Kowloon British School [1902- ]

Submitted by annelisec on Sat, 09/18/2010 - 10:27
Current condition
In use
Date completed

1894 - British Kowloon College (destroyed 1896)

  new building built

1902 - various names

 Kowloon College at the opening

 Kowloon British School

 Central British School

moved out 1936

Photos that show this Place


The Antiquities and Monuments Office website says it is a 'declared monument', and gives this description:

This is the oldest surviving school building constructed for foreign residents living in Hong Kong. In 1900, Mr. Ho Tung (later Sir Robert) donated $15,000 to the Government to erect a school in Kowloon. The building was officially opened on 19 April 1902. It is a typical Victorian structure, but was modified to adapt to local climatic conditions by adding wide verandas, high ceilings and pitched roofs. After proper restoration, it houses the Antiquities and Monuments Office.

The well attended formal opening of the "Kowloon School" took place on the Saturday afternoon of 19th April 1902 - a gift from Mr. Ho Tung for the education of European children in the colony of Hong Kong.

The foundation stone was laid on 20th July 1900 by Sir Henry Blake.

The school was formally opened by Major General Sir William Gascoigne, K.C.M.G., Officer Administrating the Government of Hong Kong using a ceremonial silver key.

Mr and Mrs James were the school's first headmaster and head mistress; Mr James had previosuly taught at Queen's College in Hong Kong.


Source: The Hong Kong Telegraph, page 2, 21st April 1902  




Amid King’s weather, the formal opening of the new Kowloon School, the munificent gift of Mr. Ho Tung took place on Saturday afternoon. A large gathering, thoroughly representative of the Colony witnessed the proceedings, whilst the fair sex, especially the Kowloon residents, mustered in strong force. The preliminary ceremony took place on the grounds outside the school, where an enclosure had been erected, set off with flags their various colours, coupled with the dresses of the ladies, forming quite an imposing scene. His Excellency the Officer Administering the Government Major-General Sir W.J. Gascoigne, K.C.M.G. presided, and among others present were: -

Lady Gascoigne, Mr. Ho Tung, Mrs. Ho Tung and the two Misses Ho Tung, Hon. W. Meigh Goodman, K.O., Chief Justice, Hon. Dr. Ho Kai, Hon. J.H. Stewart Lockhart and Mrs. Stewart Lockhart, Sir Thomas Jackson, Hon. T.H. Whitehad, Hon. R.R. Murray Rumsey, Hon. C.P. Chater, Commodore Robinson and Mrs. Robinson, Hon. H.W. Trefusis, A.D.C., Rev. T.W. Pearce, Mr. Wm. Parlane, Mr. A.G. Wise, Acting Attorney-General, Mr. and Mrs. C. Ford, Mr. and Mrs. H.P. Tooker, Mr. T.K. Dealy, Mr. T. Sercombe Smith, the Rt. Rev. Bishop Piarroli, Mr. B. James and Mrs. James, Mr. S.W. Tso, Mr. F.J. Badeley, Mr. R.F. Johnston, Mr. Norton Kyshe, Mr. G.J.W. King, Hon. Wei Yu, Mr. A.J. Raymond, Mr. A.H. Rennie, Mr. G.M. Billings, Dr. Wight, Major Beiger, Col. and Mrs. Bailke, A.G. Romano, Mr. and Mrs. J.J. Leiria, Mr. and Mrs. A. Seth, Mr. and Mrs. J.R. Michael, Mr. G.C.C. Master, Lau Chu-Pak, Mrs. Bateman, Messrs. Ho Fook, Ho Kom Tong, Leung Shiu Kong, Fung Wah Chun, Lo Kon Ting, Yung Hin Pong, Choa Lup Chi, Wong Kam Fook, Lo Chi Jin, Pang Shau-chun, Sin Takfan, Chan H’ewan, Leung Pin Chi, Tso Sin Wan, Lau Chin Ting, and Dr. Wan Tun Ho, Messrs. Lau Wan Kai, Yuen Lai Chuen, Kwok Siu Lau, Wei Lun Shek, Lau Wei Cheung, Wei Long Shan and Lau Chu Pak.

