Peak Club [1902-1941]

Submitted by annelisec on Thu, 12/31/2009 - 22:25
Current condition
Demolished / No longer exists
Date completed
Date closed / demolished


Photos that show this Place


The Peak Club

I know of no place where music, lanterns, romantic mountain scenery, seascapes far below and delightful society in an alien setting combine more pleasantly than at the Peak Club, Hongkong. Above the passing clouds which now and then whirl around as in Rubens' pictures, over the purple Pacific Ocean which foams around hilly islands, over the high hills as you ascend from the royal colony of Victoria, on a terrace, they have graded a velvet lawn. Here the military and naval bands are brought for a promenade concert in the soft night of the fragrant Orient, beneath Bowring's "wide Cathayan tree". The band of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, from Mt. Austin barracks, plays the stiring Welsh national march, The Men of Harlech. The men sing the chorus :

"See ! the bonfire light before ye.
How its fiery tongues do call ye.
Come as one to death or glory.
Heroes of the fisfht.

"Lest by fire they kill and plunder,
Harlech ! Harlech ! make them wonder
At thy power that none can sunder;
Freedom thou wilt eive."

Flowering plants in large colored Chinese kongs are set out everywhere. The stars and moon shine. The pictured lanterns gently swing, and the horn lanterns of Ningpo are opal soft. The light flashes from swords, uniforms and jewels. The blue-gowned Oriental servants noiselessly pass refreshments. Not a Chinese house is in view, though half a million Chinese live hidden in the foothills. On the hundred peaks of Hongkong Island, the lights of a hundred palaces and villas of the merchant princes shine out. Down the winding cement paths, chairs bearing lanterns and carrying guests are borne with their rhythmic swing.

Every lady and every man present has come from far, and knows much of life and geography. The conversation tires not, for there is something of great interest to tell. Kitchener's brother (Kitchener himself would not come — he never moves in "society") ;

General Wood, of the United States Army; Commander Greeley, United States Navy, of North Polar fame; Admiral Scott, of the British Navy, who invented the large gun "dotter" that made the heavy marksmanship possible, and whose 4.7 gun saved Ladysmith;

Nathan, the hero governor of the typhoon and Hankow holocaust; the governor of the Philippines at the far stretched-out line of America's new fame and empire;

Kipling himself full of his colored phrases; authors of books on China, many of whom live in Hongkong;

German, French and Russian commanders, whose impetuous ambition has made many moves that have nearly started world wars ; ordnance and commissariat colonels, who, without a hitch, have provisioned famous international military relief expeditions;

prince and pauper explorers who are one in the camaraderie of adventure for science ; curio collectors who are raking the world to enrich western museums with enravishing art; Pouting, the photographer who went with the intrepid Commander Scott to the South Pole;

seven-year indentured "griffins" who are second sons of noble houses and whose inheritance of style is a millstone around the necks of their impoverished incomes ; subalterns who are chafing at the bit to be let make a mark like Kitchener; visiting lieutenants from Manila who would emulate Funston in the Philippines ;

Japanese doctors who have beat the world in discovering Bacillariaceje ; Parsees who have founded universities and have, therefore, dined with "rny friend, the king" ; the merchant princes and the missionary apostles of China, whose knowledge would fill books; women of grace, beauty and learning, nibbling at sweet cinnamon, musk and lotus ; international spies of both sexes from the notorious Brussels headquarters; all move over the quiet grass, listening to the haunting strains of the bewitching music, which makes the heathen hills unalien under the swinging lanterns and the white-riding moon.

When you lift your glass to say ''prosit", "here's how", "a hon saute", or "here's to you, old man", with no national reservations, and a feeling that all traveled men are brothers; and some fraternally wider day possibly you will not shiver when John Celestial, Friend Nippon, and Aryan Bengal are admitted to the delightful company gathered under the whispering bamboos and floating sandal scent of the Peak Club of Hongkong.


An Englishman (few as there are in the East as compared with the Scotch), brings all his sporting and club impedimenta to the Orient. In a little vale at Hong Kong, between Mts. Kellett and Gough, sixteen hundred feet above the water, they have placed a bungalow club, which has a marvelous view of peaks, seas and land- locked bays. There is nothing like this view at those other famous oriental mountain retreats from the heat, such as Simla, Darjeeling and Namhan.

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Looking at the photo from Life showing the war damaged Peak Club, you can see part of the foundation of which it was built upon has been retained in today's Peak School. The bands of white on a granite base make it very recognisable upon which the present staff room (and in my days of going to the school, an underused kitchen area) is built upon. This is the side that you see when going up Plunkett's Road and I have always wondered why that particular part of the school looked so much older than the rest, now I know its been there twice as long.

The Peak Club was started by Thomas Jackson, of HSBC, but was open to anyone, not just HSBC staff.

After the war:

Despite the obvious need for a new and larger facility, the move to Plunketts Road was a long and arduous process, led by Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corp., obviously anxious to place the children of employees. The first offer of the HSBC Club House site for a new school was made in 1948 by the bank and turned down by the Department of Education, which felt the old school was adequate. At the time, there was an urgent need for Chinese schools, with over 30,000 local students entirely without any access to education. There was concern within the government about the appearance of investing in a new school for a privileged area. Finally, in late 1951, in an effort spearheaded by a particularly tenacious HSBC employee, A.S. Adamson, the bank offered not only to donate the club house land but also to put together a consortium of British companies to build the new school. In all, these companies raised HK$835,000 to build the new Peak School, which upon completion was taken over by the colonial government.

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Sir Thomas Jackson, then Chief Manager of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, was behind the establishment of the Peak Club and served as its president for 9 years until his retirement in 1902.

The Club began in temporary accommodation in 1893.

Much to the chagrin of senior Government officials who looked forward to having a retreat on the Peak during the hot summers, the Peak Club leased the Government Pavilions on Mt. Kellett for three years 1897 in a private deal with the Governmor, and the Club then began negoitation in 1898 with Government for lot # 62, where the Peak School now stands, adjacent to Mr. Jackson's home, Creggan.

(Chronicle and Directory for China ... 1906)

"The Peak Club, which had been lodged in temporary quarters for several years, has now been domiciled in a neat building just below Craigieburn Hotel. It was erected in 1902.

The Peak Club is domiciled in a new and pretty building completed in 1903, at Plunkett Gap, and possesses tennis and croquet lawns on land adjoining. "

On a more prosaic note, precious water to be used simply for urinals for the Peak Club was considered sufficiently noteworthy to be reported in 1913 in the newspaper.

A Photo of a tennis party at the Peak Club c.1921 is in the Public Records Office.

The Peak Club was liquidated in 1951.

IDJ has sent in an interesting summary of the club from 1908:

Mon, 09/22/2014 - 20:53
Peak Club description, 1908

Photo courtesy of reader IDJ.

The content originally appeared in "Twentieth Century Impressions of Hong Kong, Shanghai and other Treaty Ports of China", Published in 1908. A condensed re-print is available for purchase from Graham Brash in Singapore.

Date picture taken
Shows place(s)

He also mentioned an interesting, though unlikely, story of a plane landing on its lawns:

When compiling the book Wings Over Hong Kong we acquired journal notes written by the first aviator Van Den Born to fly in Hong Kong at Shatin in 1911. These were in French and the translation described him flying up to the Peak Club for lunch by landing on the lawns.
I've always been very sceptical about this flight as nothing is mentioned in the Press where it would be regarded as a bigger event than the flight at Shatin.