Culture History Hong Kong

Breaking into Victoria Prison

Whilst walking down Hollywood Road yesterday I noticed that the old decommissioned Central Police Station compound was playing host to a free art exhibition providing a unique opportunity to take a look inside one of Hong Kong’s oldest colonial relics.

Hollywood Road Old Police Station

Dating from 1841, the Central Police Station (CPS) compound has a fascinating 150-year history. Located in the heart of Hong Kong alongside Victoria Prison and the former Central Magistracy the site contains numerous buildings of historic value, but has been inaccessible to the public since 2006 when it was decommissioned from active use.

Police Division Map

Even though the interior has been stripped of much of its original furnishings the vestiges of its former use are still clearly visible. The map above shows the different police district divisions on Hong Kong Island.

Courtyard View

Architecturally the CPS was built mainly in a Victorian / Edwardian Colonial style and the buildings are the only surviving group of late-19th Century buildings in the city centre. They were declared monuments of Hong Kong in 1995 because of their historical significance.

Central Police Station Courtyard

From within the central courtyard the compound is surrounded by modern skyscrapers which have sprung up around it as the city developed, leaving a strangely quiet void in an otherwise vibrant quarter of the city.

No Escape

I’d often walked past this doorway from the street on the other side so it was great to finally be able to have a poke around inside.

HK Central Police Station

Behind the police headquarters lies the three-story barracks block, built with proportions in the Golden ratio, and is the oldest structure within the CPS. While the basic design of the building is western in nature, it contains elements of local design, such as wooden louvers, and balconies, adapted to Hong Kong’s hot climate.

Precarious Stairs

At this point there was apparently a sign saying no admittance but I somehow missed it 😉

3rd Floor Veranda

Walking up the stairs the extent to which the passage of time and the elements of nature were taking their effect on the building became more obvious.

Broken Window

Peeling walls, broken windows, and creaking floorboards made for a rather eery unsettling environment.

Police Barracks

Coils of barbed wire lined every conceivable means of escape with each section being divided by heavy doors – many of which had been left open.

Barbed Wire

The division between the police station and prison was heavily guarded by a 20 ft high razor wire topped fence which would be almost impossible to scale. Bridges on multiple levels provided secure access between the two buildings.

Fading Sign

I was hoping to be able to get into the prison itself to see some of the cells but sadly access was well and truly sealed off.

X Marks the Spot

The staff canteen area was flooded with yellow light through tinted windows. The masked cross on the window reminded me of something from The X Files – had it been a sign to somebody on the outside or was it just holding the broken frame together?!

Junk Art

A lonely painting of junk boats sailing in Victoria Harbor hangs on a cracked wall.

Canteen Window

By todays prices the food here was extremely cheap…

Crumbling Cooker

Although conditions in the kitchen were not so favourable!

Dangerous Stairs

I felt a little uneasy walking up the concrete stairs as some had huge chunks missing.


Inside the barracks there were many services for the police offices including a barber shop and even a bar!

Barbers Remains

A few items left behind, covered in years of dust, provided an idea of how things once were.


The compound will face reconstruction in the near future since the government intends to convert it into a modern food plaza, museum and an art gallery. While the plan is to conserve the historical buildings it’ll be interesting to see how much of its original character it will maintain. Perhaps we’ll soon be seeing the first Starbucks built in a prison!


Looking out over the perimeter walls you can clearly see how dense the area is. The nearby soho district is packed with expensive restaurants and bars – must have been quite gauging for prisoners back in the day!

Central Police Station Compound

The main police headquarters building seems to be in better shape than the rest of structures and it where the art exhibition was being held (it wasn’t particularly interesting).

Strictly No Admittance

In some rooms the floors looked like they had or were in imminent danger of collapse – luckily there were warning signs.

Hidden Doorway

In the corner of one room I noticed a curious whiteboard leaning against the wall.


Written on it seemed to be the names of people who had died in various incidents and the number / type of licensed premises in the area (including those with arms apparently!).

Secret Doorway

On closer inspection I discovered that the whiteboard was concealing a hidden door behind it which led to a concrete bridge going to another building.

Secret Entrance

I had hoped that the bridge might lead to the prison but instead it went to the Central Magistracy which was in a terrible state of disrepair with water leaking all over the floors inside. It looked pretty dangerous so I didn’t venture any further but was very pleased to have been able to take a peak at this important piece of Hong Kong’s history before it’s redeveloped.


Originally from the UK, David is designer and wanderer currently based in Kamakura. Prior to this, he lived in China and still returns frequently to continue exploring this vast and varied land. He started Randomwire in 2003 to chronicle his travels and occasional musings. Feel free to drop him a line.

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