Rev. T.W. Pearce opened the proceedings, and said – Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Ho Tung, the large-hearted, public-spirited donor of the Kowloon School, has done me the honour of asking me to take part in this afternoon’s proceedings. Mine is the pleasing duty of saying at the outset, in a few words, which the Inspector of School – who is now on his way to Europe on furlough – would have said with more point, and to more good purpose, that your Excellency’s presence here to-day, to perform this function of opening the Kowloon School, is highly gratifying to all friends of education in the Colony. To the Kowloon residents the occasion that brings us together is specially auspicious. They derive much satisfaction from the fact that this building, the foundation stone which was laid two years ago by Sir Henry Blake, is to be formally opened to-day by your Excellency. There is a phrase of Lord Brougham that has become historic – a phrase that has to do with education – “Let the soldier be abroad if he will, he can do nothing in this age. There is another personage, a personage less imposing in the eyes of some, perhaps insignificant. The schoolmaster is abroad and I trust him, armed with his primer, against the soldier.” When we in this Colony link in our thought the soldier with the school master it will not be that we may set the one against the other. It will be on pride to remember that so distinguished a soldier was so true a friend of the school master. The school which your Excellency is to receive, on behalf of the Colony, from the hands of Mr. Ho Tung, marks a new departure in the history of education in Hongkong. It is a school to provide education for children of European parentage. The principle on which the school is based is that the plan of instruction must be suited to the station of the pupils, the views of parents, the genius of the children. Nationality, constitution and inclination alike have been consulted. It is felt to be of the first importance that these children, destined we trust to remain in Hongkong and to occupy useful, it may be superior, stations here, should enjoy such advantages as this school is well-fitted to afford. This, sir, is the principle conceded by the Government, subject to the approval of His Majesty’s Secretary of State for the Colonies. It would not be possible in the time allotted to me to trace the history of the movement extending over a number of years that has led up to this Kowloon School. That movement will form a not uninstructive chapter in the story of education in this Colony.

It is timely, however, to remind ourselves that right views of education are developed gradually and that methods have to be tested step by step before they can be pronounced sound. When the British flag was first hoisted on this island education of the kind contemplated in this school scarcely existed in the Homeland. Far reaching changes and marvellous progress in this science have characterised the last sixty years. It is not too much to say that whole system of primary education in England has grown up during the last sixty years. There is one point of comparison that suggests itself to me, and it will serve as an illustration in Hongkong. As I understand it, the law of England at the time when this Colony became a British possession is the law of Hongkong to-day, with such additions, changes, and emendations as have been found necessary from time to time as years have gone by. The course of education has been analogous. At an early period in the history of Hongkong certain educational facilities were placed within the reach of all; and the school system established then has been maintained and improved in a manner creditable for the most part to all concerned in its working, when the many sided aspects of this question in to cosmopolitan a community are kept in view. If advance has not been so rapid as some have thought to be desirable and practicable the fact is due to conditions which rendered the problem peculiarly intricate. We believe the present school to be thoroughly up to date, both as regards the building itself and the instruction to be carried on with it; and we shall all watch with keen sympathetic interest the work of education on these new lines. Your Excellency, acceding to the request of the request of the Government to make this a school for European children only, Mr. Ho Tung has put himself by imagination and sympathy in the place of a section of the community to which he does not himself belong. In doing so he has, I think, set an example of broad-minded liberality which we shall do well to imitate. It is seemly and fitting that I make this acknowledgement. If Mr. Ho Tung consents that his school be for European children on condition that the Government builds at Yaumati a similar school for Chinese children he does something to unite two sections of this community in good-will and kindly relations which I trust we shall all do our best to maintain. Education is a sphere where such relations can be cultivated to advantage. Let us say ungrudgingly and unhesitatingly that we will do our best for the education of all, under the best conditions, even if like Mr. Ho Tung we have to give up something in order to accomplish our purpose. There is only one other point on which I need touch. The education of a boy or girl depends in the main on two elements. The direct instruction given and received; and the indirect influences under which a child is placed whilst receiving that education. In the master and mistress of the Kowloon School, Mr. and Mrs. James, the community and the Government have a warrant and assurance both as to the teaching itself and as to the indirect influence under which that teaching will be given. Mr. James is known in the Colony. The efficient service he rendered at Queen’s College and the position he won there in the esteem of masters and boys points him out as the right man in the right place. (Applause.) In Mrs. James, whose high qualifications and experience fit her for the task she has undertaken, the Government has secured an accomplished schoolmistress. The success of the school should be manifest from the beginning and should be greater as Mr. and Mrs. James continue their labours, which we trust they may be spared to do during many years. Your Excellency will observe that in this building everything is provided that may contribute to the discipline, comfort, and decency of the school. We are, I think, justified in the hope and expectation that the institution will prosper, that Mr. Ho Tung will see his generous gift used to the best advantage, that here will be trained many loyal patriots, faithful citizens, and good men and women, who by the instruction they receive in this school will be fitted to adorn any station in life to which they may be called, and so contribute largely to the well-being and prosperity of the Colony. (Appluase.) Mr. Ho Tung will now, with your Excellency’s permission, hand over the school building to you for behoof of the Colony. (Applause.)

