James Smith GIBSON [1872-1945] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

James Smith GIBSON [1872-1945]

James Smith
Birthplace (town, state): 
Leeds, Yorkshire
Birthplace (country): 


Additional information from my notes:

James Smith Gibson 刼臣 (Authorized Architect 1928-41) found in 1928 and 1930
to 1938 Directory.

The projects completed were:

  • Chinese House, KIL1569, Fa Yuen Street 1938;
  • European Houses :
    • KIL2527, Sai Yee Street 1938;
    • KIL3690, Hillwood Road 1938; 
    • IL3524, Shan Kwong Road 1938

Hello Everyone. This is my first post to this website and my reason is to add to  the early life of a distant relative James Smith Gibson born BARNFATHER whom I see is mentioned with a link to the ABLONG family through his marriage to Alice Maud ABLONG.

James was the son of James Smith Barnfather 1841-1920 and Sarah Jane Gibson 1841-1922. and was born in Leeds, Yorkshire, England on 6 Aug 1872. He spent his early working life as a joiner, an occupation that pops up quite often across the generations of Barnfathers.

James, the younger, enlisted into the military in his home town of Leeds in 1893 and served in the Royal Engineers for almost 24 years. During this time he became a skilled draughtsman and was posted to many countries but most frequently it would seem, spent time in Hong Kong which is where he married Alice Maud ABLONG on 2 Dec 1903. Four children duly followed, 2 boys and 2 girls.

In 1918 he formally and legally adopted the name of GIBSON, his mother's maiden name which was also taken by all his family.  The reason for this can only be speculative but there may be a clue when we look at what was happening with his father.

In 1885 and still in his early 40's, James the father, retired from his Accountancy practice but must have still been connected to the partnership as he was named in the bankruptcy proceedings that followed in 1889. There had been a Nisi Prius Court case brought against James the elder which didn't go well for him and this could have been why the bankruptcy case came about. The collapse of his business may have been the catalyst for the change in his behaviour but before his deterioration was so profound and with pressure from his wife to find work, he set off  for Australia hoping to change his fortune.  However it seems to have been a hair-brained scheme and he returned to England still having many problems and with a criminal court case pending his state of mind must have been profoundly unbalanced as he was committed to High Royds Mental Hospital in the West Riding of Yorkshire between 1901 and 1902.

On his release from the Hospital and much recovered he lived for another few years until his death in 1920.

One can only surmise that the family of the elder James Smith Barnfather must have been deeply affected by the very many events that had transpired over the preceding years and maybe these are the reasons that gave the impetus for James the son to break from the Barnfather family name and for him to take the name GIBSON for himself and his family.

My research is a work in progress and the information I have given is only as good as it stands today.  If anyone knows otherwise I would be pleased to hear from them.  I would also be very interested to learn more about James Smith Gibson as he was known in Hong Kong and if possible of the time he and his family spent in the Stanley Internment Camp. I understand he died just days before the camp was relieved and that Alice his wife died in Sydney, Australia in 1971.

Hi Angela, Thanks for the extra information about Mr Gibson.

Here are some more resources that might have relevant information about his time in Hong Kong: https://gwulo.com/node/9376

If you don't hear back from anyone who has specific information about his time in Stanley, you can get a good idea of the conditions there from reading some of the other accounts: https://gwulo.com/Stanley-Civilian-Internment-Camp

Good luck, and please let us know what you find.

Regards, David

The building of the F11 photographic museum at 11 Yuk Sha Street, Happy Valley was designed by Gibson.

Hi David,

Thanks for the information.  I'm slowly trying to find my way around your site.  There is just so much to look at!

Kind regards,


He was interned in Stanley Camp with wife Alice Maud and son Leonard. After the Americans were repatriated in 1942 he moved to the American Quarters and was billeted in A2/27. Meaning Block 2 of American Quarters (still exists in Prison area) and Room 27. He shared the room with Alice and Lenny (Lenny was employed by HKE and was at the seige of North Point Powerstation......harrowing experience). He was a good friend of Alan Sloan's father. I will notify Alan of this post so he can add more.  The Gibson family shared with the Bird family. George Bird and his wife Margaret and son Francis. James Gibson died on 6th March 1945. Regards,Philip Cracknell

Many thanks Tony, for this info. Is there a photo of this building I could look at?  I have tried to find one but either one doesn't exist or I'm not looking in the appropriate place.

Kind Regards, Angela

Hi Philip, thank you so much for this information.  I was aware that he and his family had been interned but have scant detail of their experiences so you've opened a window for me. 

Kind Regards,


Tony, thank you so much for bringing this to my attention. It is most interesting and I will be sharing what I have/am learning from your excellent website with JSG's great nephew before too long.

Kind Regards, Angela