Hong Kong’s Industrial History, Part I:



Posted by Ed 11 mths ago
A City That Made Things
By Christopher DeWolf

Was it Hong Kong or a town in the English Midlands? Tram passengers who rounded the curve between North Point and Quarry Bay a hundred years ago may have had trouble telling the difference. In 1884, John Samuel Swire, the heir to an English cotton fortune, opened the Taikoo sugar refinery on the sandy eastern shore of Hong Kong Island. Constant expansion turned it into the world’s largest sugar processing plant, and by the early 20th century, Quarry Bay was Hong Kong’s original company town.

Workers lived in row houses along King’s Road; behind them were the pitched-roof, four-storey buildings of the refinery, over which smokestacks towered. There was a dock that received sugarcane and sent out granulated sugar; there were schools, leisure facilities, a private company reservoir. Managers enjoyed the summer months in a mountaintop sanatorium they reached by cable car.

Quarry Bay was not Hong Kong’s only industrial city-within-a-city. A little further east, on the shores of Causeway Bay, Jardine Matheson dominated East Point with its own sugar refinery, along with a pioneering ice factory and a whisky distillery. Across the harbour, Hutchison Whampoa built an enormous shipyard and cement factory in Hung Hom. When people think of industrial Hong Kong, they tend to think of plastic flowers and textiles, but its history goes back much farther than that. Until very recently, this was a city that made things.


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