Mr. Ho Tung said – Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen, - it is not quite two years ago since His Excellency Sir Henry Blake was pleased to perform the first public function in connection with the building standing before us now, by laying its foundation stone on the 20th July, 1900. And to-day, in the absence of His Excellency in England in connection with that most auspicious occasion for the whole of the British people, the coronation of our King, your Excellency, as Officer Administering the Government, has kindly consented to identify yourself with its next most important function – the formal opening of the institution which will hereafter be known as the Kowloon School. It is specially pleasing that this ceremony can be associated with Your Excellency’s temporary administration, inasmuch as your presence here to-day furnished a predical evidence of your Excellency’s desire to pursue the same progressive policy in the matter of education which His Excellency sir Henry Blake keenly advocates. This manifestation on the part of your Excellency of a sympathy not only with the material but also with the intellectual advancement of the young people of this Colony, is, I feel sure, very highly appreciated. I have now the honour and the pleasure to hand to you, sir, the key and to ask you formally the open to Kowloon School. In handing the building over to the Government I cannot but express my sense of very great pleasure that this small gift to the Colony of Hongkong has been accepted as a result of a satisfactory compromise between the Government and myself. There can be no doubt that the ultimate issue of this compromise will be the better education of the Chinese in the Peninsula  - a betterment commensurate with the success which must inevitably follow the enthusiasm evinced by the parents of those children for whom this school is to be maintained. I see Mr. James, the Headmaster of the Kowloon School, is here present to-day. He will, no doubt, see that his school places within the reach of the youths of Kowloon easy means for the acquisition of knowledge: one, I say, of the ends of the educational efforts of our schools and colleges. But above all, I trust that he will regard as its chief end the formation of those right moral habits which experience has shown to be of real value in maintaining a true manhood, in the midst of the traps, pitfalls, and allurements of modern life, and without which an essential part of a true education will have failed of attainment. By a true and complete education which has been defined as “a growth, a development, an evlution” (sic) (using the term evolution in a restricted sense) “of all the possibilities which God has implanted in our nature; the unifying of these possibilities subording them all to the control of the will; in short, the crystallisation of all these possibilities into a pure and noble character.” The acquisition of such an ideal education is as one must be only too conscious, difficult of accomplishment; but nothing really worth having can be obtained without some earnest effort; and these efforts must be directed not by teachers only but by parents and pupils themselves, with whom rest the power and the will to justify the establishment and the maintenance of the very first institution in the Colony to inaugurate an important departure from the path hitherto pursued in regard to education in Hongkong (Applause.) It is now my honour and privilege to ask you to accept this key with which to open the school and this tray as a souvenir of the occasion. (Applause.)

The key, made of silver, bore the following inscription: - “Kowloon School, opened 19th of April, 1902, by His Excellency Major General Sir William Julian Gascoigne, K.C.M.G., Officer Administering the Government of Hongkong.” A similar inscription appeared on the silver tray.

