Category Archives: HK Buildings

The Blake Pier

Most visitors to Hong Kong know that Queen’s Pier, dismantled last year and now in safe storage, was once the designated landing point for royalty, gov-ernors and other VIPs; and, rightly in my view, it deserves its place in the history books.

The Blake Pier in its new Stanley home

The Blake Pavilion in its new Stanley home

Yet, not many know that, before the original Queen’s Pier was built, the reception point for visiting digni-taries and colonial governors was the Blake Pier, built in 1900, at the end of Pedder Street – which shows just how reclamation has changed the harbour front.

At first, the Blake Pier had no cover. But, in 1909, an Edwardian-style, structural steel pavilion was built on top, providing grateful travellers with shelter from the elements.

However, nothing in this world is permanent, and the pier was demolished in 1965 – but the pavilion was preserved: it was dismantled and rebuilt in Morse Park, in Wong Tai Sin, where for the next forty years it served as a rather grand park shelter.

A view showing the steel roof trusses

A view showing the steel roof trusses

Then, in 2006, as part of the plan to beautify and revitalise the water-front at Stanley, the Blake Pavilion (as it’s now called) was again dis-mantled and relocated. Now fully restored to its original condition, and standing proudly next to Murray House (another example of Hong Kong’s heritage), it once again shelters a ferry pier.

The Hong Kong government is not famous for preserving the heritage of Hong Kong (in fact, it has often shown great insensitivity on the subject) but – praise where praise is due – it’s done a good job of work in Stanley.

When you have a day to spare, I recommend you visit Stanley … it’s well worth the trip.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Take the No.6 bus from the Central Bus Station, which is under Exchange Square, next to the IFC building.

For the best views going to Stanley, sit on the upper deck on the right-hand side. Left-hand side on the way back.

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Save the RAF hangar!

The sun’s shining and I’m in the middle of a peaceful, green haven in Diamond Hill; a secluded island encircled by Lung Cheung Road and Choi Hung Road. I can hear the birds singing, yet, to my surprise, I cannot hear the traffic.

Towering above me is the former RAF hangar that’s been standing here for more than sixty years. But, Mother Nature is beginning to reclaim the ground on which it stands, and the structure is looking a little worse for wear: it has no roof and the steelwork is rusty.

Its present state doesn’t surprise me: the Antiquities and Monuments Office value this survivor from World War II as a ‘Grade III’ building – its lowest grading – so it’s received little attention. And the building has stood in all weathers, without its roof, and without maintenance, for many years.

This green island, once the site of Tai Hom Village (an illegal squatters’ camp), is controlled by the Lands Department. After clearing and demolishing the village, they fenced the area off and excluded the public. Slowly, it reverted to natural grassy parkland with a varied mix of old trees.

All day, every day, thousands of commuters walk past the old hangar, but the fence ensures they can’t go near it. If they look, they will see it – but they don’t look. They just walk by. This old building, which played its part in Hong Kong’s wartime history, used both by the Japanese and the RAF, has been left to decay; ignored and forgotten. And it may not be long before it disappears for ever.

According to reports, this secluded parkland is to become a depot for the new MTR Shatin-Central rail link … and the former RAF hangar must go.

The government could save it. They could dismantle and relocate it. They could give it a new use, a new lease of life … but they probably won’t. They’ll probably send in the bulldozers without warning, and without fanfare.

Why won’t they save it?

Because it’s not pretty and, although it’s deemed to have some merit, it appar-ently doesn’t have special merit – who decided that? – and because very few will protest, and very few will care.

However, there is a small band of enthusiasts trying to save this historical building. If you’re interested in helping them, send your name and email address to – rafhangar@gmail.com

But don’t delay – there’s not much time left!

The most peaceful place in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is a city that never sleeps. It’s hectic, congested and noisy.

Yet, within it, exist many calm and quiet places; and today I want to tell you about one of them, a chapel – but don’t worry, I’m not a religious man, and I’m not pushing religion here.

Sacred Heart Chapel

Sacred Heart Chapel

If you have a spare morning or afternoon, go to Central and head for the area called Central Mid-Levels. You can walk, but it’s all uphill; using the Central Mid-Levels escalators is much easier. The junction of Caine Road and Elgin Street is your goal.

Across the road (Caine Road) from that junction is a nondescript building and a pair of glass doors. The sign outside reads: Sacred Heart Canossian College of Commerce. The chapel – the Sacred Heart Chapel – is through those doors.

Inside is a reception area. Here, I would ask permission to look around the chapel; it’s open to the public, so there shouldn’t be a problem.

Hidden (unintentionally, I presume) inside a square created by other buildings, the chapel cannot be seen from the streets outside; you wouldn’t know it was there.

The chapel, a white stone building with columns and balustrades, has been beautifully maintained; an immaculate architectural gem. Inside, however, is where you will experience the peace and quiet so rarely found in Hong Kong.

Inside the chapel

Inside the chapel

When I stumbled across this magical place (I was updating my photo collection of churches), I couldn’t resist sitting down. For fifteen minutes, I did nothing but soak up the silence, the tranquillity, the stillness. Finally, I took some photos and left. I didn’t experience a religious or spiritual epiphany – or anything resembling one – but my internal batteries had definitely been recharged.

Can anyone tell me – is there a more peaceful place in Hong Kong?

I doubt it.