Subterranean Star Street | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong
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Subterranean Star Street

If you live or work around Star Street, Wanchai, I guess the tunnel you're most interested in is the new one that will link Pacific Place 3 to the Admiralty MTR. But did you know you're also next to one of the old wartime tunnel networks, built as air-raid shelters for the public to use during the second world war?

Here is a rough outline of the original tunnel layout, drawn in red lines on Google's map of the area. The main road at the top of the picture is Queensway / Hennessy Road, then below the tunnels you can see the curve of Kennedy Road:

Most of this tunnel network was cut out of solid rock, so should be in relatively good condition. However construction of several new tower blocks in the area means there are not many external signs of the network left. There is only one of the original six portals remaining. Walk up to the top of Electric Street and look along the back of the building to your left. There you'll see portal 60:

Star Street Air-Raid Tunnels

The gate to the alley was not locked so I could take a closer look. It looks as though a section of lighter-coloured bricks near the bottom have been replaced relatively recently?

Star Street Air-Raid Tunnels

On the right of Electric Street would have been portals 58 & 59, but there is no sign of them now. They were removed when the slope was excavated. I wasn't expecting to find any sign of portals 55-57 either, as the Star Crest residential development has been built where they were located. However if you walk up the short dead-end street to the East of Star Crest, you'll see a metal door set into the back wall.

Star Street Air-Raid Tunnels

Star Street Air-Raid Tunnels

When the tunnels were built, the shrine in this picture was just in front of the original rock face and portal. You can see the current door is some distance back from the shrine, showing the excavation that was done in preparation for Star Crest.

Star Street Air-Raid Tunnels

This door fronts the tunnel that would have emerged at portal 57. You cannot see inside, but there seemed to be a steady flow of water running out from the tunnel.

If you walk along to the other end of Star Crest, you'll see Monmouth Path, which leads up to Kennedy Road. Follow the path up the hill a short way and just past the limit of the Star Crest development you'll see a small old building:

Star Street Air-Raid Tunnels

It covers the top of the tunnels' ventilation shaft, and is similar in style to the one at Mount Parish. The difference is that ths one has a doorway, though it is blocked up now.

Star Street Air-Raid Tunnels

Poking the camera over the edge gives this picture. 

Star Street Air-Raid Tunnels

You can just see the cutout for the door on the right, and marks in the wall below it which would probably have been the rungs of a ladder. There is a lot of debris at the bottom. It doesn't look like the tunnel floor, so it's not clear if the debris has piled up from the floor to this point, or if it is resting on some sort of net/mesh cover set into the shaft.

There is less to see here than at the other tunnels we've looked at. It would be very interesting to hear from anyone that spent time in them. They were behind the front line at the time of surrender, so I guess they would have been used right up to that point.

Comments

High on a hill was a lonely goatherd Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo Yep, goatherds! This area to the north of Queen's Road East was one of the first to be settled in the 1840's and it's interesting history includes a time when Ship Street was home to dairies, and Wanchai boasted seven goatherds. The goats were originally left to roam free on the hillside, until their appetites brought them into conflict with the government's Botanical Department. In 1877 the department had planted 1,700 fir trees above Kennedy Road - and the goats promptly ate them all! I guess that goat stew was on the menu shortly after that episode. Moving West fom Ship Street, a map of 1843 shows that the hillside above Queen's Rd E. was the site of the first Roman Catholic and Protestant burial grounds. These were shortlived, as they were closed when the Colonial cemetery opened in Happy Valley in 1845, though the Catholic church stayed on in that area. St. Francis Street leads up the hill, with St Francis Yard on the right. That was the site of the St Francis Xavier Chapel in 1864, though the congregation has since moved up the hill to Star Street with a change of name to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. Walk along Star Street and you'll come to Electric Street, mentioned above as the site of the remaining tunnel portal. This is where the Protestant cemetery was located, and then later became the site of Hong Kong Electric's first power plant - hence the name. On the right, Moon Street and Sun Street complement Star Street. I wonder how these streets got their names? They seem rather whimsical compared to the usual choice of Hong Kong street name. These few snippets of information come from a much longer piece titled 'Wanchai: In search of an Identity' by Carl T. Smith. It gets a bit stodgy at places listing who bought which building from whom, but still it's a very good read if you're interested in Wanchai's history. And hats off to Rev'd Smith for pulling all this information together in the 1980's, before there was any online searching available. You can read the full piece in the book "Hong Kong: A Reader in Social History", from Oxford University Press. MrB

Reading "Three-Character Classic" (or Trimetric Classic) this Chinese classic texts, you may find: " The three luminaries (other translation says lights) , are the sun, the moon and the stars." Don't forget it is the site of Hong Kong Electric's first power plant. Power Plant brings light, and so the streets got their names.

During the recent confined spaces worker training we heard some interesting stories about these tunnels.

First, I suggest above that the shrine was built before, or about the same time as these tunnels. The story we were told is that there were executions comitted by the Japanese in these tunnels, leading to a reputation that the tunnels were haunted. The shrine was built as a result of this, to placate the restless ghosts inside the tunnels.

Also, although there's no sign of portals 55 or 56, we were shown a photo of metal door fronting one of those tunnels, that opens inside the Star Crest building.

There is no doubt that some parts of this old Wanchai Quarter have a certain creepy and sombre atmosphere, thats never been fully explained.

Wander up to Nam Koo Terrace/ Ship Street, pathways and lanes and you will feel it for sure, or even the St James settlement/ Kennedy Road area, or behind Wanchai Temple.

There is an eerie stillness, lack of sunlight, air of dampness and decay, thats in complete contrast to the lively hustle and bustle of Queens Road East just a street below...

Whether it the formal burial grounds, or the tunnel massacres, or the bad karma associated with Nam Koo Terrace and its wartime usage, I don't know, or maybe its all in the imagination!

Would make a good Historical Ghost walk for sure.

Rgds

J

 

Hi All. I was scanning through this thread and I found it quite intruiging. I had no idea these tunnels existed under Star Street. I was recently walking along ship street and saw some military esque structures in a construction site. I posted pictures and comments here: http://gwulo.com/node/32302 . Although someone suggested it was an old Kennedy Road mansion, it does look very military. I was thinking that these tunnels could have a relationship with these structures. If anyone has any ideas, please comment as I am very curious to the nature of my recent discovery.

Thanks

The link to Google Map for the network of tunnels doesn't seem to work anymore.  Hard to see how it may be linked to the stuff on Ship Street.

breskvar

The Google Map should be working again now.