His Excellency – Mr. Ho Tung and gentlemen, I can assure you it has been a very great pleasure and privilege to me to be asked to come here to-day to take part in this ceremony – a ceremony unique of its kind, insomuch as I understand that this is the first civil European school that has been opened not only in Kowloon but in the Colony of Hongkong. I can assure you, Mr. Ho Tung, that I have watched with a great deal of interest the growth of this building from the time that His Excellency Sir Henry Blake two years ago laid the foundation stone, and I was looking forward with considerable anticipation to the day when the last stone would be laid and the building declared open to those pupils for whom it was intended; and I feel I am extraordinarily lucky in that that day has occurred during my short term of administrating the Government. Ladies and genetlemen (sic), there are certain features about this school I should wish to call special attention to. This school originates in the munificent generosity of a gentleman – a Chinese gentleman by birth and a British subject – who has identified himself in every way with the interests of the community. Well, the gift to begin with was a munificent one. But after the gift had been made it was thought by the Government – I thought – I should approach Mr. Ho Tung with a view to modifying in some way the conditions on which it was first presented. Well, ladies and gentlemen, when any one makes a very handsome gift and then after it has been accepted the person accepting it begins to make conditions, it would be not unnatural perhaps that the giver might have a certain feeling, not perhaps of annoyance, but a sort of feeling of surprise. On the contrary, Mr. Ho Tung, having heard the arguments of the Government, with a liberal-minded generosity that I think is seldom surpassed, at once came into these views. We approached him somewhat diffidently, but he met us more than half way, with the result that this school – this magnificent school as it appears to me – which you see now, is to be used by European children, and the Government, on its side, has pledged itself to take care of the Chinese resident in the neighbourhood. So that Mr. Ho Tung in his munificent generosity has not only got what he desired, a school that would benefit Europeans and Chinese alike, but he has met the Government in a double sense; and I feel sure that such an exhibition of generosity, liberal-minded generosity, will appeal most strongly to every one of my hearers to-day. I congratulate you most heartily, Mr. Ho Tung, on the site you have chosen. I am only a soldier passing through Hongkong, but I have got many ideas about what Hongkong will be in the future; and I cannot help thinking myself that Kowloon will some day very shortly surprise everybody by the extraordinary strides it will make. I think you, Mr. Ho Tung, yourself in the speech you made at the laying of the foundation stone, referred to Kowloon as a suburb of Hongkong, Well, it has been a beautiful suburb of Hongkong. It still is a very pretty suburb of Hongkong, but I cannot help thinking that in the near future, before very many years, anybody coming to describe Kowloon will talk about it as the workshop of Hongkong, I think it is impossible not to see how these strides will go in Kowloon, and therefore I think that a gift of this kind, which will increase the educational facilities of the residents of Kowloon, is an enormous boon to those residents. I congratulate you also, Mr. Ho Tung, on the choice of the headmaster, Mr. James. As was said by Mr. Pearce, Mr. James is no stranger to Hongkong. But from what I know, and from all I hear of him, I fancy that we have got a most excellent man to do the work that is set before him; and I also hope that that work will not be uncongenial to him. When Mr. James left Hongkong to take up another appointment he left the Colony alone. He has returned to the Colony with Mrs. James, and I venture to say from what I know and from what I hear of Mrs. James, that she will be a fitting helpmate to him in the work that lies before them both. I think we are very fortunate indeed in having secured both their services in this excellent public school. (Applause.) Ladies and gentlemen, I do not propose to detain you very much longer. I will only say this, I think anybody who sees as we all see here, the enormous strides that are being made every day in this Colony, will recognise that of all things we should keep pace with these strides in the matter of education. I certainly am strongly in favour of giving all possible facilities for education. When one finds the number of people that come to Hongkong and Kowloon increasing, one must feel that these must bring with them a number of parents whose children are growing up in Hongkong; and the boon that it will be to those parents to get education for their children on the spot – it is impossible almost to say how great that boon will be. Well, if you agree with me that we have every reason to be grateful to Mr. Ho Tung for his munificent present, your way of showing your gratitude will be by patronising thoroughly the school, by giving it every chance of success; and as I prophesy that before many years are out this school as it appears to us to-day, will scarcely be sufficient for the wants of Kowloon, I need only say that the record of Mr. Ho Tung’s generosity will find others equally liberal-minded and equally generous with himself to follow in his footsteps, and, if occasion requires, to make equally munificent and practical bequests. (Applause.) Ladies and gentlemen I would like now, if I may, to lead you up to the school so as to declare it formally open. (Applause.)

