Pubs and hotels in Old Hong Kong

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 11/02/2009 - 23:37

I wonder if anybody has information about pubs and hotels in the early days of HK.

My great grandfather, John Olson, arrived in Hk from Sweden around 1860 and was involved in The National Tavern - he held the liquor licence for it - at 292 Queens Road West and was also manager of the Oriental Restaurant. This property seems to have morphed into the National or Nationals Hotel which I think he was the proprietor of.

He may also have been the owner of the Star Hotel at 200 Queens Road, Central. He was also probably the owner of the Stag Hotel at 148 -150 Queens Road up to 1892. This information all comes from the Carl Smith Archive.

However, despite many other searches I can find out nothing more. All information or suggestions gratefully received.


Sean,  Dublin, Ireland,

It's an interesting question.

The surprise to me was how far west these buildings are, especially the 292 Queen's Road West address. First I thought Europeans were only likely to be in Central or Wanchai. But it may well be that the sailors' drinking districts were along here, out of sight of the 'respectable' Europeans in Central, and the Navy and Army towards Wanchai.

Your great-grandfather would have worked hard to earn his money. Here's a news item abut the Star Hotel from The Hongkong Telegraph on Jan 11, 1883:

F. A. M. Linde, landlord of the Star Hotel, for allowing a drunken row between Russian sailors to take place in his hotel on the 9th instant, was fined $10 this morning by Captain Thomsett, with the option of 14 dys. The "fire water" dispenser paid the fine.

Sounds like just the sort of thing someone would have researched before, but I don't remember reading anything like this. Can anyone else help?

Interesting about the Star. Looks to me as if the Swedes might have had a little bit of a monopoly in the liquor business. The said Mr Linde might well have been Swedish or certainly Scandinavian.

That comunity seems to hve stuck together because the executor of my great grandfather's will was a man named Wilhelm Petersen.  Have no information regarding his business interests.

Sean has written an interesting essay summarising the story of his family's life in Hong Kong. It's an interesting read - not just for the historical information, but also to see how later generations hid the fact that their roots lay in a mixed marriage in Victorian Hong Kong. The essay can be read online at:

If any other people have family histories related to Hong Kong, I hope they'll follow Sean's lead and post them to the internet. It may seem that they'd only be of interest to the immediate family, but in fact they contain a lot of useful information about life in old Hong Kong that is of general interest. There's also a good chance readers can contribute extra information to help you. Feel free to post your information on this site, or if it's published elsewhere please let us know where we can find it.

Regards, David

292 Queen's Road West had been rebuilt, and the site is a high rise residential  building nowaday.

In the 19th century, 292 Queen's Road West may be by the waterfront.

Algar Court is near 292 Queen's Road West.

I think the National Tavern was likely back towards central, near the other pubs & hotels mentioned above. I'm guessing that in the late 1800's there was just Queen's Road East in Wanchai, and Queen's Road West in Central, and that only later was the three-way East / Central / West split used.

So the '292 Queen's Road West' may have been on today's Queen's Road Central. I haven't seen that mentioned elsewhere though, so it's just a guess at the moment. Can anyone else confirm/deny?

An updated list of approved hotels and public houses and their proprietors in 1898 for the sale and consumption of alcoholic liquors on premises:

