Aberdeen Paper Mill [1892-c.1930]

Current condition: 
Demolished
Date Place completed: 
1892-01-14
Date Place demolished: 
c.1930-01-20 (Year, Month, Day are approximate)

Location: Making paper is a particularly thirsty process, so the mill had to be close to a large and reliable supply of water. It was built at the foot of the Aberdeen Valley, and a reservoir (today's Aberdeen Lower Reservoir) was built upstream to collect water for the mill's use.

Timeline:

  • 1890 - Construction begins in June.
  • 1892 - Production of paper begins on 14th January
  • 1929 - The government resumes the mill, not for its paper-making abilities, but to get access to the water in the mill's reservoir. The owners, the Tai Shing Paper Manufacturing Company, are given 183 days from 20th July to use up all the stocks, and after that the government took possession.
  • 1930 - The government takes possession. They're only interested in the reservoir and its water, so what to do with the factory site? It is eventually decided to use the land to build the new Aberdeen Industrial School.
  • 1935 - The Aberdeen Industrial School is opened by Governor Sir William Peel.

I wonder if any of the old 1890s buildings remain at the school site? And if anyone has any photos of the mill, please let us know in the comments below.

There's a good write-up of the mill's operations in the China Mail in 1892.

Comments

It is shown on a couple of maps at http://www.hkmaps.hk from 1896 and 1913, marked as "Paper Works".

It is intresting to note the the reservoir for theTai Shing Paper Manufacturing Company is only one of two examples in 19th century Hong Kong of companies securing private water rights and constructing private reservoirs; the other example is the Taikoo Sugar Refinery in Quarry Bay.  Also, similar to the Taikoo Sugar Refinery, the Aberdeen Paper Mills were foreign owned (Messrs Bertrams, Limited from Edinburgh), and they desired to construct  a paper mill designed along European priniciples with the latest and best machinery.  The Aberdeen Paper Mill also had housing for the European staff (4 Europeans)- two bungalows, and housing for the Chinese (upwards to 100 Chinese laborers).

The Tai Shing Paper Manufacturing Co., built a 44.2-million-gallon capacity reservoir in in Aberdeen in 1890.  In 1930, this reservoir was resumed by the Hong Kong Government and became the Aberdeen Lower Reservoir was modified, reconstructed and expanded with increased capacity of 91 million gallons.  This was part of the Aberdeen Valley Water Scheme project, which included the construction of the Aberdeen Upper Reservoir, which together with the modified Aberdeen Lower Reservoir would provide fresh water to the western part of Hong Kong Island.  See Pui-yin Ho, Water for a Barren Rock: 150 Years of Water Supply in Hong Kong (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 2001): 29 and 32, and Hong Kong Hansard, Hong Kong Legislative Council, (5 September 1929), “The Colony’s Waterworks”, page 137.

Hi Jennifer,

The article about the opening of the mills (https://gwulo.com/node/38787) says they were owned by a "Chinese syndicate". It explains that Messrs Bertrams, Limited from Edinburgh were the company that won the tender to design and build the mills.

So the ownership was different from Taikoo, but I was also struck by the similarities in them building their own dam to have the required water supply. It made me wonder how Taikoo were allowed to demolish their dams, and why the dams weren't kept as part of Hong Kong's water supply. Did you see any discussion of this? Perhaps Hong Kong's water supply was already secure enough by then that the Taikoo dams were no longer needed?

Regards, David

PS More info about the paper mills's dam at https://gwulo.com/node/38751, where you'll see there's some uncertainty about the construction date.