Coronation decorations | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Coronation decorations

Coronation decorations
Date picture taken (may be approximate): 
Thursday, November 10, 1887


Any ideas which coronation they were celebrating?

The seafront is still at the line of Des Voeux Road in this photo, with the bend at the junction of Ice House Street visible at the left edge, so it should be the 1880s or earlier.

I reckon this photo is of the decorations erected in 1887 to mark the 50th anniversary of Queen Victoria's coronation.

The location is the Central Praya from Ice House Street, near the left side of the photo, to near Pedder Street, out of sight on the right.

Hong Kong officially celebrated the Golden Jubilee of Victoria's coronation on 9th & 10th November 1887, and did so in style with the major buildings sporting lavish decorations. The HK Daily Press (11-11-1887) gave a detailed description of each building, including this of one on the Central Praya between the HSBC HQ and Pedder Street.

"One of the most conspicuous features of the illuminations as seen from the water were the stars and stripes of the United States which covered the whole front of Messrs. Russell & Co.'s hong worked out in blue, red and white lanterns, sixteen hundred in all....There was also a design in white lanterns on the flagstaff".

Russell & Co. was a major US Company. I think their building is the second from the right in the photo, the one with the most lanterns. If you look at the lanterns on the right side of the building closely you can see they're arranged in alternate, horizontal, lines in dark and light colour, which could be the "stripes" of the US flag. It's not possible to make out any "stars" in the top left corner, but up on the roof there's a lattice of light coloured lanterns that perhaps were the ones referred to as being "on the flagstaff".

Counting the rows and columns of lanterns on the front of the building, I make 26 horizontal rows and about 60 vertical columns. 26 x 60 = 1,560 lanterns. That's close enough to "sixteen hundred" for me.

Moving on, the next building described in the newspaper article was that housing Messrs. Melchers & Co, with Messrs. Blackhead & Co. said to be occupying the "lower part of the same house". That the building referred to is the one on the right of the photo can be assumed by zooming in on the second ground floor archway from the right where a partly obstructed sign reads "? Black(obstructed) & Co."

"The chief feature in Messrs. Melchers & Co.'s illumination, and one that excited much admiration was a large transparency painted from the Norddeutscher Lloyd's picture advertisement representiing a fine Atlantic liner. On one side of this in similar transparency were the Norddeutscher Lloyd's arms, and on the other, also in transparency, three flags crossed - the British and German and the house flag of the firm". (HK Daily Press, 11-11-1887)

The three transparencies are seen in the photo on the first floor, in the third, second and fourth arches respectively. Clearest is the one on the right, the "arms" of "Norddeutscher Lloyd", a German shipping company. The Company logo was a crossed key and anchor, over a central circular laurel ( ). A flag also bearing their arms is flying from the left of the building.  

The newspaper article goes on to describe the decorations on the next building, said to be the one on the corner of Pedder Street and The Praya, not in the photo. I'd previously been under the impression that this corner building was the Melchers Building, but Melchers & Co was next door according to the newspaper. Perhaps they moved offices between these two buildings at some time. 

Thanks for pinning down the date, and also for the extra detail about the buildings. I've added Places for the five buildings shown. I think they're correct, but there's a chance this photo shows earlier buildings that stood on their sites.

Regards, David

A wonderful detailed Photo! The large flag hanging from centre third floor is the flag of the German mailboats at that time: the prussian eagle in the centre, the iron cross top left and a horn beneath. The music instrument horn, in former times used by the postillion, is the traditional symbol for the German mail. This flag for the German mail was used 1871-1892. The flag with the "M" to the right is the company flag of Melchers & Co. which was also shown on the funnels of MelchersĀ“ steamers.