Old Telecom Compound, Telegraph Bay [????- ]

Submitted by vhhhatc on Wed, 08/06/2014 - 20:33
Current condition

In looking for information regarding PB 004 I found this cable compound nearby.
The outline of the Cable Compound can be viewed from google street map.
Looking at the photo from Hedda Morrison the building also exists in the old photo of 'waterfall bay'. Note how the ground level has raised that perhaps also explain why the LL of PB004 still exists but PB 004 itself is gone.


From this document we have the following information regarding the building and its environs:

"Telegraph Bay was the site of an early cable landing dating from the early part of the Twentieth Century. The environment of the bay and valley has been radically altered through reclamation and the construction of the Cyberport development. The old cable house is still located in its original position (although it is now located within the grounds of a school). The area running up the hillside behind the cable house site contained a squatter area that dated back over 100 years."

Also, the National Archives in the UK appear to have information about this building. Note that they list the following document in the archives which likely dates the structure (or an earlier structure in the same location) to around 1910:

Lease of land for cable hut at Telegraph Bay, Hong Kong  DOC/EEACTC/4/46  1910 September 3

And Hedda shot another view of Telegraph Bay with different framing.

This document says that cables at Telegraph Bay connected Hong Kong to Macau, Singapore and Manila.

And finally, this document says that the Antiquities and Monuments Office conducted "a feasibility study on the preservation of Old Cable House in Telegraph Bay in Southern District" in 2003.

I can't find any documents or records of that study online, but it would likely provide much more information on the building, if anybody can get their hands on a copy.

Great research! Some more details here. Seems the Singapore link was first made by Eastern Extension, Australasia & China Telegraph Company. Through various mergers it eventually became Cable & Wireless. They appear to precede the hut's construction at Telegraph Bay. See these links here:




Wow, excellent info. Thanks for adding that!

Given that the cable was laid in 1871, they must have had a lease since at least that far back. AFAIK, leases were for at least 75 years back then, so they wouldn't likely have needed to renew until the 1930s-40s.

I wonder if the 1910 document I found indicates that there used to be a cable hut elsewhere, or on a smaller piece of land at the current site, and then they moved or expanded it?

It presumably wouldn't have been a renewal of an earlier lease, because Hong Kong Island was only ceded in 1841, so a renewal wouldn't have been needed until 1916 even if the land had been immediately occupied. (And AFAIK the south side of the island wasn't occupied until later.)

At least, not unless my knowledge of early HK history and leases is fundamentally wrong, which is quite possible. ;-)

The above book is about the history of telecommunications in HK
Chapter 7, mentions that;

The China Submarine telegraph company's cable reached HongKong nearly two months than expected. JohnPender had undertaken to the British Government to have the cable laid, and the service in operation , by the end of July 1871. In fact, the British cable ship, having started at Singapore, and having already landed a line at Cap St Jacques in Cochin China, reached HongKong in the last days of May.
The cable was landed in the Pokfulam area on the west side of the island, directionally the most convenient side, once again out of range of dragged anchors, at a small inlet which quickly became known as Telegraph Bay.As with the Danish company before, there was the special convenience that, at a very modest charge, the British company could use the government telegraph poles to run a line to the Queen's Road office which they shared with Great Northern. The road between Pokfulam and Victoria was not bad but was not a carriage road.
Despite the comparative nearness to town, little ceremony attende the landing. It was hot, and pouring with rain, day in day out. Ceremony was confined to the opening exchanges of telegrams with London.

Interesting. As alluded to in the quote, it looks like "the Danish company" -- Great Northern, aka Det Store Nordiske Telegrafselskab, and still extant as GN Netcom, the company behind Jabra bluetooth headsets -- got there just a few weeks before its rivals.

Wikipedia has Great Northern as founded in 1869, and Atlantic Cable says that their first connection to Hong Kong to Shanghai was operational by April 18, 1871, routed via Gutzlaff Island (aka Daji Shan), then up the mouth of the Yangtze to Woosung (now Wusong), and finally to Shanghai itself.

(It's amazing, when you stop to think of the distances involved. Just going as the crow flies from Telegraph Bay to Gutzlaff Island is a 770 mile trip, and by ocean the entire way I'm guessing it's more like a thousand miles or more.)

From Shanghai, communications from Hong Kong could be relayed to Vladivostok and Nagasaki that summer, and to Europe from the start of 1872. The following year, the Hong Kong to Shanghai cable was rerouted to stop at Amoy (now Xiamen).

The cable was brought by the ships Agnes, Kangaroo, Belgian and Minia. Happily I spotted that a China export painting of the "ss Agnes off Hong Kong" was actually the only image I have ever seen of the ship and, I believe, the only one there is bar some old plans. It must have been painted a few years after the cable was first landed. It was as a result acquired by the HKMM and as far as I know is still exhibited in the radio and communications gallery in the museum. The Agnes was like most early cable ships, not purpose designed as such. She was built in 1870 by Backhouse & Co, Middlesborough, 200’ long, 29’ beam, moulded depth 16.7’, 781GT with a 95hp compound engine driving a single screw and (as in the painting) schooner rigged. She was bought in the year of her building and converted for cable-laying duties with forward and aft cable tanks capable of stowing 10,341 cubic feet of coiled cable. The painting shows the rollers at bow and stern. She was duty repair ship on the China station certainly until 1872, but by 1876 she was in Australian waters and I can find no mention of her after that year, so the painting must date from the mid-1870s. In the painting she is flying the little known house flag of the China Submarine Telegraph Co. that disappeared in 1874, absorbed by the Eastern Extension, Australasia and China Telegraph Company that flew the same flag defaced by the letters EAC in red - a small correction to the complex story of the early telegraph companies above.

Interestingly the name of the Danish company, translated into Chinese, I believe was by some means or another carried forward, when Cable and Wireless was founded, to become the Chinese name of the combined outfit. If you go to the old Cable & Wireless - now some other outfit - landing place at Cape D'Aguilar (it stands on the top of the hill between Bokhara Battery and the old Cape D'Aguilar lighthouse) there is one of the signs inside the compound that still has 大北电报 on it. This may have something to do with the large building of the name at No.7, The Bund in Shanghai.

Bizarrely, at some stage or another (and a cable does still today land there too (there are actually 12 cables landing in HK today in eight places Lantau (Tong Fuk), Cyberport, Deepwater Bay, Stanley Bay, Cape D'Aguilar and Tseung Kwan O)) Deepwater Bay may at some stage have been known as Telegraph Bay too - there's a photo in a Stewart Lockhart family album of a family picnic in 'Telegraph Bay' that is quite obviously Deepwater Bay - of course that could have been a mistake in the labelling!

Stephen D