CPS project 2nd update: Magistracy & its magistrates | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

CPS project 2nd update: Magistracy & its magistrates

I'm searching for old photos of the buildings in and around the Central Police Station (CPS) site (click here for details of the project). In this update I'll look at the Magistracy building and the Magistrates who served there, then finish with the latest news on questions from earlier updates.

The Magistracy

When this was a working site, the fate of many of its 'guests' was decided by the Police Magistrates working here. Today the Magistracy building is part of the public face of the site, with its distinctive facade [1]:

Central Magistracy

Near the top of the building you'll see the year "1914". Maybe that reflects the optimism of builders across the world, as the building wasn't finished and opened for use until April 1915!

Though it's an old building, it's not the original Magistracy. The first Magistracy was a short distance southwest from the current building. It is shown on this map of the CPS site in 1845 [2]:

1845 map - Magistracy & Jails

I hope your upside-down reading is ok - I've rotated the map so north is at the top like a modern map. You might also note the lack of any police station. Although we call it the 'Central Police Station' site, the police were the late-comers. It's original use was for a magistracy and a prison.

Like any Hong Kong map, this one was soon out of date. A new Magistracy building was built in 1845-6, and captured in this sketch dated 1846 [3]:

View of Queen's Road and the Harbour Looking West from Murray's Battery

Here's a close-up, with the then-new Magistracy highlighted. The slope of Arbuthnot road is clear to see. 


I believe that the building further up the slope, on the very left edge of the sketch, is the first Magistracy building. It wasn't demolished when the new Magistracy opened, instead it was converted into the Debtors Prison.

The sketch was titled "View of Queen's Road and the Harbour Looking West from Murray's Battery". I haven't found any close-up views of this Magistracy building, but we can spot it in other views looking west across the city, like this 1869 photo:

View west towards Central Police Station compound

Can you spot the Magistracy? Here's a close-up with it highlighted:


Q10. Are there any other similar photos or sketches you've seen that show the Magistracy?

Q11. Have you seen any close-up shots or interior views of it?

According to the 1898 newspapers [5], the building didn't age well:

One does not need to be fastidious in finding fault with the wretched place in which the Police Magistrate of Hong Kong exercises his functions. We feel pretty confident in saying that there is not a more wretchedly lighted, ill-designed, and badly ventilated police court in all the British colonies.

The room is abominably dirty, the ceilings are festooned with cobwebs and a fitting legend to place over the door of the place would be that which Dante described as adorning the portals of the nether regions.

It would last another 15 years though, before being demolished in 1913 to be replaced by the Magistracy building we see today.

The Magistrates

I'm also looking for photographs of the various magistrates that served in these buildings. They were a mixed bunch: Some had legal qualifications. Then after a time working as Police Magistrate they moved onwards and upwards through other court roles, with an appointment as Chief Justice the distant target.

But you didn't have to have a legal background to be a magistrate. Several of the Police Magistrates were Hong Kong Cadets, bright graduates from Britain's top universities who'd won a place as a Cadet in the far east civil service. An appointment as Magistrate was just one of many different positions they could expect to work in. Their goal was a senior role in the civil service, perhaps ending up as a Governor of a British colony. 

The length of appointment also varied. Some worked as Police Magistrate for several years. Others would just take the role for a few months, filling in the gaps between the permanent appointments.

Here are the magistrates who will probably get a mention in the history book.

Q12. Please do you know any photos or portraits of these men? Ideas for possible sources also welcome. (You can click any of the links above to see where I've already looked.)

Updates on earlier questions

I've received a few answers to the questions in the previous update:

Q1. Do you have any group photos taken in the parade ground?

Q2. Do you have any photos taken inside the buildings?

Thanks to Brian Coak for sending in photos for both these subjects.

