Street in Kowloon | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Street in Kowloon

Street in Kowloon

The caption says "Wellington Road, Kowloon Tong", but I don't see a Wellington Road on the maps today. Does anyone recognise this view?

Regards, David

Date picture taken (may be approximate): 
Tuesday, January 1, 1935


Hi there,

The only road that wide would very likely be Waterloo Road.  Its namesake did have something to do with the Duke, I think´╣É unless it was named after some other Wellington.

Best Regards,


What mountain is that in the photo?  Can we possibly work backwards to a likely spot or direction of the road from there? 

I am relying on the Gwulo expertise here - I lack the knowledge to put a name to this landscape.

Hi there,

The mountain in the middle would very likely be Beacon Hill.  There seemed to be an ancient beacon stationed up there but it appeared to be destroyed when they eracted the Radar Station.

Best Regards,


Yes, the mountain is Beacon Hill. I think the Waterloo Road Nullah is in the middle of photo.

For comparison 1950s Waterloo Road

1950s Fred Evans' photos

Waterloo Road it is. Thanks for your help.

Curious to see such a similar view in two servicemen's photo collections. I wonder if this was a road they'd often drive along, or part of a regular outing to see the sights - 'and here is Kowloon's widest road'!

Regards, David

Hi there,

Seeing these old photos reminds me of those town roads in Los Angeles suburban areas.  Take a look at this.  That's the South Fair Oaks Avenue near Pasadena.  It's a bit less dense back in 2000, when I was there.  

Best Regards,


Waterloo Road, Kowloon Tong in the old days was considered to be a nice and quiet suburb of Kowloon with two-storey houses, gardens etc. These houses were part of the Kowloon Tong Estate that were built on the western side of Waterloo Road within an inner street system named after counties in England.

1922 Kowloon Tong Estate Stone by the side of a sitting-out area (garden) in Kowloon Tong.

1990s Kowloon Tong Estate Stone








1937 Kowloon Tong. A grainy picture of Kowloon Tong taken from Lion Rock with Waterloo Road in the middle and the Kowloon Tong Estate on the right.

1937 Kowloon Tong








1935 circa Kowloon Tong

1930s Kowloon Tong







1930s Kowloon Tong







Moddsey, thanks for the extra photos of Kowloon Tong. Maybe the soldiers were surprised to find a bit of suburban England in the middle of Hong Kong, and that's why they took the photos!

Regards, David

A 1947 map (Mapping Hong Kong, Plate 4-7) shows that the checker-board wall around the nullah was just south of the junction with Lincoln Road.

Does anybody have any idea what streets we're looking at here in moddsey's last two photos? They give me the strangest feeling cause I grew up on these streets and know them backwards, but I'm completely lost looking at these. While quite a few of these house still existed in the 70s they were hidden behind high walls and had mature trees which gave the Kowloon Tong estate a completely different character.



As I understand, the northbound bus is on Waterloo Road. One is looking towards the northwest  towards the lower slope of Beacon Hill. Perhaps one of the side streets north of York Road.

For the bus that is turning the corner, I was given to understand that the view was of Cumberland Road.

If you are able to pinpoint the location, that would be great.

I think the picture with the bus turning the corner is where Cumberland road joins Rutland Quadrant. The road it's leaving looks as though it curves and I don't know of any other junction that would fit the background and road layout.

In about 1960, aged 5- we lived for a short time in Argyle Street. I was wheeled and walked all around that area, Kowloon Tong, Yau Yat Chuen and Boundary St. by our wonderful Amah. I recall large 'pyramids' made of red brick, in the middle if the road (?), I guess they were there to either stop or slow down the traffic amongst all the 'big houses' - by creating a sort of chicane effect? They do a similar thing now on estates in the UK. I was wondering if anyone else recalls these?

Yes indeed, the road does look like it curves. Which suggests Rutland Quadrant, Essex or Dorset Crescents. In the 70s the only buses entering the KT Estate was the no 7 to Star Ferry which had a terminus on Dorset Crescent, whether or not that was the case back in the the 30s, I just don't know.

I've had a look at the maps again and I think Modsey is right, judging by the road layouts, and what appears to be further development in the distance we're looking at at the junction of Cumberland Road and Rutland Quadrant.

