Sheila Staple, Suffolk Road, Kowloon

Tue, 04/26/2016 - 03:24
Date picture taken


In the Braemar Terrace of my mother, Sheila Staple, she was aged one.  The family moved to Suffolk Road, Kowloon, as shown in a prveious picture. I don't know how old my mum was here - her father, my grandfather K.K. Staple would be killed in November 1931 when my mum was two - so I don't know if he briefly moved there or if here she is older than two.      

I walked by there this morning and took a photo from the other (southern) side of the road, looking across towards 4 Suffolk Rd. I will upload the photo after I have posted this (sorry, I have managed to upload it separately, labelled "4 Suffolk Road", but cannot figure out how to insert it into this message as a photo). The position of Lion Rock in the background to the right looks similar. I would say this one is a possibility, although sadly there is nothing to be seen of the old house anymore (at least from the front). According to Centadata, I think this property has at some time in the recent past been used (and perhaps still is being used) by Yew Chung International School/Kindergarten.

thank you to both of you - funny how it almost looks familiar as I scanned up and down the road on Google - thanks so much for taking the trouble to look for the best-guess position. Shame it all looks so concrete jungle now, march of progress ...  

just looking again at my original of my mum in the garden and you certainly seem to have got Lion Rock at exactly the same spot in the background thanks for your interest LizB - I have another Kowloon, 'is it there now?' pic which is of what was in 1930s nursing quarters of Kowloon Hospital - I found a pic of it on the hospital site looking exactly the same except for mature trees and surrounded by - yep, concrete - according to Google it was still there as P Block in 20113 - I'll post soon.  

just been looking on Google again - a couple of uncanny things. On Google earth there are now 12 plots on Suffolk Road (I thought it a bit odd there were originally 13) - I can get 1, 2, 3, 5 & 6 up but no No 4 plot - No 4 shows on the marker about where you took your pic though (more on the road). Also the house on the corner has almost the identical angle of Lion Rock but as the road layouts haven't changed the Staple house could not have been a corner plot. And my husband (a builder) agrees that the roof line in relation to the Rock indicates tha the house would have been set further back (and as you suggest slightly further along).  Don't think it's possible to get any further though.

I think Liz may be onto something. I have an aerial view taken in the early 70's that vaguely shows the area. Unfortunately it was taken from a considerable height so the detail isn't that clear. What is identifiable is that there were two similar houses occupying #3 and #4 that were set back quite a way from the road (i.e. had big front gardens) similar to the pictures Deb has been posting.

Suffolk Road Edited.jpg
Suffolk Road Edited.jpg, by Philk

Whether or not these are the original houses is hard to say, but if they are redeveloped it seems odd that they would retain the massive gardens and not build a much bigger house (this is what everyone else seems to have done when they redveloped), plus the fact that they look a similar size from above makes me think they are the original houses at 3 and 4.

What I will say is that the houses are quite close together, or at least appear to be, therefore if the photo above is of #4 then I would expect to see a portion of # 3 to the right hand side (even just a bit of side wall at the rear of the house), which makes me think this might in fact be #3. Of course, this is just me guessing, the distance is hard to judge from such a height...I can also just barely make out the line of a path running up the right hand side of #3 - though it could be a wall. It takes a beady eye to spot the detail. Anyway, I hope this helps. What it does show as well is the empty space on the opposite side of the road.

Deb - You can see the 13 plots along Suffolk Road much more clearly if you switch to 3D mode in Google earth.

Here is the original without the red mark.

Suffolk Road Original.jpg
Suffolk Road Original.jpg, by Philk


well thanks for this too Phil - I've been going boz-eyed again on Google earth/maps street views etc plus David's maps, plus reading stuff of yours from 2012 re the Kowloon Tong development - and this afternoon trying to work out what might lie behind the facade now  (which goes beyond my story but you get obsessed).  I even did a virtual tour of Yew Chung International School! But then you put this on which does indeed look like a couple of houses at least survived into the 70s.  My picture of my mum (in Kowloon Primary school uniform) with my Grandma near the right-hand front corner of the house shows the next house WAS was built very close and a low wall and path between.  So I think Liz could be rights re #3 and #4, it wd still make ours #4. At the  moment google satellite shows it as a building site but I found an architects' site that had it as a residential project - the only one not pictured!!  Compared with some others like the balconied house, don't think it was one of the grander ones - it had the filled in balcony, not curved with balustrades. So many fascinating aspects - I was reading your thread with Nick Morton re a 1/6d deposit being paid and troubles with the development.  I have to decide for my memoir/story whether my grandfather K.K, Staple (who was an architect albeit hadn't made it to the hierarchy) put down the deposit when my mum was born in 1929 to move from Braemar Terrace - but never made it because he was killed in 1931 - or whether he did live there briefly (but no pics of him there) ... or completely different scenario !!  onwards and upwards  - now to find the 3D mode ... 