Here's the first one:

Chief Inspector Jack Hayward on parade with Governor Sir Alexander Grantham c.1950

Brian writes it is:

Chief Inspector Jack Hayward on parade and a shot of him with Governor Sir Alexander Grantham c.1950

We also get a view of the Barracks Block on the left, and the smaller Armoury to the right.

Brian also sent in a couple of photos of the Magistracy, which he knew well, as he "was a prosecutor at Court One during the 1967 Riots prosecuting riot cases." The first photo shows his old office:

Office in Central Magistracy

And the second shows the entrance to Court One:

Entrance to Court One, Cemtral Magistracy

Thanks to Brian for sharing his photos with us.

Q9. What was the story behind this posed photo?

1910s Posed Photo of Policeman in Stocks

The answer to this question was a team effort: Adam identified the man as Sergeant A K Taylor. Then Moddsey found that Taylor was seconded from the Police to the Sanitary Department in 1911, which we think was the event being commemorated here. Finally reader "1314" confirmed the uniform styles match the year 1911. Thanks for everyone's help!

That's the end of the latest update. Please get in touch if you have any comments or corrections. I'd also love to hear from you if you know of any old photos showing the Police Station, Magistracy, or Prison on the CPS site.

Regards, David

David's email address


  1. Photo source: Hong Kong Public Library Photo Collection.
  2. Detail cropped from this map. Original held at the UK National Archive, their ref: WO 78-479.
  3. Sketch by Murdoch Bruce. The Hong Kong Museum of Art has a set of reproductions of Bruce's sketches available for purchase.
  4. Original held at the UK National Archive, their ref: CO 1069/444
  5. Clipping from The Hongkong Telegraph, March 9, 1898, page 2. Read the full article at: http://gwulo.com/node/15654
  6. "Lt. Col. William Hull Caine, 1857."
    The photo on the right is often said to show Wiliam Caine. But we think it's more likely to be his son. Read more about possible photos of William Caine at: http://gwulo.com/node/15764


Charles Vandeleur Creagh is also worth adding to the list of Police Magistrates, although he only fulfilled that duty in an acting role from time to time. He was an important but negelected figure in Hong Kong's history, having brought the first Sikh policemen to HK from India, worked as Walter Deane's number two and led the Fire Brigade for some years. He was later Governor of British North Borneo.

NB: He is misnamed "Giles" instead of "Charles" by many historians (e.g. Crisswell and Watson in their history of the RHKP) thanks to an error dating back to, I believe, Norton-Kyshe.

He has a Wikipedia page, but, curiously, it neglects to mention his time in Hong Kong.


If Ng Choy is to be mentioned in a book about Hong Kong's magistrates, please list him under his other (full) Chinese  name as well. Although known to local Cantonese as 'Ng Choy', he is more commonly referred to in Chinese historical references by his Putonghua name of Wu Tinfang. In my opinion, he was actually the most interesting of all the people who ever served as police magistrates in Hong Kong. He was not only the first Chinese to qualify as a Barrister-at-Law at London's Lincoln's Inn but also went on to become China's post-revolution Minister of Foreign Affairs, having earlier served as China's Minister to USA as well as other countries.  Hong Kong Governor, Sir John Hope Hennessy had faced much opposition from expatriates and the Colonial Office when he first attempted to have Wu nominated as Hong Kong's first Chinese magistrate.


Ng Choy/Wu Tingfang was also the first Chinese member of the Legislative Council.

Thanks for the extra information, which I've forwarded to the people writing the text (I'm looking for illustrations, and won't be writing any of the book's text).

If you'd like to add any more information about them, here are the pages for Creagh (http://gwulo.com/node/16123) and Ng (http://gwulo.com/node/16029).

Regards, David

I've just added a photo of James Russell

Has The Book been published yet?



Theo, thanks for the photo.

Ian, still no news of it being published.

Please add Hin Shing Lo to the list. He presided over the Magistracy in the early 60s. Was said to have brandy rather than " Ching Cha" in his topped mug on the bench