, also had his office there. I used to go to my mother's office to wait for her after finishing school (KGV) so that we could go home together. She was manageress of Paquerette, a boutique which was also in Gloucester Bldg, next to the alleyway with Lane Crawford on the other side.

There are some photos of the inside of Gloucester Hotel in this clip which I put together, which might be of interest to some ....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhpZoGOmvFY

Hi Nona,

Thanks for sharing the photos, there are some interesting views among them.

Did your parents stay in Hong Kong throughout the Japanese occupation? I'd be very interested to hear any stories you have from that time, as I'm interested to learn more about conditions in Hong Kong at that time.

Regards, David

Enjoyed viewing your 1950s snapshots as shown here

Hi David

Yes, my parents and sister were in HK during the Japanese occupation and, being classed as Third Nationals, they were left to fend for themselves.

Brian Edgar and I got chatting a couple of months ago and he very kindly added two 'nodes' about my folks (Pio-Ulski) on your site :)

I've also started a genealogy site, trying to leave as much information about my past so that our grandkids can learn more if they wanted to.

I did a page on HK at War, which you might find interesting ...

http://pio-ulski.com/pio-ulski/hong-kong-at-war/

My father had kept a copy of the HK News issued a year after the Japanese took control and I copied the articles describing the Fall of HK from the Japanese perspective, and also an article about Third Nationals which is basically just about statistics. You might find these of interest from a historical viewpoint :D

My parents really didn't talk much about their experiences of those days and as I said on that page, I didn't even know my mother had letters from the authorities after HK was liberated, thanking her for her help re supplying food, etc, to the PoW camps.

I find your site wonderful for checking things - it's been 39 years since I left HK and I'm finding it harder and harder to be sure of my facts when writing about my life there!

Cheers :)

So glad you enjoyed the clip, moddsey :D

Picture taken late 60's or early 70's, if my ageing memory serves me correct. The Hong Kong Camera Club held meetings there and starlets from the various studios were invited to model in return for a portfolio. Perhaps someone may recall the somewhat disapproving 'Goddess' and rising starlet "Yu Sinn" ?

Gloucester Building - Chinese Restaurant

The Francis Wu Studio can be seen here and here

Thanks Nona (and Brian!), I thought your story sounded familiar, now I know why. (Here are links to the pages for Nona's mother and father.)

I'm glad you're setting up your website. I was interested to read the extracts from the HK News.

Some time back we had a visitor looking for information about their relative Nicholas Belanovsky, http://gwulo.com/node/9220. Any chance your families' paths crossed?

Regards, David

Hi David

I'm afraid that Belanovsky's name does ring any bells with either me or with my sister.

It was interesting to read that he was a member of the RO Church which was in Kowloon Tong. I was scratching my head wondering why I never knew there was another RO church and then I remembered something my parents told me.

They were both excommunicated by Upensky because they - and some other parishioners - argued that money from the church should not be sent back to the Soviet Union.

It never dawned on me that the church was in Kowloon Tong as it must have happened before I was born. The only church I remember was a room which was attached to St Andrew's Church on Nathan Road and our priest was a wonderfully sweet and kind Chinese gentleman whose name I cannot remember as I always called him/knew him as "Batushka", which means "Father" in Russian.

Hi Nona,

Thanks very much for the reply, and the extra memories of the local community.

Another name has just popped up that I guess also has a Russian background: Koodiaroff.

Regards, David 

Sorry David, I'm afraid neither my sister nor I knew anyone called Koodiaroff :(

I've just been going through things in my baby book which my father kept for me and I see I was wrong about not knowing there was a Russian Orthodox church in Kowloon Tong and not knowing Upensky!

I was christened by Father Upensky in 1947 and then again in 1950 he presided over the wedding of the Cherikoff's son, at which my sister and I were the flowergirls!

Sorry for supplying mis-information :(

No problem at all - thanks for keeping us updated,

Regards, David

My grandfather, Au Lum, worked in the Saddle and Sirloin Restaurant in the Gloucester Building, and I remember eating there in the early 60s when we moved there. It was a steak house, if I recall correctly. Several years later, he built the Gloucester Restaurant, a large banquet style Cantonese restaurant with some small meeting rooms, and Dim Sum during lunch hour. It occupied the entire top floor, I think, the 8th, if I remember right, leased from Hong Kong Land. Mr. Roberts was in charge of HK Land at the time. I can remember the old elevator, with a manual control operated by the elevator attendant, and the crisscrossed safety gate, even the smell of the elevator.  

 We had Dim Sum lunch there on the weekends in a smaller area towards the rear corner of the restaurant which had nice Chinese trim along the ceiling. I can still hear the workers pushing food carts around the tables, calling out "Ha Gow, Siu mi" (shrimp or pork and shrimp dumplings), "Gui fan" (steamed chicken rice in a ceramic pot), "Cha Siu Bow" (roast pork bun), and "E tai lei fun" (a spaghetti casserole rendition with cream sauce, chicken, and ham... yummmm).

He also opened up a cake shop on the ground floor, and over the years he had several others at various locations, in Central, and Wanchai. My grandmother frequently sat there near the cash register in the Gloucester location, and made change for purchases by customers. I remember eating the "Monkey Ears", sponge cake, curry pies and chicken pies, or almond cookies. They took me through the restaurant kitchen area once, which also served as the place where the cake shop foods were prepared.

There were also quarters in or near the clock tower which housed some employees. One evening during a banquet in the mid 60s, I was taken on a tour through the area by an employee (a distant relative), and there were a number of beds set up there. I'm not sure they actually lived there or if the beds were for employees to rest during their shifts. Since I didn't tell my parents where I was, I remember some consternation about my absence.