Oh gosh - thanks for this.  Truly spooky in view of No 4 plot seeming to have gone missing from Google earth - and my original mystery as to whether my grandfather lived in the Suffolk Road House before he was killed - or had at least put a deposit down on it ...  he and my grandmother were married on the 14th November

It's good to have the 1970s aerial view to see the position of Nos. 3 & 4. The little path up the side of No. 4 seems to be just a driveway (although admittedly it's quite narrow).  If so, it is still on the same side of the plot today (running up the right-hand side).  If you look at the modern photo, there is a large tree growing on the boundary of No. 4 and the house on the other side (No. 5, Suffolk Rd) - I have no idea what species, but it looks like it would have been planted when the original house was first built. Can't quite make it out in any of the photos though, as we can't see much to the left of the house. Interestingly, when I checked Google Streetview, it shows an old-ish looking house at No.4 (supplemented with new bits of facade), but I couldn't see any sign of that yesterday when I walked past - is there any way of knowing when Google Streetview photos have been taken, I wonder?

4 Suffolk Rd 2009 Streetview.png
4 Suffolk Rd 2009 Streetview.png, by Google Streetview

Aha, I think I have figured out how to take screenshots of Google Streetview, and luckily I've found both 2009 and 2011 streetview photos of this property. You can definitely see the old-style building that was there in 2009/11 when it was being used as the YCIS Kindergarten - I don't know if it was entirely demolished or just added to in its most recent reincarnation.  However, the building in the 2009/11 photos seems to be from a later era, eg 1950s(?), rather than the original house. So the current building must be at least third-generation, I'm guessing.

4 Suffolk Rd 2011 Streetview.png
4 Suffolk Rd 2011 Streetview.png, by Google Streetview


when I was looking on google earth yesterday, which was dated 2016 bottom of the page, plot 4 looked like a building site so presumably captured recently or when this latest house was demolished.  I tried to see if the YCIS complex had a frontage on Somerset Road that went through to now incorporate the old No 4 plot, or indeed if any of the business done, but with limitations of trying to do this with Google on a laptop and not knowing the place on the ground, came up with nothing firm. If it had become part of a Somerset Rd site, that would also happily get rid of the unlucky No 4 address.

Yes, I live and work in Kowloon Tong (actually, to be more precise, Yau Yat Tsuen, which is a nearby suburb, on the other side of the railway line from the original Kowloon Tong 'Estate'). It's a lovely area to walk around and check out the traces of history that are still left. If I had more time, I'd like to catalogue the old buildings of the area in more detail, but others (e.g. Phil on his website) have already made a great start in this regard. Hopefully you will get a chance to visit this part of the world sometime and check out where your relatives lived. Liz

It's good to be able to picture you in the area.  I love history too and my OH is a retired builder, and of course the grandfather I'm researching was an architect. As he's not on the list of authorised architects, I wonder if he hadn't completed the required 8 years when he was killed in the crash near Repulse Bay.  He arrived in HK in 1919 and started out as a second class overseer which I gather means at the bottom.  Not sure if I have a link for Phil's website.  I would dearly love to get to HK to check it all out - I think my grandfather's grave is still in Happy Valley cemetery as a kind person sent me a photograph of that and the grave of his first wife.  But stuck in France at the moment - long story but as I have to wait for my State Pension until 2020 (I'm 62 next month) -  finances are strictly curtailed.  It saddens me that my grandfather and grandmother had little if any chance to make a happy family life together at Suffolk Road before tragedy struck. I really appreciate your interest and pictorial help in my quest - if I ever get to HK, would be lovely to meet you. Deb x    

Best of luck with that, Deb, it sounds like you have an interesting family background. Sadly I am moving back to Australia in two months, but will try to do as much historical sightseeing (and the odd bit of detective work) as I can before then! Now I will take a little look at the other house in Kowloon Tong that features in your old wishes, Liz