1.   The Man at the Wheel - 306 QRC, (Jaochim Gomes)

2.   New Victoria Hotel - 9 QRC, (I. P. Madar)

3.   The Peak Hotel - The Peak, (G. J. Casanova)

4.   The Kowloon Hotel - Elgin (today's Haiphong) Rd, (L. M. Lobo)

5.  The Grand Hotel - 240-244 QRC, (A. R. Hock Goon)

6.   Praya East Hotel - 38-39 Praya East, (J. A. Drewes)

7.   The Colonial Hotel - 1 Jubilee St, (M. Sterberg)

8.   The Globe Hotel - 184 QRC, (J. Silberman)

9.   The Land we live in Hotel - 332-334 QRC, (G. Neybrunn)

10. The Travellers' Hotel - 12-13 Queen Victoria St, (C. A. Stuhlmann)

11. Rose, Shamrock and Thistle - 90 QRC, (Wm Krater)

12. The Criterion Hotel - 21-23 Pottinger St, (Fred Melhuish) 

13. The Western Hotel - 90 QRW, (F. J. F. Bedford)

14. The German Tavern - 266-268 QRC, (Hans Jetrum)

15. Bay View Hotel - Shaukiwan (today's Causeway Bay) Rd, (J. W. Osborne)

16. Thomas' Grill Room - 2 QRC, (J. C. Goodchild)

17. The Windsor Hotel - 13 QRC, (P. Bohm)

18.  The Hung Hom Hotel - 30 Bulkeley St, (Cawasjee Byramjee)

19.  The Hong Kong Hotel - 21-25 & 31 QRC & 1-3 Pedder St, (A. D. Death) 

20.  The Stag Hotel - 148-150 QRC, (Moosa Mohamed)

21.  Sailor's Home - Praya West, (P. Hardman)

22. The Grand Hotel - 240-244 QRC, (Hock Goon)


Source: Report of the Commission of Alcoholic Liquors of 1898. See here (link updated in 2024)

Note: Alfred Dagood Death was the manager of the Hong Kong Hotel.



The name Olson crops up from 1899 onwards on the Government Archive.

John Olson served as Gunner in the Hong Kong Volunteer Corps from 1899 onwards.

In 1906 his occupation was listed as contractor and later merchant and director for C. E. Warren & Co. In 1906, his address was at 30 Des Voeux Rd Central and by 1915 at 98A Wanchai Rd.

In 1911 Charles Williams Olson worked as an Assistant and later Department Manager for Thoresen & Co. Address listed was 4 Nathan Rd. By 1926, he was a broker for C. W Olson & Co and resided at 13 Broadwood Rd.

Christopher Alfred Olson appears in 1936. He worked as a clerk for the Peninsula Hotel and lived on the premises.

Source: Jury Lists


Thanks for the information.

The John Olson and Charles Olson you found were my grandfather and grand uncle. The 1936 Olson has nothing to do with my family as far as I know.

The Carl Smith archive takes the mentiones the father of this John Olson as far back as 1867 as licencee of the National Tavern and Oriental retaurant.

John worked with C.E Warren and Co until about 1922 and Charles left the colony in about 1926 and subsequently made a home in Canada where he died in Naniamo in 1966.

I'd be most obliged if you come across any more info. You will see that David mentions in one of his posts that the family story is available as an ebook on the HK University Press site.

Greetings from Ireland and many thanks,



These were reported in the newspapers each year in the 1800's, and give us some more clues about the people and businesses in the John Olson story. Here are some relevant results from searching the newspapers for 'Annual licensing' in the years 1800-1910:

29 Oct 1869: Licenses were granted to [...] John Olson of the "National Tavern" [...].  HK Daily Press

22 Oct 1870. John Olson, "National Tavern" Queen's Road Central, inland lot No 95, house 292. G R Lammert, G O F Rodatz, storekeepers, sureties. Feb 3rd 1866, license transferred to present holder by Antonio da Cruz; January 20 1870, for detention of seman's effects fined $10. A very noisy house. Granted, cautioned in reference to complaint of Police.

J?s. Baily Watson, ordinary, Ordinance No 11, or 1844, "Stag Hotel," Queen's Road Central, lot No 10, house No. 110. D L Noronba, auctioneer; F de P Soeares, druggist. Has held licenses under various signs since 29th September, 1859, except when absent from May 2nd, 1867, to May 8th, 1869. Charged with assault, case dismissed, owing to the non-appearance of the complainant. No complaint. Granted.
HK Daily Press

This gives several useful facts:

The address is given as "National Tavern, Queen's Road Central, inland lot No 95, house 292". Does anyone have the tools to identify where inland lot No 95 stood? That will answer the question of whether the building stood on what is Queen's Road West or Central today, and also whether the building numbers have changed between then and now.

We see that John Olson first received the licence for the National Tavern on Feb 3rd 1866. Also that it was a "very noisy house", suggesting that Olson was a strong character if he was able to manage a seaman's pub.

6 Nov 1878. Renewals of their licenses were granted to all the other applicants, namely, [...]Stag Hotel, Jessie Cook; [...] National Hotel, John Olson; [...]. HK Daily Press.

2 Nov 1880. John Olsen, "National Hotel;" has held a license for 14 years; unopposed ; granted.
J. R. White, "Sailors' Home;" has held a license for 9 years, formerly in the "Stag Hotel;" unopposed; granted.
Jesse Cook, "Stag Hotel," applied for a renewal of his license which he has held for two years; unopposed; granted.
Frederick A. Linde, "Star Hotel," apllied for a license for new premises into which he intends to move at the end of the present month, the license of the present premises he occupies being allowed to fall through. His new premises, which will be known under the old name of the "Star Hotel", are in Queen's Road Central, Inland Lot No 8, the house at present having no number. It is the furthest house to the westward of the new block of houses now in course of erection on the site of Gibb, Livingston & Co.'s old godowns.
The China Mail.

