Removal of graves in unauthorised cemetery adjacent Mount Caroline Cemetery | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Removal of graves in unauthorised cemetery adjacent Mount Caroline Cemetery

There are already quite a few posts on Mount Caroline Cemetery, and I contributed to the early discussions, having found myself in the cemetery during my initial search for traces of my grandfather’s house at the top of Broadwood Road.

I had not previously come across Sir Henry May’s gazetted order of 23 October 1914 to remove “certain graves on Crown Land which are not in an authorised Cemetery namely: - all graves situated on that piece of ground adjacent to Mount Caroline Cemetery shortly to be known as Inland Lot 1947.” This gave me a shiver, as my grandfather, Charley Warren, or at least his company, C.E. Warren & Co., was responsible for building all the houses on I.L. 1947, including his own, known as “The Towers”. Even in English culture, let alone Chinese, it is unlucky to live on ground where bodies have previously been buried. Bad luck and ill health certainly afflicted my grandfather in the final years of his short life.

I can’t imagine that the removal of Chinese graves didn’t occasion commentary in the press, especially the Chinese press. My notoriously feeble newspaper searches haven’t turned up anything for “Mount Caroline graves”. I’d be grateful if anyone can do better than me for the 1914-1915 period. I also wonder if there is any record of the exact area where the unauthorised graves were located.

Alex Wong mentions in a post that he heard stories that Mount Caroline Cemetery was haunted when he was young. I wonder if anyone else is familiar with those stories. “The Towers” stood empty in the 1950s. I don’t know if there is anyone still around who can tell me if it was supposed to be haunted.

Nine houses were built on I.L. 1947. They were nos. 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 19, 20 and 21 Broadwood Road.


Around this time there are a few occasions when grave removal was ordered in 1914 - once in Kowloon, once in the Mount Caroline area and once at 'western filter beds', then in 1918 at the Tung Wah Hospital Cemetery in Kai Lung Wan.  This latter and the Mount Caroline refers to the proper laying out of the cemeteries.  Kowloon - to the east of Kowloon City Rd, is for 'to obtain red earth and improve the levels of the district'. 


The lot no. 1947 itself is not particularly auspicious when pronounced in Cantonese, with the dreaded number 4 flanked by 2 expletives.

Thanks for this, Patricia. Is it then the case that it was not so much a question of spilling over the official boundary of the Mount Caroline Cemetery as that the graves targeted for removal were "improperly" laid out? Is this specified somewhere?

I"ve not found anything on a quick look - and I'm pretty sure these would be instructions at a departmental level not higher, so not something that will have survived.  There are one or two Sanitary Dept books in PRO, really hard to read as they resemble perforated paper more than anything else - full of worm holes.  But they - from memory - are for a couple of years at the turn of the century and were all about staffing issues, not regulations or suchlike.

I suspect they might not have been out of boundary in all cases - but haphazard and preventing pathways from being constructed.  

Did I send you the 1935 instruction? that makes it clear that the removal was in line with the custom of disinterring after 10 years and putting remains in a casket. 

That’s very interesting about the “4” in I.L. 1947 being exaggerated by the numbers on each side. It’s certainly true that our family was not blessed with good luck in the immediate aftermath of the 1914 grave clearance on I.L. 1947 bought by the Warren/Olson partnership, in that there was a trio of family deaths. In 1915 John Olson snr’s wife, Ellen died; in 1917 their eldest child, Elizabeth died; in 1918 John Olson snr. himself died. The racecourse fire, involving the Unity Stand, owned by Blake Olson and Warren since 1904, preceded John Olson’s death by a couple of months. The numbers of the Unity stand were 4, 5 and 6  – that fatal number again. I mustn’t get hung up on it! I can’t remember if no. 4 was the first to collapse. I believe many of the dead were buried in Mount Caroline Cemetery.

No, you haven't sent me the 1935 instruction. It might have been a good idea to mention this in the 1914 order, instead of implying that the graves were unauthorised.