Wed, 08/12/2020 - 23:10

From Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

On the very left bottom side the old Naval Yard with the tower is visible, right hand the pier in front of Wellington Battery.

Although predictable, it can clearly be seen that the old Naval Yard was directly at the waterfront-

Stonecutter's Island in the distance.

Update: the date was set to about 1897 (see StephenD's comment below).

Date picture taken


Photo is likely 1890s rather than 1880s. The corner of the central reclamation can be seen on the left. Swimming baths have gone. The tower in the naval yard has lost its roof and now has the chimney exposed. 

Both the original pic and Mui Wo's linked pic show a small to medium sized, two masted (the masts look like tripods), boat just off the Naval Yard. It's lying so low in the water that I think it's submerged to deck level. If so, then surely such a hazard to other shipping wouldn't have been allowed to remain there for a lengthy period, in which case the two pics were taken around the same date.

That's really well observed gw, and I would agree with your reasoning on the time of the two photos. I had thought this was early 1890s until I realised that Sharp & Co. on Kowloon Point dates to c.1895, so this photo cannot be any earlier than that. Incidentally, this picture hangs in the Mariners Rest Bar of the 1881 Heritage Hotel which was the old MPHQ at TST. I donated a copy to them when they asked for relevant photographs to adorn the walls.

I have been taking a closer look at this object in the photo at https://gwulo.com/atom/37675, and to me it does not seem to me something that is submerged. Rather, it looks to be a floating pontoon of some kind. Between the 'tripod' structures, there are two distinctive flat squares. Could it be a diving platform of some kind, or is it something else altogether? It is a bizarre contraption all the same.

Marvellous - a photo of the Tamar as she is being prepared for her new role as nominal depot ship. She was decommissioned at the end of September 1895 on her return from Hakodate. What we can see here are three supporting frames for the new fixed awning with what look like various longitudinals being erected. On the Tamar's starboard side there's what appear to be a number of lighters and stuff, so she is still being worked on.

However, the rudder area (just a post, no rudder), the absence of the funnel and the stump masts suggests she has already been into HWD and has had her machinery removed and is back out on a buoy having further work done. We know that on 28 Jul 1896 she was in dock in Hung Hom, the machinery was reported removed, the Kingston valves out, and the boilers advertised for sale. In July 1897, after she had come out of HWD (exact date not known), she proved chronically unstable, the new fixed awning leaked and she had to have further work done. So my guess is that this is after July 1896 and before July 1897, by which time, even if it leaked, the awning was complete, with a bias towards early autumn 1896.

Beyond the Tamar is one of the fairly new Canadian Pacific liners, the Empress of JapanEmpress of China and Empress of India, which had been completed and made their maiden voyages in 1891, thereafter maintaining a regular HK-Japan-Vancouver service. Off the Empresses port bow is a Messageries Maritimes steamer, don't know which.

Because of various problems including springing a serious leak that had to be fixed, just after her commissioning in October 1897 (read my new book which, depending on whether it is zapped for post-NSL political incorrectness, should be out next year), she wasn't ready to take over as nominal depot ship until 16th March 1898 and the V-E stayed as nominal depot ship until then.

The odd floating object, (Mui Wo's click-on photo is much better) may be a gunnery target - five square sponsons to keep the thing afloat and the two tripods between which would have been stretched the sacking target. At https://www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/navy/galery-e.aspx@section=2-B… there's a pic of a typical small calibre weapon target and its frame. Percy Scott, who revolutionized naval gunnery, described his new style target, devised when he was skipper of the Scylla, 1896-1899 (though it is not clear exactly when): "So I made a new target (the Admiralty would not adopt it for six years. Then it came into general use and is in use to this day), consisting simply of boards separated by iron rods, two masts and a sail 6 feet by 6 feet. When this target was hit the hole made by the shot could easily be seen." The standard Admiralty target before the Scott revolution "consisted of a triangular base with a mast at each angle, and was canvassed all round", so clearly this wasn't one of those. Maybe there was a Scott fan in the China Squadron? Just a thought.


Thank you for all this information StephenD. You name the ship in the above photo as the Tamar, and not the Victor Emmanuel. By that are you also saying that the ship at https://gwulo.com/atom/37675 is the Tamar too? I am inserting the picture here. It would be good to know one way or the other. I have always been under the impression that it is the V-E, and the photo at https://gwulo.com/node/47127 also seemed to confirm this. Many thanks.

Harbour and Kowloon 1890s
Harbour and Kowloon 1890s, by Mui Wo

Not this photo for the Tamar, the other one. This is the V-E. In the other photo SOME of the V-E can be seen, but the vessel astern of her in significant disarray is the Tamar in course of conversion.

The date of this image may be ascertainable more exactly by identifying the cruiser ahead of the V-E - my hunch would be early to mid-1890s


The cruiser is, I think, an Edgar class and none of these was completed and in service before 1893 and of those that did serve in HK, most were post 1899. The Grafton was in HK from 22 April 1896 until 10 September 1899 and she'd be my pick. So I'll modify the date guesstimate above to 1896 - with the Tamar still maybe in HWD or, of course, just out of shot on the left, if this image was taken around the same time. 

Stephen D