Note that the name is spelled "Olsen" in this article. So any searches on names should also include the alternate spellings "Olsen" and "Olsson".

The article also included a discussion about a Christian F W Petersen who is applying for a renewal of his license for the "German Tavern;", but he also had a licence for a boarding house. Both licenses required you to live in the premises you had the licence of, so the demand was that he give one up. He had had a liquor license for 19 years at this point.

If we indulge in a bit of guessing, was this the person through whom the Olson - Petersen connection began? Would Olson have chosen a boarding house run by a fellow Swede when he first arrived in Hong Kong? And Petersen had been a publican since 1861, so could that experience have helped Olson get started in Pubs too?

A more factual point to note is that the licence-holder was required to live on the premises, ie you could only be the licence-holder of one pub at a time. This may be relevant when Olson's name is mentioned with other pubs in later years. Either he moved on from one pub to another, or if he was mentioned in connection with two pubs at the same time, he must have been the owner rather then the licensee.

12 Nov 1884. Licenses renewed. HK Daily Press.

5 Nov 1891. The Stag Hotel licence is renewed. No mention of the National Tavern or National Hotel. The China Mail

13 Nov 1894. The list of licences granted includes C F W Petersen, publican's licence, "German tavern", and J W Kew, publican's licence, "The Royal Stag Hotel". No mention of Olson, or of the National Hotel. The HK Telegraph.

So Petersen was still a publican in 1894, 33 years after he received his first licence. He must have been quite an institution by then.

Other notes:

The text-recognition used by the library is not the greatest, so you'll see there were many years without results. A more thorough search would need a manual check through the papers. This wouldn't be as terrible as it first seems. The reports listed above are all on dates in late October or early November, so that's the only range that needs to be covered each year.

An interesting follow-up would be to look at the number and distribution of publican licences over the years. In the early years, they were mainly pubs, for sailors I guess. Towards the end of the 1900s, there are more hotels, and less to pubs. In fact there are less altogether, which is surprising if you take into account the big increase in population over those years. In later reports, we start hearing pleas from the Temperance Societies to cut back on licences, so the change was likely part of Hong Kong's evolution from young, anything goes, 'Wild West' town to a more prim, Victorian city.

Fascinating research and thanks. This Petersen died in 1896 and was the sole executor of my great grandfather's Will. Thus, when he died a deed of assignment had to be obtained. I have copies of both his Will and the Deed which are in the HK Public Records Office.

I have asked my frieds in Sweden if they have any knowledge of this Petersen. He looks as if he was the leading Swede in HK at the time.

Thanks again and will keep you up to date if I can find anything more.


Looks like the making of a nice tight little mafia! I think you are right that they would have stuck together. I's waiting to hear from my Swedish cintact whether there might be a link actually in Sweden.

Any names and details for the Swedes in the 1872 census? That would be a great help.

I am also awaiting info from the Carl Smith Archive atthe PRO because I have found more refernces there.

Thanks a million for all the help.


I found some source about Petersen in 1883 and 1884. 1883 records show that German Tavern was located at No. 224, Queen's Road Central, W. Peterson (typo of Petersen I assume) being the proprietor whereas 1884 records show that it moved to No. 248, QRC (now the name of Petersen is correct, W. F. M. Petersen). I can't explain the change.



Petersen's name was William. Not sure of any others but he is named as Wlhelm Petersen as the executor of my great grandfather - Johnn Olson's - Will made in 1890.

A copy of the Will is in the HKPRO and if you get in touch with Bernard Hui he should be able to provide to with scans if you are interested.



The list of liquor licensees in 1898 filed address of The Criterion Hotel as 21-23 Pottinger Street. Old photos told us a different story.


The Criterion Hotel at Queen's Road c.1900s (partial)

1). Photo of dragon procession along the Queen's Road c. 1900s clearly shows signboard of "CRITERION". Below it marked "HOT ... GEORGE O..." I had no clue what kind of business before, not until reading the list of approved public houses and hotels in 1898. The hotel signboard was erected in the building southeast corner of Queen's Rd and Cochrane St.