It started as a desire to tell the story of my grandma Joan Staple and her sister Isa Warbrick in HK as nurses, but mainly their time in Stanley. Like Topsy, boy how it's grown. I already knew about the tragedy of my grandfather being killed when my Mum was two, teaching great Aunt Isa to drive near Repulse Bay. But more stories have emerged through research to fill in many gaps, and the stash of HK pictures I found when my mum died in 2014.  David (Gwulo Ed) solved a mystery from my grandfather's first marriage from one of them, that led to another hair-raising story ... and so it goes on, along with other research on my grandfather (WW1).  My aim was to write a book but it'll be a while as haven't even got to Stanley yet! By then my mum had been sent home to UK (for which she never forgave my Gran though it was for her wellbeing - hence why she disregarded the pictures) and Grandma and Auntie were interned in Stanley. I sit here at the dining table surrounded by black and white pictures, poring over them and google maps till my head hurts!  Keeps me off the streets!  

I've just neen looking through the Jurors' list for 1933 (though grandfather wd be two years dead by then).  The two children Maureen and Denny's father is in other photographs I have as 'Mac' Maclean - on the jurors list a Mr McClean lived at 3 Dorset Crescent ...  think this then supports Philk's theory re the other house. 

I think I'd looked at the jurors lists on Gwulo before but not pursued because I could not find my grandfather - and there was a jump in the dates on Gwulo - but I pursued your idea of HK Records office - didn't find anything for 3 or 4 Suffolk Rd as Philk suggests - but was looking out for other names I have on funeral report - such is the nature of research, the weirdest bits suddenly click - hence why I'm grateful for every smidge of help from all of you. It's like onion layers. I'm learnin gall the time.

not sure where to post this!  On 1933 Jurors List, it seems No 4 Suffolk Road was occupied by a Mr Yuen Wei-Yang, Manager China Can company Ltd - as my mum would then be three/four years old and is pictured at the house around that age it seems our house can't have been No 4 - though perhaps it still makes No 3 possible?      

The person listed for 3 Suffolk Rd in 1933 is Albert Leslie Landsbert, an electrical engineer who worked for Reiss, Massey & Co. (he previously lived up the road at at 1 York Road, Kowloon Tong, according to the 1931 and 1932 Jurors Lists).

So, I guess this doesn't exactly help much!

oh dear! I must have missed him at No 3!  haven't had a chance to go back to maps etc today as much needed garden to do after a week of rain and storm damage  - as I will probably have to fictionalise the story some, I guess it doesn't matter ... but it did sseem to click together so well ...  thanks for that though Liz xx 

Perhaps you could take a look at the 1964 photo of northern Kowloon Tong, which Moddsey has just posted on Gwulo, and use the zoom function to see the buildings in more detail. Possibly you'll find one or two that resemble the ones in your old family photos. Hope the research is going well! Liz

Hi Liz, thanks for the headsup re this pic - been away for a few days so missed it.  I think the houses bottom right look very like Suffolk Road and I seem to remember seeing another aerial pic showing a cleared plot at what could be No 4. The two houses to the right both have the look of the house my Grandma captioned as Suffolk Road.  But impossible to get much detail even by zooming so maybe wishful thinking. Fascinating picture, thank you again Moddsey. The research grows like Topsy but is as frustrating as reveaing, every new piece in the puzzle seems to throw up another mystery - hope to get there in the end! Like the embroidered tablecloth my cousin has bequeathed to me with about 300 names from Stanley Camp ... hope all well with you, are you still in Hong Kong?   

Agreed, it looks very fuzzy, although I still think the house third from the right in the bottom-right corner of the 1964 aerial photo does have some similarities (e.g. shape of the squares and arches at the front). You can also just make out what looks like the contours of the wall right next to the house.  But it's hard to be sure. I've left HK now, but remain interested in the history of Kowloon Tong. Good luck.

Well  seems we see the same ... the arches, position, wall and path but unfortunately all gone so no way of knowing ... As the research has gone on I learned the Gittins were at No 4 more or less as my family faded from Kowloon Tong (though not Kowloon)  - Jean G in her book mentions making a garden but they lived at three places on the estate so I wonder at which house? Presumably the last one - on Suffolk Road as war then changed everything.  I wish you best of luck too and so grateful for your help. If my book sees the light of day, you are up there in acknowledgments!