Douglas Castle, Hong Kong

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University Hall, (Chinese: 大學堂) or UHall, is a historical residential hall for males at the University of Hong Kong. University Hall is one of the oldest residential halls under the university's hall system and houses about 110 students. Its hall colours are green, black and silver. It is located at 144 Pok Fu Lam Road, close to the Pok Fu Lam Reservoir within the Pok Fu Lam Country Park on the western side of Hong Kong Island.

The building itself dates back to 1861 when a wealthy Scottish trader named Douglas Lapraik built the Douglas Castle as the place of his residence. University Hall was formally established in 1954 after the University of Hong Kong bought the heritage building from the French Mission in Hong Kong, and the castle was officially named as the University Hall and opened as a male residential hall in 1956.


The Douglas Castle
The castle itself was established by Douglas Lapraik, a Scottish trader who made his wealth with shipbuilding and dock renting. Douglas talent for business opportunities soon made him one of the richest people in Hong Kong at his time and inspired him to improve his living conditions in line with the standards of a Tai Pan in Hong Kong. In 1860, Douglas had heard about the government's plans to build a water reservoir and park on the island's south-western part at the valley around Pok Fu Lam. The reservoir was a solution to the emergent problem of clean water supply in Hong Kong. Pok Fu Lam Road soon developed as the connection of the Western district to the smaller harbour of Hong Kong in Aberdeen, where Douglas planned to set up his docks. In 1861, he bought the 900 square meter hill, which includes the location of today's University Hall, the High West and tennis courts. During 1861–1867, Douglas built the Douglas Castle, to overlook his fleet entering and leaving the harbor. The gross building area of the castle was around 2000 square feet, which was a two-story structure, located at today's Warden Flat. In 1866, Douglas returned to Great Britain and the castle was inherited by his nephew, John Steward Lapraik.

Douglas Castle under the French Mission (1894-1954)
In 1894, Hong Kong was declared to be an infected port of the bubonic plague. The killing spree of the plague claimed thousands of lives and forced about half of the population hastily leave Hong Kong. John Douglas Steward, who was managing the castle after his father John Steward Lapraik died in 1893, had no option, but to sell the castle to the French Mission, who were some of the few who remained in Hong Kong. The building soon turned into a monastery and got renamed, Nazareth. After the plagues were sat out, Nazareth went through a major renovation under the leadership of Father Monnier, who enlarged the building with a printing house that operated one of the busiest bible printing and translation facilities of the early 20th century in Asia.

During World War I, Nazareth was used as the training base of Royal Hong Kong Regiment (The Volunteers). During the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, Douglas Castle was confiscated by the Japanese army and used as the headquarters of kempeitai and residence for workers of the Japanese dock in Aberdeen. After Second World War came to an end in 1945 the castle was returned to the French Mission and the printing press resumed operations in 1948.

However, with the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, it became difficult for overseas missionaries to penetrate the mainland. By the early 1950s, most of the foreign missionaries were forced to leave their stations in Mainland China. Hong Kong as a base for missionary work into the greater China area became increasingly unfeasible. In the coming years, Nazareth closed down. The government, which considered the castle for numerous purposes, finally decided to grant the building to the University of Hong Kong. On 4 December 1954 the building got transferred from the French Mission to the university at a price of HK$1,600,000.

The University's proposal of turning Nazareth into a male dormitory was in line with the French Mission, and the transferral went smoothly. The abandoned printing workshop was demolished and turned into the carpark. The chapel and the crypt were transformed into the dining hall and common room respectively. In 1956 the first group of about 52 students, from Eliot Hall, Morrison Hall, and Lugard Hall settled in the castle writing a new page of the Castle' history called University Hall.

Today, the castle on top of Pok Fu Lam hill reminds on the colonial days of Hong Kong. It increased its capacity to hold students to about 110 residents at a time. Over the history of the Hall, the castle had provided shelter for so far over 2000 men.

The discipline of early University Hall was very strict. Hallmates were required to report to the warden when they leave the hall or spend their nights at home, and hallmates had to wear green gowns during dinner. At that time, High Table Dinner was held every Monday, and the canteen was operated in the form of a tuck shop. Hallmates at that time were enthusiastic in activities of the Hong Kong University Students' Union, in the first 12 years of University Hall's history, 8 out of 12 Presidents of the Union was from University Hall. In the early days, many hallmates were international students with talents in sports. Hockey team had outstanding performances in those days, claiming Inter-hall Champion for several times, helping University Hall to win the Malayan Cup in 1966 and 1968. Hallmates will attend all interhall competition and cheer for the athletes, they will do a War Cry if University Hall had claimed the championship, these traditions are kept until today.

The design of the Douglas Castle was greatly influenced by English Tudor architecture and gothic styles. The registered site area counted about 310,227 square feet. When completed around 1867, the single-storey compound provided an octagonal penthouse bedroom that faced directly the sea and being surrounded by hill and the nearby water reservoir, the villa also included a side house and a rectangular outhouse. With the change in ownership to the French Missionaries in 1894, a new wing, a chapel and printing house on the north-eastern was erected in accordance with the existing style under the architects Danby, Leigh, and Orange to meet the development of the Commission. The other part of the building substantially rebuilt to a 3-floor compound. Only the side towers and parts of the fundamentals remained original.

When the castle turned into "University Hall" in 1954, The University architecture lecturer Donald Liao, was given the task to rearrange the internal designs, partitions, and furniture. the high chapel got converted into a dining hall and the crypt became a common room. The Hall has now a large residence area for the Hall Warden on the position of the penthouse bedroom, staff quarters and about 33 rooms for students. On 7 September 1995, the Building was taken under the protection of the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance and declared a monument.

Eee also:
•  Douglas Steamship Company


Source

 

Sources for this article include:
  • University Hall, Hong Kong


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    The content of this website is a collection of materials gathered from a variety of sources, some of it unedited.

    The webmaster does not intend to claim authorship, but gives credit to the originators for their work.

    As work progresses, some of the content may be re-written and presented in a unique format, to which we would then be able to claim ownership.

    Discussion and contributions from those more knowledgeable is welcome.

    Contact Us

    Last modified: Tuesday, 01 February 2022