And as for it looking familiar, of course it does ... the house behind the bus is my ex girlfriends parent's house! Still standing in the 80s.

This may be taken at the intersection Cumberland Road and Rutland Quadrant. I had checked the street view of google earth for that, wondered if it's somewhere around there?

Hi Derek,

I think the earlier guess of Waterloo Road looking north is more likely. The road in the B&W photo is very wide, and the checkerboard pattern was painted on the wall around the nullah that ran down the middle of Waterloo Road.

Here's roughly where I think the photographer stood. The Google View isn't an exact match as it is taken from the top of a flyover that didn't exist when the old photos were taken:

View Larger Map

Regards, David

Rather late response from me, but we lived on Waterloo Rd from about 1962 to 1965.  We lived on the top floor of a 3 storey block of flats that was then just about the highest building on the street.  I do remember Waterloo Road as being very wide with a deep storm drain down the middle - changed a bit since.  We had two official Amahs living at the back of the flat, Ah Koon and Ah Yung, but a niece, Ah Lui, was frequently there as was Granny from Canton.  My younger brother, I was only about 5, frequently ate with Granny and was able to communicate in pigeon-Cantonese.  On one occasion, during Typhoon Wanda, I was looking out of the window against all advice, when a car was crossing the storm drain at one of the bridge points when it was caught by the wind and overturned.  On of the doors then opened and there followed a procession of about 8 people from the overturned car - all apparently unscathed.  They were lucky because Wanda did a lot of damage and washed away a lot of the fishing shanty huts in Hong Kong.

From 1958 to 1964, age 5 -10 I lived on Cambridge Rd (and before that I have a few memories of living between Boundary and Prince Edward Rd very close to where they converge.) My neurotic mother worried about the 2 sausage dogs more than she did her children because she feared they (the dogs) would be stolen and eaten. This was great for me because I had immense freedom. I'd go to Sha Tin by myself by train to watch the early radio controlled model planes and similarly go to Kai Tak airport. Once I went to the China border (train too) and was disappointed that I could not see the Great Wall.

Typhoon Wanda also  turned over a car in Cambridge Rd and while the eye of the storm gave a non windy and even sunny period I went out to "swim" in the street gutters. I also remember that a large ship had got blown into the column supported edge of the harbour between the Star Ferry and the train station. It's bow cut into the deck for at least 10 feet and you could go and stand right next to the huge hull. Also on a different day I was very close to that spot when I heard that John Kennedy got shot and died  I often walked along the railway line in Kowloon Tong but was too scared to walk through the tunnel under Lion Rock. 

Once my mother sent me to walk to a "ballet class" (quite neurotic) beyond the south end of Cambridge Rd . Predictably I never arrived there. A few times I climbed up "Checker Cliff" with some of the 6 Holt brothers and we'd get around the fencing by climbing round the end of the fence that extended a few feet beyond the cliff face. We'd climb on top of the unmanned radar buiding and get onto the spinning oblong radar "reflector" and use it as a merry go round until we spotted authorities approaching. Also on the airport side of La Salle Rd there was large empty flat area where they had cut away  a hill, the remains of which formed "Checker Cliff." Kite flying was banned from at least Waterloo Rd to the airport. We'd fly kites and wait for the authorities and depending which side they approached from we'd tie the kite string down and depart in the opposite direction. There was also a semi circular concrete nullah (drain) which ran down at about 30-40 degrees for about 100 meters (yards) and across the bottom of this they had built a wall with holes in it to act as a filter to catch anything solid. We'd pack the front of this wall with bushes and small branches to act as padding. Then we would get an old folding pram, keep it folded up and ride down this nullah crashing into the padding. You'd have to fluff it up for the next

Hong Kong was a great place to be a kid, cheap toys, cheap fireworks and the people didn't seem to molest children - or I was/am just too ugly to molest. I use to wander all over old Kowloon city. One day I was almost up to Lion Rock when a Hawker Hunter crashed on the other side of the ridge less than  3/4 of a mile away. I ran most of the way home. I explored tunnels supposedly dug by the war-time Japanese in the decomposed granite foothills of Lion Rock.

Maybe I made my mother neurotic - nah I seldom got discovered.

