Photo (10): Pedder Street

Submitted by David on Mon, 11/16/2020 - 20:00

Four buildings, a uniform, and a 'traffic stave' will pin down the date of the photo in this second extract from the new Gwulo book.




This time we’re looking along Pedder Street in the opposite direction, across Des Voeux Road towards Queen’s Road. That means the Hong Kong Hotel is on the left, where The Landmark stands today.

We’re obviously several years later than the previous photo as Jardine House in the right foreground is all finished, and motor cars have appeared on the roads. The police have had to adapt to the changes: we can see there’s now a traffic policeman at the junction, standing with his back to us.



He gives us two clues to help us date the photo. First, he’s wearing the ‘new’ uniform, introduced at the start of 1920. Second, he is holding a black and white striped stick he uses to direct the traffic. These sticks, known as ‘traffic staves’, were first introduced in 1922, so the photo can’t be older than that.

Four buildings will give us more clues. First are the three new buildings highlighted here.



From left to right they’re the Asiatic Building (later renamed as Shell House), the China Building, and finally Pedder Building, still with us and closing in on its 100th birthday. All three buildings were completed in 1924. Two years later, on New Year’s Day of 1926, the nearest section of the Hong Kong Hotel was gutted by fire. This photo must have been taken between those events, likely in 1925.

Comparing the hotel with the previous photo, I noticed they’d changed their lamps. The 1908 lamps were very attractive, hanging from long cables to cast their light over the pavement.



The 1925 design kept the curved wall mounting, but used a plain, glass globe.



I can’t be sure why they changed, but I guess that heavy, glass lamps hanging from long cables lost their appeal when the first typhoon struck!

This photo’s shoulder poles aren’t easy to spot because the people carrying them are so small – they’re probably just children. One carrier is at the very left edge of the photo and the other, even shorter but wearing the same style hat, is behind the rickshaw puller.




This photo and its story come from the second section of Gwulo's new book, Volume 4 of Old Hong Kong Photos and The Tales They Tell. That section's photos all show people using shoulder poles to carry various loads. One discovery that surprised me is how all the heavy items delivered to the grand mansions on the Peak used to be carried up the steep hill paths on shoulder poles, and usually by women.

Volume 4 of Old Hong Kong Photos and The Tales They Tell is available to order direct from Gwulo.


Further reading: