Quarry Bay Then & Now

During my two years in Hong Kong I lived on the east side of Hong Kong Island in an apartment complex called Kornhill which lies within Quarry Bay. It wasn’t until shortly before I left in March this year that I discovered the area has an interesting history and I decided to take a closer look…

Quarry Bay

Unsurprisingly the area was originally a bay where rocks were quarried for construction. The bay disappeared after land reclamation and was about 700m from the current coastline.

Tai-Koo Sugar Refinery
Tai-Koo Sugar Refinery
Taikoo Sugar Factory
Taikoo Sugar Factory
Taikoo Sugar Van
Taikoo Sugar Van
Swire Coca-Cola Van
Swire Coca-Cola Van

During British colonial times, Quarry Bay (鰂魚涌) was originally home to Taikoo Dockyard (太古船塢), the Taikoo Sugar factory, and later the Swire Coca-Cola factory. A reservoir was constructed on the slopes of the hills above to supply fresh water to the factories.

Taikoo Dockyard under construction in 1902
Taikoo Dockyard under construction in 1902

The eastern part of Quarry Bay is largely owned by Swire and thus many places and facilities are named after the company’s Chinese name, Taikoo (太古).

Taikoo Dockyard in 1903
Taikoo Dockyard in 1903

By 1903, Taikoo was producing about 2,000 tonnes of refined sugar a week which was sold throughout China.

Taikoo Dockyard from the air
Taikoo Dockyard from the air
Taikoo Dockyard Pool
Taikoo Dockyard Pool
Taikoo Dockyard under US air raid during WWII
Taikoo Dockyard under US air raid during WWII

During the occupation in WWII, both the refinery and the dockyards were used by the Japanese, and the sites were targeted by Allied bombers leaving them in ruins.

Taikoo Dockyard from LIFE
Taikoo Dockyard from LIFE
Taikoo Dockyard in 1965
Taikoo Dockyard in 1965

The sugar refinery was rebuilt and reopened in 1950 but with new competition and large tariffs in other markets, the business was no longer viable. Along with the dockyards nearby which had also gone into decline they closed in the early 1970s.

Photographs from the Historical Photographs of China project.

However, the land was still valuable and in the 1970s what had been the docks became Taikoo Shing, a private housing development for the fast-emerging middle class. The newly built Quarry Bay MTR station also made the area more accessible.

Taikoo Shing under development in the 1980s

In the mid-1980s, the hillside was levelled and converted into Kornhill (康怡花園) apartments, the reservoir into Mount Parker Lodge (康景花園) apartments, and the Dockyard into Taikoo Shing (太古城). The Coca-cola factory is now Kornville (康蕙花園) apartments, and Taikoo Sugar is now Taikoo Place (太古坊), a commercial complex (where I used to work).

Woodside House

Today little visible evidence of its industrial heritage remains, save for the foundation stone of the dockyard and the recently restored Woodside House (above) which served as the senior staff quarters for the Taikoo Sugar Refinery.

Fittingly the bar at the top of the East Hotel is named “Sugar” and has amazing views of Victoria Harbour.

David avatar

32 responses

  1. Oh wow – thanks for sharing. I’ve never put 2 and 2 together why the bar is called Sugar. But of course, there’s an easy explanation to it. Great post, love it!

    1. Thanks Ruth!

  2. Tom Knox avatar
    Tom Knox

    Fantastic to see these photos they bring back memories as I was born in Hong Long and went to Quarry bay Junior school . I have lots of memories of the area.

    1. Thanks Tom, hope you have a chance to return sometimes 🙂

  3. We lived for the first time in Hong Kong just around the corner in North Point in 1977 to 1979 then again in the late 1990,s – fabulous times.

    1. Thanks for your comment – it must have been fascinating to see the transformation of that area over the time that you lived there. I really hope I’ll be able to return at some point also.

