Ruins at Mount Austin | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Ruins at Mount Austin

Can anyone tell me more about the ruins half way up the hillside opposite what used to be Mount Austin Mansions, above the playground. What were they? And are they still there?



Please could you tell us which years the ruins were there, and a bit more information about where they were?

Here are some notes about ( and photos of ( Mount Austin Mansions that might help.

Regards, David

They were there all the way through the 1960s, and still there when I went back for a week in 1980. According to discussion on the (now sadly moribund) 'Mt Austin Mansions Alumni' group on Facebook they were there in the 1990s, and although I cannot specifically seethem on Google Earth I cannot see anything built there instead.

They are/were about half way up the hillside above the Mount Austin playground, approximately parallel to the top of the big waterfall. In m,y day the children called them 'Grey Walls', (presumably after the book by Malcolm Saville), but it appears that a later generation of kids called them 'The Japanese Wall'...

On a totally different subject, I am writing a book about my childhood in Hong Kong. I wonder whether it would be a good idea to post it as a diary on here, as a work in progress each time I write a chapter. Comments would be gratefully received...

I wonder if they were the remains of 10 & 11, The Peak, demolished in WW2:

I don't know that anything is left of them today, but on the other hand I haven't looked very carefully!

Yes please, I'd be very pleased to see your book added here as a work in progress. We'll enjoy reading it, and may be able to help you if you meet any gaps. There's a special format for adding diaries, described at

If anything there isn't clear in those instructions, just let me know.

Regards, David

Having scrutinised the map over again I think that the ruins may be a place called Craig Ryrie, which was built at the end of the 19th Century. But when was it demolished and why? I am oarticularly woozy with a nasty bug that is doing the rounds at the moment, and would not be surprised to hear that I have been holding the map upside down and barking up the wrong end of the tree completely......

There's a "Place" for Craig Ryrie at , but it seems to be in the middle of the Mt. Austin Road Playground whereas you describe the ruins as being higher up the hillside.

There's also a photo of Craig Ryrie at .

I've previously walked around the west side of the Mt. Austin Road Playground, and further up Mt. Austin Road past The Haystack, staring into the jungle looking for remains of the mobile artillery battery that was once housed in the vicinity. No luck on that score, but also I don't recall seeing any ruins, or even a path that could have led to the ruins. Can you remember the route of the access road or path to the ruins?  

Hi Jon

Have you  got the book On The Peak? I might have given it to you once.Aren`t they the ruins of an old Government house?

GW - We always used to get there by scrambling up the hillside. The only access road that I remember was a path that led north and joined up with the back of the grounds of one of the big houses on Peak Rd, which I have been reliably informed was by the 1980s owned by the Japanese consul

Richard - you did indeed give it to me, but my library is all higgeldy piggeldy and difficult to access as Mother is now living in there, and she is nearly 86 and I dont like to cause her upheaval

Jon Downes and I have established,thanks to Gwulo,etc,that the ruined building was the Haystack.

See the current lot RBL 509 on the Government map pages: > English > Lot (bottom left) > RBL 509

and here

Japan bought the lot from HSBC in 1972.


From your descriptions, it doesn't sound like the Haystack. That building was still standing at the end of WW2, it's visible in the bottom-left corner of this 1945 photo:

Looted houses on the Peak
Looted houses on the Peak, by John Florea, The LIFE Picture Collection, Getty Images

I think it's the same house there today. At least, Google's satellite view seems to show the same layout of chimneys. If that's true, it shouldn't have been a ruin in the 1960s.

I wonder if your playground was the ruined building in the bottom-right?

Regards, David

I can`t really understand this as it was a Gwulo comment that said the Japanese demolished the Haystack in December 1941


I agree with David that that the ruins were of "10 & 11 The Peak". I checked a few days ago and they are still there.

site of 10 & 11 The Peak
site of 10 & 11 The Peak, by gw

The above photo was taken from The Peak and shows Haystack (the white building in the trees on the left) with Mount Austin Playground below it (the patch of lawn in the centre). The site of No.10 & 11 The Peak is somewhere in the trees just to the left and on this side of Haystack. On the map at it's in the area between the western edge of the Haystack site (the dotted red line) and the line labelled "pipeline".

If you're minded to visit, easiest access is by following the pipeline uphill from Mount Austin Playground. It's not a difficult climb once you've found the pipe. A large pagoda stands near the bottom of Mount Austin Playground.

access point
access point, by gw

 Push through the bushes opposite the pagoda and turn left. After about 50m you'll come to the pipeline. Follow it uphill. Soon you pass a series of terraces which are the first sign that you're approaching the ruins.

lower terracing
lower terracing, by gw

Stick to the pipe until you see this terrace wall a few meters to your right.

the front wall
the front wall, by gw

It's the front terrace wall that supports the site. Constructed of stone blocks it's about three meters tall at this point.

top of front wall
top of front wall, by gw

It's topped with concrete and runs around almost the whole site at various heights, but is at its tallest in the front.

front wall east corner
front wall east corner , by gw

It's obvious why Cfzjon and his mates christened this place "Grey Walls". The wall supports a flat site about 70 to 80 meters wide by 30 to 40 meters deep. It's heavily overgrown, but passable, and clear of construction debris.

Apart from the terrace wall, the only other walls still standing are a short section in the south west corner,

wall at south west corner
wall at south west corner, by gw

  and a low perimeter wall.

perimeter wall
perimeter wall, by gw

The remains of what were probably outbuildings lie a few meters to the east side of the site.

remains of outbuildings
remains of outbuildings, by gw
outbuildings from reverse angle
outbuildings from reverse angle, by gw

The story of the partial demolition of the building that stood on this site is told in "Resist to the End" by Charles Barman (ISBN 978-962-209-976-0). Barman was a Quartermaster Sergeant in the Royal Artillery during the Battle of Hong Kong. The book is his diary.

The book contains two entries for 11th December 1941. There are two entries for the same date as the original diary was subsequently rewritten in an expanded form. One of the entries (Page 19) is from the original diary, whilst the other (Pages 14-16) is the expanded version. 

To summarize, on 11th December 1941, Barman was informed that the Number 2 Gun at the Mount Austin Mobile Artillery Battery was unable to fire on targets in Lai Chi Kok as the gun was positioned so close to No.10 (according to the original version) or No.11 (according to the expanded version) The Peak that the building obstructed its line of fire. The solution? Fire at the building to reduce its height. This was achieved in two volleys.

On a humerous note, Sergeant Barman fired on the building in the belief that it had already been evacuated by its tenants, the Royal Army Pay Corps. Apparently not however, as he was berated shortly afterwards by an enraged Captain Thompson who emerged from the ruins complaining that he'd been relieving himself inside when the shelling started! 

Thanks very much for this new and interesting info,I will alert Jon.

GW, thanks for tracking them down. Looks like it was a soggy day to be crashing around in the bush.

Richard, were you thinking of this page for the comment about the demolition: ? It does mention Haystack, but just to give the location of 10 & 11. If it was on another page, please let me have the link and I'll update the text with a correction.

Regards, David

PS A 1920s view showing an earlier generation of the Haystack, and 10 & 11:

The Peak
The Peak, by annelisec


Thank you GW for finding a part of my childhood. They weren't overgrown in my day, but open to the sky and a perfect playground for me and my friends. I am truly grateful. What a nice way to start a monday morning...

I believe that the name itself is slightly more complicated, however. It is one of three or four places in the area that appear to have been named after well known children's books of the late 1940s and early 1950s, and I cam only assume that in the generations priot to me arriving in 1964 there was an imaginitive child of a literary bent...

Yes David,the link you gave in your post was the one I saw.