Rollitt family in Hong Kong, sometime between 1911 to 1921 | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Rollitt family in Hong Kong, sometime between 1911 to 1921

ROLLITT family time in Hong Kong

I would appreciate anyone’s feedback on how to research my grandfather and my great-grandparents who were based in Hong Kong sometime between 1911 and 1921.  

It is this period of their lives that I have particular interest in.

My great grandparents:

•    William Henry Rollitt

  • Born 23rd Apr 1883, Holbeck, Yorkshire, West Riding, United Kingdom.
  • Died 29 Jul 1929, Leeds, Yorkshire, United Kingdom.
  • Known as Dan

•    Edith Minks 

  • Born 22 May 1884, Colchester, Essex, United Kingdom.  
  • Died 22 Oct 1922, Woolwich, Kent, United Kingdom.

My grandfather:

•    William Gordon Rollitt

  • Born 4 May 1907, Colchester, Essex, United Kingdom.
  • Died 25 Sep 1992, Auckland, New Zealand.  
  • Known as Gordon.

My granduncles:

•    Leonard Arthur Rollitt

  • Born 23 Mar 1911, Colchester Essex, United Kingdom.  
  • Died 25 Aug 1980, New Zealand.  
  • Known as Len.

•    Derek Frank Rollitt 

  • Born 7 Oct 1922, born Woolwich, Kent, United Kingdom.  
  • Died 21 Dec 1984, New Zealand.

From what I have been able to research and from conversations and recollections of my mother, 


The 1911 England Census shows the family living at 97 Lisle Road, Colchester, Essex.

England Census 1911.png
England Census 1911.png, by Samantha Yates

25 May 1921 

William Henry Rollitt, along with his family (Edith Rollitt (nee Minks), William Gordon Rollitt and Leonard Arthur Rollitt) returned to London from military duty where they had been based in Hong Kong.  The name of the ship was The Kyber.  

William's profession is noted on the ships log as being a military audit clerk.

The Kyber passenger list.png
The Kyber passenger list.png, by Samantha Yates

I have not been able to ascertain when they left the United Kingdom for Hong Kong or how long they were there.  I can only surmount that it was sometime between the above dates of 1911 and 1921.

My great grandfather William Henry Rollitt was a sergeant with the Army Pay Corps.

I understand they had two homes in Hong Kong which were perhaps owned by the military?  One, 'up high' for the winter months and one, 'down low' for the summer.

We recently uncovered the attached photo of one of their homes in Hong Kong.  Presumably this is the ‘up high’ property.

Help with locating this area in Hong Kong
Help with locating this area in Hong Kong, by william00179

This photo was recently posted on Reddit and Gwulo and the following amazing information has been deduced from that posting…...

Edge Hill
Permalink Submitted by PhongHighlight on Sun, 2021-08-01 00:20.

After some back and forward it is conclusive that the building in the foreground is Edge Hill, formerly 6A, then 10, then 12, The Peak. The site is now 16 Mount Austin Road.
You can see the shared detail from the picture of the Umbrella Seat here, including the fences, mailbox and fences on top of the retaining wall-
The 1924 map of the peak shows the lot RBL 130 (now RBL 913) just beside the Umbrella Seat

And the address history/building name of the lot appears here

Bishop's Lodge is the building in the background, and can be seen from a similar angle here

This appears to be the first clear image on site of Edge Hill.

I have also attached a photo of the family living in Hong Kong.

Rollitt family.png
Rollitt family.png, by Samantha Yates

Back row left: William Henry Rollitt, William Gordon Rollitt, unknown

Front row left: Edith Rollitt, Leonard Arthur Rollitt, unknown 

Other information that we know of their time in Hong Kong is that William Henry Rollitt was involved and high up in the racing industry - believed to be associated with Happy Valley.  

Also that my grandfather, William Gordon Rollitt was head choir boy at St John's Cathedral. We do not know which school the two sons (William Gordon and Leonard Arthur Rollitt) attended.

If anyone is able to assist into further aspects of their lives in Hong Kong it would be greatly appreciated.   

Specifically how to research their military life and movements, along with their involvement in both the racing industry, St John’s Cathedral and the boys schooling.


Hi Samantha,

Thanks for sharing the information and photos. I've got a few more ideas about this photo you added:

Help with locating this area in Hong Kong


The building on the left has been identified as Edgehill. However I don't think it is where your great-grandfather would have lived as houses on the Peak were - and still are - the most expensive places to live in Hong Kong.

Was there any note written on the back of the photo describing the scene?

The light-coloured shape in the foreground is the roof of the Umbrella Seat. The photographer would have to be somewhere high up to look down on that roof.

In this postcard from the 1910s we get a glimpse of half of the umbrella seat at the very left edge of the scene, about a quarter way up from the bottom.

1910s Mount Austin Barracks
1910s Mount Austin Barracks, by moddsey

The large building to the right of the umbrella seat was the British army's Mount Austin Barracks, and the section of the building closest to the umbrella seat was the married quarters. If you stood on the balcony at the end of the married quarters you'd look out over the umbrella seat, and see the view shown in your great grandfather's photo. So I believe that he lived with his family in the married quarters in Mount Austin Barracks, rather than in Edgehill.

One other idea:

I understand they had two homes in Hong Kong which were perhaps owned by the military?  One, 'up high' for the winter months and one, 'down low' for the summer.

It might have been the other way round, moving uphill to the Mount Austin Barracks to escape the summer heat, and then back down to one of the army's other barracks (eg the Murray or Victoria Barracks) in the cooler weather.

If you have any other photos you can share from their time in Hong Kong, it'll be great to see them.

Regards, David

Hi David

Thank you for your further comments which leave many unanswered questions.

There is writing on the back of the photo that says 'Home in Hong Kong' and both my mother and uncle (William Gordon Rollitt's), daughter and son believe that this was the house that their father and grandparents lived in, in Hong Kong.

Kind regards


Hi Samantha, I've created a page for your ggrandfather William Henry Rollitt . Thanks for sharing your family's story in HK with the community here. Hopefully more information about his stay in Hong Kong will emerge in the future.