My father, a physician, had an office on the 6th floor from 1963 till the building was demolished in 1977.

Unfortunately, large restaurants like the Gloucester Restaurant became passé, and business dropped off. I'm not sure when the restaurant closed, but when the building was torn down in 1977, the restaurant never re-opened. Large restaurants seem to have made a comeback recently.

These photos taken in November2014 show the wooden statue you see in this thread, which is on my Mother's enclosed veranda now.

I hope this gives some insight into a bygone era.

IMG_2907.JPG
IMG_2907.JPG, by Victor Au
IMG_2908.JPG
IMG_2908.JPG, by Victor Au

 

Hi Victor,

Thanks for the stories - it's always good to hear memories of the old buildings when they were in use. And a nice surprise to see that the Goddess from the 40+ year-old photo is still with us!

Regards, David

Along with David - thanks, Victor, for awakening memories of the old Gloucester Restaurant and moreso for revealing the resting place of the 'Goddess' statue. Doesn't seem like 40-odd years since I was pointing my Leica at both her - and err... the budding starlet wink.

Harry.

 

 

 

Harry, you're welcome. That's a great photo.  I had forgotten the "Goddess" sat in the restaurant till I saw your photo...

It was a shame they had to close, but between changing dining trends, and management problems, high rents, the Gloucester Restaurant was doomed. Still, we remember, fondly.

 

Gloucester Hotel certainly evokes great memories for many people, and mine pales alongside those. What stands out in my memory was the custom that Jardines employees from the ships in the harbour always congregated in the Gloucester Lounge, either going to the office and returning to their ship in the harbour. It was a favourite watering hole, and you see fellow officers and enjoy a bit of bantering. These sessions were heightened just before a ship is due to leave port when one has to hurriedly get to Blake Pier and grab a walla walla. Happy days, and I enjoyed all the contents in these posts. It would be nice to see some comments from ex-Jardine ICSN blokes.

Goldfinch: Thanks for your memories: they help me recall those days, long ago. I now can see more of the shops in my mind. Pak Hop had those silly plastic trolls, and Superballs, those dense rubber balls that seemed to bounce up high forever. I remember bouncing the ball right outside the shop after buying one. I also bought a toy on a short piece of rope there which you had to make knots in just using one hand. 

That Watson's is where we bought medicines and various supplies. We made our own version of gunpowder... Lol!

There was an electronics store somewhere in the complex, if I remember right, and right there at one of the entrances or near there was a watch/jewelry store, which had an older Indian Sikh guard with an old shotgun with a worn, somewhat rusty barrel, sitting just outside on the sidewalk.

There's a nice photo of the Gloucester building on Landmark's website:

http://landmarkpressroom.hk/about/landmark-heritage/

Hello

My family and I moved from Seattle to Hong Kong in 1962 and stayed at the Gloucester Hotel for several months. We ate regularly at the Saddle and Sirloin. I have such strong memories of the old Gloucester and though it at first seemed cold and gloomy, my memories are very happy ones. My sister and brother and I were just children and we had to figure out a way to get used to our new surroundings and a very different culture. I still remember making friends with the elevator operator and joking around with him every day. His friendliness made it a easier to overcome the loneliness and isolation we felt. I wish I could remember his name. But we were blessed to be exposed to a culture so different from what we were used to and I'll always be grateful for the four years we spent in Hong Kong. And who knows, we may have occasionally been at the Saddle and Sirloin the same nights as you and your grandfather. Incidentally, I remember regularly ordering the Scottish smoked trout and crab-meat cocktail. I guarantee you my 12 year-old friends in Seattle were not getting to do that.

The Netherlands India Commercial Bank Building:http://gwulo.com/node/33452

No comment about this location would be complete without reference being made to Blood Alley, which was situated here. This is the place where HK Police officers took looters, triads, 5th columnists and others for summary execution during the Dec 1941 battle.

George Wright-Nooth in "Turnipheads" provides full details, as does fellow former Police officer Wally Scragg in his memoirs.

I post in both Chinese and English, as I'm quoting from my mum in case it's lost in translation...

I've been researching about the Gloucester Building as I find it not only fascinating and beautiful, my mum and my grandparents used to live in the staff accomodation at the 'back' of the building.

Quoting from my mum:

1- '告羅士打楼上是酒店,我都成日食酒店切出來西餅頭尾,(有得買)以前後座有置地員工宿舍,亞公係置地做工,所以我地就住係個到,我結婚都是係個到的。'

1- 'Gloucester upstairs is a hotel, I used to eat the cake off cuts from the hotel, (they sell it). At the back it used to be Hong Kong Land staff accomodation, granddad worked there, that's why we lived there, I was living there at the time when I married.

2- '住係高羅士打宿舍到只有三伙人,一伙是做木部門的亞頭,一伙是寫字楼部門的亞頭,令一伙就是你亞公做水部門亞頭。'

2- 'Only three families lived in the Gloucester Building staff accomodation, one is the head of carpentry, one is the head of office and the other one is your granddad, the head of plumbing.'

Because the staff accomodation was quite big, big enough to put two big round tables, my nan used to '包伙食' provide lunch catering for people who worked in the office there.

So in reply to Victor Au, they did live there. Not sure which one you've been to!

Thanks, this site is very interesting.

Nikki

typo "clocked".

Hi Nikki,

It's a small world, I lived in Gloucester Building in the early 70's for a few years when we moved from Alexander House across the street. I remeber at least one other staff of HK land lived opposite to me. I did remeber "西餅頭尾" that my mom bought from time to time. I lived in the staff quarter next to the teantant washroom side. I did remeber the two old evelators very well. 

Gordon