Mount Austin Barracks [1897-????] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Mount Austin Barracks [1897-????]

Current condition: 
Demolished / No longer exists
Date Place completed: 

This brief history from the HK Public Library (HKPL):

Located on Mount Austin Road, the Peak, it was built in about 1890 and had offered its customers ''a separate every Bed-Room''-a rare convenience at that time. The venture was unsuccessful, and in 1897 the Hotel was sold to the Military Authorities and used as barracks for troops. The Hotel was destroyed during the 2nd World War and never rebuilt.

The HKPL has photos of it in the early 1900s, and in the 1930s.

Life has a photo of the barracks taken in September 1945, where the war damage is plain to see.

Mount Austin Mansions, Martin Booth's home for several years, was built on this site after the barracks were demolished.


Photos that show this place



1910s Mt Austin Barracks


1910s Mt Austin Barracks


1910s Mt Austin Barracks

Great photos, thanks for those. It was an impressive building, but I wonder what the business thinking was behind building it there. After all the Peak Hotel was a stone's throw away, and already well established. Why did they think another hotel would be a success?

After the army took it over, I can't help thinking that ''a separate every Bed-Room'' probably no longer applied. There must have been some extensive renovations. And how did the soldiers get there. There was no Stubbs Road when the barracks opened. So were they ferried up in small groups on the Peak Tram, or just marched up the Old Peak Road?

The answer is in a letter to the Editor of the China Mail by the Peak Hotel Owner Findlay-Smith.  I've transcribed it here:

Annelise, thanks for the link. Looks like you've done a lot of research into the old houses on the Peak - very interesting.

From your website and your Wikipedia entries, you say that:

  • Pre 1878: John Gardiner Austin, Colonial Secretary of Hongkong, (now known as Chief Secretary) built a house at this location. His friends, who came to visit, called it the Austin Arms. (Austin left Hong Kong in 1878.)
  • Post 1878: The Austin Arms Hotel appears at this location.

Any idea whether the Austin Arms Hotel simply occupied Austin's house, or it was a new structure?

regards, MrB

Have a look at the site below for a regimental History of serving at the barracks, with some excellent photos.


Stephen Roberts

Thanks Stephen, interesting reading. There are some other interesting pages about Hong Kong on that site that are also worth a look.

It was a very snazzy, newly built hotel.  Austin's house was just a "bungalow".

See the last page of:

for the architects drawing.

For the prospectus of the "Austin Arms Hotel and Development Co." - which bought a ridgeline lot on Mt. Gough and developed it into 9 houses first - before it built the hotel - see the China Mail 1888-09-28 page 2.


Thanks for the extra info, so now we've got:

  • Pre 1878: John Gardiner Austin, Colonial Secretary of Hongkong, (now known as Chief Secretary) built a house at this location. His friends, who came to visit, called it the Austin Arms. (Austin left Hong Kong in 1878.)
  • 1888: Prospectus published for 'The Austin Arms Hotel', stating they would
     - buy the site of the 'Austin Arms', and  build and keep a large 'First Class Residential Hotel' on it
     - buy another section of land on the Peak and build & let a terrace of 11 houses there. (They'd be known as 'Mountain Peak')
     - Architects are Messrs Danby & Leigh.
  • 1891: The last page of shows Danby & Leigh's plan for The Austin Arms Hotel, and dates it 1891.
  • 189?: The map on Annelise's site shows the building is a simple L-shape, as shown in the architect's drawing.
  • 1892, April 2: An EGM of The Austin Arms Hotel company is held. It reports income from the hotel (so it's obviously open for business), but also notes a loss of capital, and says Mountain View must be sold to avoid further expenditure. It also suggests Findlay Smith bore some of the blame for these problems.
  • 1892, April 4: Findlay Smith writes a letter to the newspaper to state his side of the story.
  • 1895: The revised 'Collinson' map of this year shows the same L-shaped building, but names it 'Mt. Austin Hotel'. Was there a change of ownership to match the change of name?
  • 1897: The HK Public library notes say it was sold to the Military Authorities in this year.
  • 1910s: Photos & maps from this time show the building has been significantly extended in a north-East direction, roughly doubling its area. Was this done before or after the military took over?

PS. A 1956 map of the Peak shows there was still an 11-building terrace named Mountain View. Today there are new buildings on the site. The new development is named Plantation heights, but one section of it is still called  Mountain View.

Aerial view of the Barracks. The ridgeline of Mt. Gough is on the left.

1910s Mount Austin Barracks

Moddsey, great photos as always, thanks for these.

If I zoom in on the 1910's photo, there's a string of chimneys stretching off into the distance that must have belonged to Mountain View.

Looking at these old photos I'm always amazed at how barren the hillsides were.

This photo from LIFE (link courtesy of 80skid) shows the barracks immediately after the end of WW2. The wartime damage is clear to see.

Could we rename this "place" Mount Austin Barracks and shift comments to the correct new "place" ?  the chain would then be

1. Austin Arms - new

2. Mount Austin Hotel - new

3. Mount Austin Barracks - this place

4. Mount Austin Mansions - currently named "Block A"

5. The Mount Austin - new

set to 1897, based on Annelise's find:

Hong Kong Telegraph, 29 May 1897

"the Military Authorities ... have purchased the Mount Austin Hotel from Messrs. J. D. Humphreys and sons for 100,000 pounds sterling."

Any ideas when they were replaced by Mt Austin Mansions?

I found this in the Hong Kong Sunday Herald, 1947-07-13, page 1:

Part of the east wing of Mount Austin barracks is being pulled down tomorrow because of its dangerous condition, [...]

And a 1956 map of the Peak shows Mt Austin Mansions, but a search for 'Austin' in the newspapers for 1947-56 didn't give any further info.

Also a reference about its beginnings from the UK National Archive via Rob:

WO 78 / 2631   Mount Austin Barracks   23.11.1899
Plan includes Officer's, NCO and Soldiers quarters, prison, cookhouse and dining rooms, plus married quarters.

Some links at the above posts are dead.

Found an interesting cover sending to Mount Austin Barracks in 1898, any clue on who this person (Major Somerville?) is?