  4. Norman Yu avatar
    Norman Yu

    I lived in Quarry Bay for 19 yrs and moved to Canada in 1971. Spent a lot of time swimming, fishing and horsing around Mount Parker and the reservoir. By any chance you have a picture of the reservoir which is now an apartment building. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Norman – thanks for your comment, amazing to hear from people who lived there back then! I’m afraid I don’t have any additional photos but you might want to check out the “Historical Photographs of China” project which have a big online library: http://hpc.vcea.net/

    2. Geoff Wellstead avatar
      Geoff Wellstead


      Have a look at the gwulo.com site – I think I put up a couple of pics portraying parts of the reservoirs west [above the village] and east of Stanley Terrace

  5. John Y avatar
    John Y

    Thanks for posting. I grow up in this area but didn’t know its history. I left Hkg in 71 and did not have much chance to return to the area. Your pictures brings back memories.

  6. Love the tidbits on this area that I called home for four year in the late 70s and early 80s. I was in Quarry Bay School then. Had no idea of this history at the time, but remember Kai Tak airports landing strip on the Kowloon side and City Plaza which was a large shopping center with an ice skating rink. Was there in the earlier development stage of the complex, so I remember the constant construction that went on with the newer apartment buildings. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks Sue! I believe the City Plaza complex was developed over a number of phases as you suggest but the ice rink is definitely still there 🙂

  7. Robin Ellwood avatar
    Robin Ellwood

    Lovely to see these old photographs. My Dad spent all his working life at Taikoo and i had a very happy two years at Quarry bay school just after the war before sadly being shipped off back to England to school. I have quite a lot of photos taken by friends after my dad retired to show him all the changes taking place. I loved the old terraces Braemar Stanley etc where taikoo people lived but most of all being collected in The Taikoo truck for trips to the beach usually big wave bay but sometimes Sheko, on Sundays in the summer.

  8. Joyce Shand avatar
    Joyce Shand

    Thank you for these wonderful pictures and history of Taikoo. My great grandfather worked at the Taikoo Sugar Refinery about 1894 to 1920. He was an engineer and I believe worked on building the docks. I was thrilled to find your information!

  9. Greta Brown avatar
    Greta Brown

    Fabulous to read and great pictures…..I went to Quarry Bay Junior School in the mid 50’s and my first job was a secretary at Taikoo Dockyard…such memories …

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Greta – it’s amazing to hear from people who remember those times 🙂

  10. Janet Ireland avatar
    Janet Ireland

    Hi David

    My father worked for Taikoo Dockyard. My family lived for a time in Kornhill, Finnie Ridge and Stanley Terrace which were all Taikoo quarters. The Kornhill shown in your photo was built for the manager of the Sugar Refinery, a German man called Korn. I was born in HongKong and lived there until I was 43. I also went to Quarry Bay School. Greta worked for one of my fathers friends. Interesting to see some pics that I’ve not seen before.

    1. Thanks Janet – fascinating to hear more about the history of the area, I really miss it!

    2. Carol Stewart (Taylor) avatar
      Carol Stewart (Taylor)

      I lived in Stanley Terrace when younger and then we moved to Finnie Ridge (level 3) if you count the go-downs. I remember the sedan chairs at the bottom of the Stanley Terrace hill but my mother would expect us to walk up the hill to the houses. My parents were Robert and Paulene Taylor. I also went to Quarry Bay school and then KGV. We went in the Taikoo truck to KGV. open deck with canopy). My sister Gwen and I used to go to the Taikoo Club and also swim at the Taikoo pool on Saturdays. I also remember going down to the Kornhill houses. Our family, although from Scotland, moved to New Zealand in 1967.

      1. Sylina Wai Ping CHOY (née POON) avatar
        Sylina Wai Ping CHOY (née POON)

        Hi Carol:
        I am very surprised and delighted to read your post! I still remember the times my father (mr. Poon) brought me to visit your family at Christmas time. I was shy then and could hardly speak English. I also remembered your younger sister Gwen.
        I have been living in Vancouver, Canada since 1975. I would love to keep in touch with you.
        Wai Ping (sylina)

  11. Mike avatar

    I had the honor today, of meeting a WW II veteran that help bring Marines to that area. It was very humbling to hear his stories.

