c.1935 Altadena, Barker Road, The Peak

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 21:13

Where: Can any of our experts on mid-levels & the Peak recognise it? This photo comes from a small collection of around 20 photos I bought recently. Some of the other photos show

views out from the Peak looking north, so maybe this was up on Barker Road?

What: A large house, but it's not clear if it was meant for a single owner, or if it was a symmetrical design with two separate halves. Other photos show the top of the slope, which had a swimming pool.

When: One photo from the group shows the previous generation of the HSBC HQ building, so I estimate they're from the mid / late 1930s.

Who: Hopefully if we can pin down the address, we can use one of the lists of people to track down who was living there. Then if we're lucky, that'll be the original owner of these photos.

And if you can spot anything else of interest in the photo, please let us know in the comments below.

Regards, David

Reference: A077G

Date picture taken
Shows place(s)


Submitted by
Ian Walters (not verified)
Tue, 04/05/2011 - 12:48

Can't help with the house, but the car looks very much like my first car, a 1935 Austin 7 Ruby.

If so, I'm amazed it could get up the Peak. And as for summer going uphill, it would have been overheating just as it was passing St. John's Cathedral.

With a couple of suggestions pointing to Barker Road, I took a "drive" along it courtesy of Google Streetview. I was looking for the shape of the road to match, but was pleasantly surprised:

View Larger Map

The double-garage in the 1930s photo is still with us today, though it's apparently been converted to an electricity sub-station. If you pan left, you can see the outline of the single garage is still clear too.

So the building above the garages was the old Altadena, on the site of today's Altadena House. I've made a separate "place" for Altadena, to gather any information we can find about the building.

Ian, thanks for your reply. We also had this comment by email from Harry Renton:

The car shown is a 1934 Austin 7. 99% sure on that we had one the same long time ago.

Interesting point about that little engine (Wikipedia says it was just 10hp!). I wonder if they'd have had to take the longer but gentler climb along Stubbs Road to get up the hill, and only use Magazine Gap Road for the hurtle downhill back into town?

Regards, David

Submitted by
Anonymous (not verified)
Thu, 06/16/2011 - 11:06

Hi I recently uncovered a collection of documents from around 1946. Letters addressed to standard vacuum oil company, hong long bank building, along side some other documents related to hang seng bank. Email me if you would like to see documents.

Elizabeth Ride gives one reason that Austins were popular at the Peak. She remembers that in the 1930s, the only car that was small enough to drive up Mount Austin Road was the 'Baby Austin', aka the Austin 7, one of which can be seen in the photo above.

The 'roads' around the Peak were originally just paved paths, designed for sedan chair traffic. So in the early days of motor transport on the Peak, cars had to squeeze their way along some very narrow roads.

Regards, David

Hi David,

As this pic of Altadena and the Baby Austin features as Photo 2 in your book, and in one of your lectures, I thought you might be interested in hearing of an alternative approach to choosing a suitable car for The Peak. It comes from "Escape Through China - Survival After the Fall of Hong Kong" by David Bosanquet (ISBN 0 7090 1288 8).

In the early pages, he talks of his arrival in pre-war Hong Kong. He lived on The Peak at "the Jardine Mess". He describes it as a bungalow housing six Jardine Matheson employees, with a "closed verandah on the southern side", situated shortly after a hairpin bend in the road, forty feet above its car park, and "looked south-west towards Dumbell Island some nine miles away". I understand there were a number of properties used as quarters for Jardine's single employees and haven't worked out which building this was. Ewo Mess is a possible, but I doubt it overlooked Cheung Chau - which I assume is Dumbell Island.

I digress. Getting back to the point, on arriving for the first time, Bosenquet discussed suitable transportation with Geoffrey Gompertz, the Mess President, who gave him what seems to have been standard advice; "You'll need a car. Get a small one. The roads here are about as wide as your hat".

Bosenquet took a different view, as he explains;

"Having just ground up a hill with gradients of 1 in 4 or 5 in his Vauxhall 14, I made a mental note not to take his advice and very soon bought one of the most powerful cars in Hong Kong, a 1934 Canadian Ford V8 drop-head coupe two-seater, which sped me up and down the Peak with ease and comfort".   

Thanks for that. His description of grinding up the hill is how I imagine the baby Austin must have performed. Just hope his more larger car didn't get jammed in any of the tight sections of the Peak roads!