Went to Kowloon Junior School and sometimes on the way home I would visit a little vet room that was built on a very narrow pedestrian "bridge" over the nullah in Waterloo Rd opposite the Catholic "indoctrination" center where they forced you to learn by rote standard answers to standard religious questions (but I was clever enough to act like a moron) The little vet/animal building just did rabies vaccinations and would stamp/tattoo the date on the inside of the ear of the dog with a vice-grip type instrument. 

I eventually got deported to boarding school in England after having done "extra lessons" for 2 and 3 years in French and Latin. The 1 hour French lessons were on a Saturday morning when all the other kids would be playing football. Oh the inhumanity! (But I would move the clock forwards by 5 or 10 minutes everytime the French teacher left the room to check on her cooking or to answer the front door. I don't think I ever did more than 1/2 an hour of lesson time. She had bad breath and her husband smoked a pipe so the flat smelled but they were very kind. Priests taught me Latin or tried to. Still didn't get molested - must be ugly. I should sue the church for killing my self esteem! 

 The military kids at the north end of Cambridge Rd taught me to smoke when I was 9. And between that, the radar riding and everything else I am surprised that I am not a cancer ridden paraplegic - too ugly for heaven or hell I suppose!

Thanks for the memories - I wonder if any of the people who had to take the kites down are reading?!

We've got some more memories of that Hawker crash in 1962:

They would send rookie Chinese cops.

The kites we used were the smallest and cheapest and could seldom reach the 1000 feet to match the planes height because  they had to support the weight of the string. We were about a mile from the threshhold of the runway. The kites were constructed from 2 thin strips of bamboo and very light paper. They probably had a destructive potential less than a humming bird.

I also remember how at noon and 5 oclock blasting was done. Probably because so much of the colony was either a consistent grade of granite or decomposed granite, the blasters were incredibly skilful. I witnessed blasts that were several acres in area and 10 feet deep that you could probably stand on a piece of corrugated iron in the middle of the blast field and remain unharmed. The area of rock would pick up a foot or 2 and settle down again Then they would blast again to make the broken rock accessible. I think the purpose was to maintain large pieces to be dumped into the sea for land reclamation. To a little boy this was quite disappointing to witness. I saw them placing explosives 3 feet from houses and the only damage was a bit of dust on the walls.

We use to put coins on the railway line to flatten them and the one time someone put a brick on and I was certain it would derail the train and was terribly frightened. It made a puff of red dust.

Mark Twain could have got good material to write about.

20 years later I was visiting a friend with whom I had hitch hiked around Europe and where if we got accosted by European policemen for hitching on freeways etc we would go into a routine of him cursing in Zulu and I in Cantonese which would usually lead to the befuddled police giving us lift to a better and legal place to hitch. This visit was in South Africa and he managed to persuade 2 very pretty Swedish girls who were walking past into the garden. They would converse between themselves in Swedish so we went into our routine of Zulu and Cantonese cursing whereupon the one girl looked shocked and asked me how i could say such a thing. It turned out she was the younger sister of a girl who lived around the corner on Waterloo Rd and was in the same class as I. Her parents were now missioning in South Africa and she was visiting them. They remembered me and were a little worried that their "baby" daughter and I had met. Heh Heh  Small world!

Kite flying - Finding broken glass on roof top of pre-war buildings was easy.  Next I buy fish glue which comes in a small sheet, and colour dye powder. I use the blunt end of a metal chisel to hammer/grind the glass into fine powder in a cigarette tin can.  Added to it are the glue and colour dye, and a small fire under the can to melt the glue, stir/mix well.  A new spool of thread (popular brands in the 1950s were Rake, Berries, Chain) is submerged in the hot concoction and I wind the thread soak with hot glue and glass powder onto the kite-spool while using the thumb and index finger to filter out the hot beads.  Kite shops dry their threads indoor but us boys let our kite, the sun and the wind do the job.  When all the thread was let out, and thread-makers claimed they are 500 yards long, the kite appeared as a tiny dot in the sky.  The kite responded instantly to your hand control and it seems the length of line you let out matters little, physics I guess.

I too had an urge to walk the entire length of the train tunnel, but never got the chance or courage to venture such.  It was difficult to find companions to join in, and we wondered for how long the flashlight would operate.