I used to assume that a hotel should have fully occupied and operated in a single building, just like Hong Kong Hotel. But in this case, at least 5 individual companies were sharing the same building with the Criterion. I was wrong.

2). Given the hint, we can now identify the hotel signboards from another photo c. 1897. The signboards were hung over balustrade at 1/F & 2/F of the building, right behind hotel pendant lamp and flag respectively.  

The Criterion Hotel at Queen's Road 1897

3). There was another tinted postcard of funeral progression showing a bamboo scaffold landing in front of The Criterion. The street level was flat. It should have been going upward if the photo was taken at Pottinger St.

I've no idea why the hotel was registered at Pottinger St.  I assume shop and local business in the old days seldom moved from one premises to the other.  In between 1897 and the early 1900s, the Criterion Hotel was located at Queen's Road. And the said building’s street number was presumed to be 92-94 Queen's Road, which was the registered number of the land lot before 2005.

These should be the earliest ones (source: 

London Hotel: opened on 14 Jun 1842; closed in Dec same year

Auckland Hotel: not knowing when was it opened, but released for sale in Feb 1843 and got sold to Wilson & Co. in Aug 1843 (but the owner close its business in Nov same year)

Hong Kong Inn: not knowing when was it opened, but J. Molton withdrew from the owning partnership in Aug 1843, which in the future will be operated by James Smitha and James Brimelaw.


Another source from "Mr. Gordon, the Land Officer's report on the Northern Face of Hong Kong" (Jul 1843) 

Town Lot 6 and 7: Originally registered in Mr. Labtatt's name, after his death purchased at Public Auction by Mr. Lane ..... A large Hotel has been built

Town Lot 43: Registered in the name of Mr. Gillespie, and purchased by Mr. Jackson. A hotel built upon it.

Town Lot 26: Registered in his name (Mr. Borton). A Tavern built uopn it.

Town Lot 44: Registered in his name (Mr. Rees) and a Tavern built upon it.

"Though every commercial house readily accommodated visitors, there were several flourishing hotels, first "Lane's Hotel" (1841/43), and then the "Waterloo" (Lopes) since 1 May 1844 and the "Commercial Inn" (Maclehose)."

Source: E. J. Eitel's Europe in China, Page 208.

A list of Hotels and Taverns and their proprietors in 1864 and 1868: 

1. Albion Hotel - Queen's Road, (Edward Parker) *

2. Argus - Peel Street, (G. Green) *

3. Army and Navy - Queen's Road [1868], (H. J. Carr [1864], J. Foley [1868]) #

4. Bombay Tavern - 288 Queen's Road [1868], (Mariano Fernandez) #

5. British Hotel - Queens's Road, (Henry John Carr) *

6. British Queen - 182 Queen's Road [1868], (George Thompson)#

7. City of Hamburg - Queen's Road, (not mentioned but in 1862 was Henry A. Sievers)*

8. City of Rotterdam - 250 Queen's Road, (Gerardu Pass)@

9. Commercial Billiard Rooms - Stanley Street [1864], Queen's Road [1868], (W. Owen & E. J. Manning [1864], F. Simons [1868])#

