1924 Happy Valley

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 21:23

Where: We're looking north across Happy Valley. Down in the bottom-left corner, the hill has been excavated to make space for Fung Fai Terrace [1]:

Fung Fai Terrace

The Terrace is on two levels. The buildings on the lower level are all finished, while the upper level is still bare.

Some of the features of the lower level are still visible today, eg the staircases up from the street:

View Larger Map

and half of an original building:

View Larger Map

The buildings were numbered in pairs, starting from the top, so 1 & 2, 3 & 4, etc. The half building that is still standing is number 2.

The other building of interest is mostly hidden, but we can just see its roof beyond the far end of the Terrace. This was the Yeung Wo Nursing Home [2], the predecessor of today's Hong Kong Sanatorium.

When: Up in the top-left corner, we can see the excavation of Morrison Hill has already started. That means the photo was taken in the 1920s.

Can we use one of the construction sites to pin down the date more accurately? At the time this photo was taken, Happy Valley was undergoing major development, so we've got several choices. Let's take a closer look at these buildings, near the junction of Broadwood and Ventris Roads:

Buildings around junction of Broadwood & Ventris Roads

The ornate building at the bottom left is still standing. Today it is part of St. Paul's Primary Catholic School, but when this photo was taken it was known as "Le Calvaire", and housed an orphanage run by the Sisters of St. Paul de Chartres [3]. It opened in 1908, so a bit too early to help us.

Above it is St. Margaret's church. We know that it opened in 1925 [4], and as it looks complete here, that gives a rough idea of the date.

The buildings to the right of the church and orphanage will give us a firm answer. They are two sets of four houses, the first phase of the Ventris Road Government Quarters [5]. We can follow their development through the annual reports of the Public Works Department, and the report for 1924 [6] is especially helpful:

Quarters at rear of "Le Calvaire". - This work, which was referred to in paragraph 94 of last years Report, proceeded satisfactorily during the year.

The North Block was completed and occupied in December, while the work on the South Block was well advanced, the paintwork being in progress.

The picture must have been taken close to this date, as we can see the North Block is completed, but the South Block is still under scaffolding. I'll date the photo to late 1924.

What: At the bottom-right of the photo there is a group of much older buildings, the Wongneichong Village [7]:

Wongneichong Village

There had been a village on this site for many years, pre-dating the arrival of the British in the 1840s. It wouldn't last much longer though, as the newspapers reported it suffered severe flooding in 1923 and 1925. The villagers claimed that the village had been immune from floods "for at least a hundred years", and blamed the flooding on the construction going on around it [8].

By the end of the decade the village was demolished and replaced by new buildings. The only reminder left today is the street in Happy Valley named "Village Road".

Who: The open areas are busy with people playing sports:

Sports at Happy Valley

Clockwise from top-left, we can see:

  • Tennis courts
  • A cricket match underway at the Craigengower Cricket Club
  • Sand bunkers for the golf course that used to be here
  • Goalposts, large and small, likely for football and hockey respectively

Please leave a comment below if you can add anything, or if you spot any mistakes.

Also, I believe that after the village was demolished, the ex-residents were re-housed in the new houses that replaced it. I wonder if any current Happy Valley residents can can trace their family back to the old Wongneichong Village? It would be interesting to hear any stories of life in the old village.

Regards, David

Elsewhere on Gwulo.com this week:

Several requests for help:


  1. Fung Fai Terrace: http://gwulo.com/node/19733
  2. Yeung Wo Nursing Home: http://gwulo.com/node/19463
  3. Le Calvaire: http://gwulo.com/node/8235
  4. St. Margaret's Church: http://gwulo.com/node/9396
  5. Ventris Road Government Quarters: http://gwulo.com/node/6689
  6. Public Works Department annual report for 1924: http://gwulo.com/Public-works-report-1924
  7. Wongneichong Village: http://gwulo.com/wong-nai-chung-village
  8. 1925 newspaper article about Wongneichong Village flooding: http://gwulo.com/node/19766

Reference: ED020

Date picture taken
1 Oct 1924


Getting to the races by car from town in 1924

Queen's Road East, Arsenal Street, Praya East, Percival Street, Leighton Hill Road, Wong Nei Chung Road round Happy Valley to the entrance gates.

Leaving the racecourse

Morrison Gap Road and Queen's Road East.


Update to the above photo from 1930.

1930s Race Course