The houses in Kowloon Tong in the two photos here are how I remember them when I rode my bicycle along Cumberland Road.  Street views then were more welcoming and we could see and admire people's front yards and their landscaping, and walls/fences were low.  Regards, Peter

Peter - I had a friend that lived on Cumberland Rd (I think)

Brian King - his father was a Quantas or possibly Cathay Pacific pilot. Many pilots lived in Hong Kong becuse flying was a multi-hop ordeal. In 1958 flying to UK was HK - Singapore - Bombay - Calcutta - Aden - Cairo - Rome - Paris - London and you stayed overnight in usually 2 locations which ones depended upon the weather. My friend Christian Fabre, lived in Sha Tin, (stayed overnight many times there and he at my home) died in an AlItalia crash (62'/63) in India when flying back to Belgium for the summer. When I returned to school after the holidays I learned this but when I informed my parents they (in a ridiculous effort to cushion me) told me that it was not true and that he would be returning a little bit late. The next day at school (where many kids knew the facts) I got into a couple of fights trying to support my hopeful but false belief in his existence. I don't understand how parents can lie to their children under any circumstances.

I was a lousy kite flyer, impatient and unlucky with seldom enough wind. Also often being the most junior of the group I came last when there was sufficient wind and the kites were pretty chewed up by that time. I do remember many people "kite fighting" and the spools made from bamboo

What I enjoyed but only have ever seen them in some parks in Kowloon was a maypole type arrangement with 4 chains hanging down from a bearinged hub at the top of the pole. At the other end of each chain was a steel hoop large enough to put one leg in. 4 people would run around and you could launch yourself outwards and thus upwards high off the ground for 3/4 or more of the circle.

Then there were the Chinese"boxers" doing their slow motion Tai Chi. You could stand in front of them and they would try to ignore you which was impossible if you smiled, made faces and copied them. Most would end up laughing.

Nostalgia aint what it use to be!

Deja vu all over again.

I remember many of the names of my friends in the neighborhood but I don't know if it is good protocol to use them on this site.

When people ask me what my (very mongrel/gypsy) accent is I have to explain that there is no where on earth where I am not asked that question. I often explain that I was "Made in Hong Kong" born there 9 months later, and that I am a genuine imitation Englishman. I often add that I don't have an accent, but that everyone else does.

I learned Cantonese as well as I spoke English and I usually ate with the amahs When I was 5 I spent 6 months in the UK and caravanning in Europe and lost most of my Cantonese and didn't pick up much when I return to HK. In retrospect I think that my mother probably ordered the servants to only talk to me in English. She was born in Tien Sien, half Russian (Ukranian?) and half Austrian and spoke Mandarin Cantonese Russian German Italian/Spanish I learn through my eyes not my ears and speak only English but remember most of my school Latin. I think my mother's secret to learning languages was she spoke alot. She also had Illusions of Grandeur and was racist.


PS I was not able to view the images of your home.

Thanks for the feedback, Ecstatist.  In case your PS statement is for me, I lived in the Ki Lung and Boundary Street part.  The kite-flying season had mostly south, southwest and southeast winds so we had no restrictions related to airplanes.  When the air lift on both sides of the kite are in balance, the kite remains pointing upward.  When, for example, the uplift force on the left half is stronger than that on the right half, it rotates clockwise and faster when wind is strong. To keep it in the air or to fly it higher, you time your pull on the string at the exact moment (length of line not much a factor) the kite returns to its upward position.  To correct the problem, bring the kite back, and slightly bend the left part of the bamboo in the direction of its curvature to weaken its stiffness hence reduce its uplift capacity.  Another solution is to add a paper tail.  On a clear blue sky, your white string is visible all the way to the kite high in the sky which is part of the thrill for this boy.  The curvature of the line is due to wind drag,

Home security was a concern then, but it seems more so when we see these high front walls today along Cumberland Road.  60 years ago when I rode my bicycle along their backlane (parallel to the train track), their walls were about 6 feet high with broken glass pieces partially cemented along the top.    

The saquare blocks markiongs right in the middle of the road is a traffic "signal" to warn drivers NOT to hit that "wall" for the automobile might go over the short wall and dropped 30 feet into the opened sewers-gutter-water run away opened waste water run off! All the way down this street deep into the mountain-Lion Rock area.

Juliana Cheng

Santa Cruz, CA.