The company then walked up to the door of the school, and His Excellency performed the ceremony of unlocking it and declaring the school open, the consummation of the ceremonial being greeted with cheers.

Cake and wine were afterwards served in the large class-room, which was elaborately decorated for the occasion. Here.

His Excellency proposed the toast of prosperity to the school and the health of Mr. Ho Tung in the words – I drink prosperity to the school and also the health and prosperity of its giver, Mr. Ho Tung.

The toast was duly honoured.

Mr. Ho Tung in reply said – Your Excellency, I thank you most heartily for the honour you have done me in proposing the toast of my health, and you, ladies and gentlemen, for the kind manners in which you have received it. I trust that the school will prosper and be a boon to the inhabitants of Kowloon. (Applause.) This concluded to proceedings, and the company gradually dispersed. It may be mentioned that prior to and after the ceremonies, photos were taken by Mee Cheong.

I have chosen to put the following snippet here rather than under the Central British School/King George V School gwulo node because in 1931 the Central British School was based here on Nathan Road. But I think those interested in KGV's history would be interested in this.

"We heartily welcome the appearance of another school magazine, The Lion, the first number of which is to hand. It is the organ of the Central British School, which has risen since 1919 from a school of approximately 100 students, the majority of whom were in kindergarten or junior classes, to a secondary school with 240 pupils on the roll. Comprising fifty pages, the first issue contains many interesting contributions from students, covering a wide variety of subjects. We wish the venture every success."

Source: The Hong Kong Telegraph, page 6, 11th May 1931

The following text appeared in the article about the opening of the new Central British School, on p. 6 of The China Mail, 1936-09-15:

History Of Old Building

The building, in Nathan Road which the new Central British School replaces is now 34 years old.

It was opened by Maj. Gen. Sir William Julius Gascoigne on April 19, 1902.

It is interesting to note that the building in which girls and boys of British parentage in Hong Kong have received their education for the past three decades was erected and presented to the Colony of Hong Kong by Sir Robert Ho Tung.

Mr. B. James was the first Head Master and was succeeded by Mrs. Main as Head Mistress. In October, 1919, Mr. G. Franklin Nightingale, who recently retired, was appointed. He was succeeded by the present Head Master, Mr. G. E. S. Upsdell. Therefore, in the 34 years of Central British School, there have been only four Heads.

Students Increase

In February, 1921, owing to the great increase in the number of children attending the School, the Junior section, consisting of 60 boys and girls, was transferred to the Army School building at Gun Club Hill, Kowloon.

An annexe consisting of five Class Rooms was opened early in 1924, and four extra Class Rooms were added in 1928. A Physics Laboratory was opened in December, 1923, and a Chemical Laboratory in December, 1924.

Accommodation, however, has been severely overtaxed for the past 10 years and it has been evident for some time that Government would have to find better accommodation for the kiddies.

Present Staff

The present Central British School staff is:—

  • Headmaster:- Rev. G. E. S. Upsdell, M.A., H.C.F., Comp. L.E.E.

Masters: —

  • G. F. ??es, B.Sc. (Hons.), Dip. ED, Wales;
  • W Mulcahy, M.A. (Hons.), Dip. TH., Dunelm;
  • D. McLellan, B.A.;
  • D. Orr, M.SC., Dip. ED., Melbourne;


  • M. B. Hall, A.R.D.S.;
  • N. W. Bascombe, B.A. (London), Dip. ED. (Camb.);
  • P. W. Brown, M.B.E., B.A. (Manchester), Dip. ED. (Oxon);
  • K. P. Curtin, B.A. (Hons.), London;
  • W. M. Marsh, B.A. (Hons.), Birmingham;
  • M. Heap, B.A., (Hons.), London;
  • L. R. Sinclair, M.A., B. Sc., Dip. ED.;
  • M. Cooper;
  • E. M. Hill;
  • H. O’Connor;
  • H. M. Prophet.