10. Crown & Anchor - 300 Queen's Road [1868}, (J. Robertolo)#

11. El Dorado - 267 Queen's Road, (William McDiarmed Kerr [1864], P. Ketels [1868])#

12. Empire Tavern - 270 QRW [1868], (Henry Rice [1864], E. W. Blackwood [1868])#

13. German Tavern - 224 QRW [1868], (William Petersen [1864], R. Devine [1868])#

14. Gun Boat - 180 Queen's Road, (J. Colderin)@

15. Hamburg Tavern - 270 Queen's Road [1868], (C. F. Stone [1864, William Gardner [1868)#

16. Hotel d'Europe - Hollywood Road, (not mentioned [1864], L. Lion [1868])#

17. Hotel des Colonies - Queen's Road, (P. Avril)@

18. Irish Flag - QRW, (John Ritchie)*

19. Land We Live In - QRW, (Hermann Boras)*

20. Liverpool Arms - 230 Queen's Road, (Joseph Borges)@

21. London Inn - 130 Queen's Road [1868], (G. W. Snelling)#

22. Mechanics' Arms - Circular Buildings, Queen's Road, (J. McNulty)@

23. National Tavern - 292 QRW, (John Olson)@

24. Nemesis Tavern - QRW, (John Meveety)*

25. Old House at Home - 188 Queen's Road [1868], (J. F. Borges [1864], Jeronimo de Souza [1868])#

26. Oriental Hotel -Wellington Street, (Theodore F. Andruss & Charles King)*

27. Rising Sun Hotel - 262 QRW, (R. Gormann [1864], John Roche [1868])#

28. Scandinavian - Queen's Road, (H. Berns)@

29. Sportman's Arms - Queen's Road, (R. Beattie)*

30. Stag Hotel - 138 QRC [1868], (James B. Watson [1864], E. R. Holmes [1868])#

31. Taku Fort - QRW, (John Alves)*

32. Union Tavern - Queen's Road, (Antonio Spesptaiki)@

33. Victoria Hotel - 314 Queen's Road [1868], (Thomas Clark [1864], R. Clark [1868])#

34. White Swan - QRW, (Joaquim Caldeira)*


Note (1) * Appears only in 1864

Note (2) @ Appears only in 1868

Note (3) # Appears in 1864 and 1868

Source: Chronicle & Directory for China, Japan & The Philippines for 1864 and 1868


ALBION TAVERN, by W. H. McConnell. (Queen's Road.)

BEE-HIVE TAVERN by George McQuin. (Queen's Road.) 
"Within this hive, we're all alive, and pleasant is our honey"
"If you are dry, step in and try, we sell(s) for ready money."

BRITISH AND AMERICAN INN, by Anthony Rodrick. (Queen's Road.)

BRITTANIA TAVERN, by Giovanni Gachi. (Queen's Road.)

CROWN AND ANCHOR TAVERN, by David Simeon. (Queen's Road.)

COMMERCIAL INN, by John Cockerell. (Queen's Road.)

FORTUNE OF WAR, by George E. Jones. (Queen's Road.)

LONDON TAVERN, by John Benson. (Queen's Road.)

NEPTUNE TAVERN, by George Mills. (entrances Queen's Road, and Lower Bazaar.)

PHOENIX INN, by John Meredith. (Queen's Road.)

PILOT BOAT INN, by Henry Willson. (Queen's Road.)

PRINCE OF WALES, by Robert Hemming. (Queen's Road.)

RAINBOW INN, by Matthew da Costa. (D'Aguilar Street.)

VICTORIA TAVERN, by Henry Hart. [Queen's Road.]



Pedro Ignacio. (D'Aguilar Street.)

Leonardo Golardo. (Queen's Road.)

Pedro Mathews. (Queen's Road.)



John Wilson's, Queen's Road.)

William Griffith's (Lower Bazaar.)

William Kelburne's, Circular Buildings, (Queen's Road.)

William L. Washington's, (Queen's Road).

John Brown's, (Queen's Road.)



Shaikh Moosden's, (Licensed Ghaut Serang,) Queen's Road. Hassan's, Cawdor's, and Mahomet Arab's, (Deputy Ghaut Serang.)


Source: Hongkong Almanach & Directory 1848 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

Note: Almost the same number of taverns as listed in "Old Hongkong" by "Colonial" for 1847 . (only BEE-HIVE TAVERN added)

ALBION TAVERN AND LIVERY STABLĖS, by Robert Neil. (Queen's Road.)

THE BRITISH QUEEN, by Alexander Lyons. (Queen's Road.)

BRITANNIA TAVERN, by Antonio Brown. (Queen's Road.)

CROWN AND ANCHOR TAVERN, by Thomas Steele. (Queen's Road.)

FORTUNE OF WAR, by J. Maclehose. (Queen's Road.)

KING WILLIAM TAVERN, by John Young. (Queen's Road.)

LONDON TAVERN AND BOARDING HOUSE, by William Martin. (Queen’s Road.)

PILOT BOAT TAVERN, by Ricardo Suaicar. (Queen's Road.)

NEMESIS TAVERN, by J. McVittie. (Queen’s Road.)

PRINCE OF WALES, by Robert Henning. (Queen's Road.)

RAINBOW INN, by Matthew da Costa. (D'Aguilar Street.)

SHIP TAVERN, by William Penfold. (Queen's Road.)-



Mr George Duddell. (Auction Mart)



James Turner's. (Lower Bazaar.)



Shaikh Moosden's, and Hassan's.


Source: The Hongkong almanack, and directory for 1850 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

Note: A lot of changes in names and proprietors in just two years.