Johnston's House / Heard & Co / Beaconsfield [1843-1916]

Submitted by Herostratus on Tue, 11/13/2018 - 02:01
Current condition
Demolished / No longer exists
Date completed
(Day & Month are approximate.)
Date closed / demolished
(Day & Month are approximate.)

One of the earliest buildings to be constructed in Hong Kong

Construction began in August of 1842

Large two storied edifice commenced, facing the parade for the town residence of the Lieutenant governor

18th August 1842 - Friend of China

Building timeline:

1843 - 1846 The government rents the house at $150 per month as a temporary residence for the Governor.
1846 - 1848 Used as temporary accommodation for the Supreme Court.
1860 Expanded into a three-storey building with basement and two corner towers.
1860s - late 1876 Rented to Heard & Co. and other companies. Used in the 1870s as the Russian Consulate.
1879 Acquired by E.R. Belilios, a merchant, renamed “Beaconsfield” in 1882, and leased for various uses, including accommodation for the Hongkong & Shanghai Bank and Butterfield & Swire.
1897 - 1911 Leased by the government for use as offices by the Attorney General, Crown Solicitor, Education Department and Sanitary Department.
1915 Acquired by the Missions Étrangères de Paris and renamed “French Mission Building”.

The building was replaced by a new building shortly after with construction beginning in 1916 and completed by 1919

Photos that show this Place


Could that quote from the 1842 Friend of China refer to a building on the site of today's Flagstaff House, rather than this one? There's a building marked "General's House" on that site on the 1845 map, which shows it on a hill overlooking a large area marked "Parade Ground":…

The timeline at shows Johnston as the first resident of this building at the top of Battery Path:

1842 The first Governor of Hong Kong, Sir Henry Pottinger, authorises the construction of a house by A.R. Johnston, Deputy Superintendent of Trade, on Inland Lot No. 82, at the top of Battery Path.
1842 - 1843 Construction of the first building on this site, a two-storey stone and brick building with a verandah on three sides, later known as “Johnston’s House”.

I believe when the Friend of China uses the term 'Lieutenant Governor', it is referring to Johnston whose official position was only the deputy superintendent of trade, however in effect he was the governor when Pottinger was away. The position of Lieutenant Governor was the deputy governor of colonies at the time so i think the Friend of China was using the title colloquially. The first official Lieutenant Governor in Hong Kong was Major General D’Aguilar, however he did not arrive in Hong Kong until the 27th December 1843 so it is unlikely the house was for him.


Flagstaff house is another possibility, however there are a number of reasons to discount it. The first being that Jardine had already erected a dwelling on the site:

Sometime in 1841, perhaps very soon after the sale of 14 June 1841, they obtained a transfer from a Captain Ramsay of what was then Town Lot 42, and there erected a large house of which the Canton Press caustically commented that "on entering the harbour, you perceive the most commanding site, disfigured by a hybrid erection, half New South Wales and half native production, which is a foretaste of the architectural absurdities to be perpetrated on this island


As this 1842 map shows town Lot 42 is exactly where Flagstaff House was built. The house that Jardine built soon became the residence of Lord Saltoun:

The house later became the residence of Lord Saltoun, Commander of British Forces in China during the war which ended with the Treaty of Nanking in 1842. The present Flagstaff or Headquarters House, built by 1846, now stands on this site...They were able to occupy neither building for long: early in 1842, Colonel Malcolm, Pottinger's secretary, wrote to them, extending an offer to compensate them for moving away to allow the area to be used by the Military

Source: Jardine Matheson & Co's First Site in Hong Kong. Dafydd Emrys Evans.  Vol 8 p 151.


To me it seems the most likely building that the Friend of China was referring to in August 1842 was Johnston's house on IL82, today the site of the former French Mission Building.  

I have created a place for Jardine Matheson's/Lord Saltoun's House here