  12. Pamela Simper (nee Whitby) avatar
    Pamela Simper (nee Whitby)

    My mother, father, brother and I arrived in Hong Kong on the Carthage in 1948. My father worked at Taikoo for nearly 20 years, he was a draftsman, and had the unenvious task of making sure that the ships went down the slipway without any hitches on launching day, he also spoke Cantonese like a local, I wish he had taught us how to speak it too. As kids we had a wonderful time exploring the hills around Stanley Terrace, the Bungalow, Kornhill and Braemar. We didn’t need swimming pools, as there were several dams around the area with inbuilt water slides (the gullies) we had total freedom and always felt safe. I remember my first day at Quarry Bay School (I was 4) as if it were yesterday. Many, many happy memories of my time in Hong Kong.

    1. Thanks for sharing your memories Pamela, sounds like a wonderful childhood. I wish I could have seen the area back then 🙂

    2. Rachel Loch (Worrall) avatar
      Rachel Loch (Worrall)

      The photos and comments on ‘Tai Koo Dockyard’ provoked many memories of the lives we led as children of expat fathers who worked in the dockyard. I was moved to write this after reading Pamela Simper’s (nee Whitby) thoughts. She lived there at the same time as myself and I can reiterate the idyllic lives we led there. The freedom and experiences gave us the building blocks for our future lives.

  13. Man Sek Ong avatar
    Man Sek Ong

    Our family lived at 5th Street (Tai Cheung St.) and I had swum in the Taikoo swimming pool. My grand father, and father, was a vessel painting subcontractor. My other grand father must had been working in sugar factory because he wrote an article in 1908 about machine pressing sugar cane. I had been inside the sugar warehouse while we were picking uped my sister from the passanger ship, M· S · TAIWAN in early ’70. I had also visited the 1906 built dry dock before they turned it into a real estate. By that time there was a floatif dock anchored nearby and the dry dock was hardly used.

  14. Scott Tilmant avatar
    Scott Tilmant

    Thank you so much for the pictures!! My family moved to Hong Kong in 1982 and we lived on Finnie Ridge. I attended HKIS in Repulse Bay and remember walking “the hill” to get to the bus for school. We only lived there for a year before moving around the mountain to Tai Tam for the next 3 years. They began removing the hill and Taikoo Shing opened not long after. I remember going ice skating there. I was only 12 and only lived there for a year, but even now, I can still remember the trees overhanging the road up the hill, the squatter village on the next hill over, and even the sights and sound of the area. It was probably the best place I ever lived.

    1. Thanks for sharing your memories Scott – it sounds like a magical time to have been there!

  15. Carol Mitchell Brown avatar
    Carol Mitchell Brown

    It was great to be able to scroll along and see the Street (Kin Wah Street) where I used to live in Hong Kong from 1951-54. Had some friends whose fathers worked at Tai Koo docks and remember getting our bus driver to try to race their bus to catch the boat to school (KGV).

  16. David Ho avatar
    David Ho

    I am interested in the infrastructure associated with Taikoo Sugar Refinery in particular the Braemar Reservoir. After surfing the web, I found only a few information/photos of it. Given that the reservoir was there between 1894 and 1975 (it was decommissioned and filled for apartments development), it appears there are not many photos of the reservoir – or they have not been uploaded for sharing. I have also search for them in Hong Kong public libraries but with limited success. Rather than making an information request to Swire Group and Cheung Kong Group, I wonder how to encourage people to share/upload photos/info?

  17. Maya de Souza avatar
    Maya de Souza

    We used to live around there in Sai Wan Ho. Can easily walk up the hill to the reservoir but it’s covered over. Just a playing field now. Guess it must be what you’re talking about!

  18. Arjen avatar

    Hello everybody.

    My father worked around 1970 for Shell. In that time he was in Hong Kong and made a lot of photo’s around peak tram, taiko pool etc. If anyone is interested I can mail te pictures.

  19. ALEX-CHING-FAI Lee avatar

    Accidentally I got the above pictures and stories from my son’s friend. It is very touching, I was born and raised in this area from 1946 and left for Canada in 1977. My grandfather, my father were worked for the shipyard and me as well.
    Thank you for sharing lovely history.


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