Circular pond inside the Happy Valley Racecourse [c.1885-1890]

Submitted by David on Fri, 02/14/2020 - 14:29
Current condition
Demolished / No longer exists
Date completed
(Day, Month, & Year are approximate.)
Date closed / demolished
(Day & Month are approximate.)

An article, The new 'Bowen Park', on page 2 of The China Mail, 1885-02-27, described Governor Bowen's visit to the racecourse to "turn the first sod", and start the project to drain and re-develop the land. Bowen said the project would "convert this marshy and malarious swamp on which we are now standing into a place of public resort." Based on this I've guessed 1885 as the date the pond was dug, but corrections welcome!

We've got a better idea of when it was filled in again.

After the Hong Kong Golf Club was founded in 1889, their first golf course was laid out here, on the flat land inside the racecourse. However, that large pond caused problems for the golfers: "One hole, the 8th, became known as 'Old Misery' on account of the pond which swallowed up balls, scarce at the time." See page 181 of The Encyclopedia of golf

I'm guessing the golfers included a few members of government, as they soon had the pond filled in: "Prior to 1890 there was a large round pond, at the northern end of the land inclosed [sic.] by the race-course track, which was filled up in that year for the convenience of golfers, who started the first Hongkong Golf Club there in 1889 (now known as the Royal Hong Kong Golf Club)."  See page 355 of Old Hongkong by Colonial

Photos that show this Place



Thanks to Moddsey for pointing me to these articles in the newspapers with more about the pond.


  • They proposed filling in the pond to provide extra land to the recreation ground in the centre of the racecourse. Chater suggested cutting away a hill to the east of the racecourse, and using the rock and soil to fill in the pond.
  • They also explained the purpose of the pond. It wasn't dug for any reason connected with with water, instead when the centre of the racecourse was being drained, the project needed extra soil to raise the level of that ground. The cheapest source of soil was to dig it out on site. The hole that was formed filled up with water and became the pond.

Then on p.2 of Hong Kong Daily Press, 1890-09-01, a short article records a drowning in the pond, and also that the pond was in the process of being filled in:

  • "On Friday afternoon a hawker named Wong Sun You, twenty-two years old, was bathing in the pond at the Race-course, when he shouted as if in difficulty and sank. A number of the Chinese coolies, who are engaged filling in the pond, rendered no further assistance than to tell a lukong what had happened and he gave information to Sergeant Witchell, who recovered the body about 5 p.m. and had it removed to the mortuary."


17. - The improvements estimated to cost $16,000 for which the sum of $8,000 to be expended this year as voted by the Legislative Council on 9th ultimo consist in filling in the round pond and improving the surface. The work has been commenced. It is in my opinion very desirable that the drainage of this Valley, for which much has already been done, should be completed by improving the watercourse on the west side of the Race Course, diverting it to the westward from the near, the Grand Stand to a point near the Bowrington Sugar Refinary, removing the weir oppoiste the refinery, and contracting the width of the canal from the refinery to the Harbour. I hope shortly, in consultation with Mr. Chardwick (in so far as the question of main drainage is concerned) to be able to submit plans embodying these proposals, which must tend to improve the sanitary condition of the locality." 

Source: Hong Kong Daily Press, page 3, 22nd July 1890

Source: The China Mail, page 4, 22nd July 1890

Source: The Hong Kong Telegraph, page 3, 22nd July 1890