Heritage Walk: Discovering Historic Stanley with Dr. Stephen Davies
Stanley, or Chek Chu 赤柱 is one of Hong Kong’s oldest settlements. Although situated on an isthmus between sheltered beaches facing north and east, and south and west, which is a classic choice for seagoing people, little is known about the territory until 1836 when the "Canton Register" described it as a “wretched village of poor fishermen”. This is certainly no longer the case as Stanley has flourished in the last 50 years with the rapid development of both luxury and public housing, resulting in a population growth 35 times greater than that in 1841!
Starting at the Stanley Military Cemetery, Dr. Stephen Davies will lead our group through the surroundings of historic Stanley Village. As we walk together, Dr. Davies will describe Stanley’s colourful history from its early origins as a modest fishing village, whose meagre wealth was used to build temples to Tin Hau, Shui Shin, and Pak Tai, the influence of notorious, legendary pirate, Zhang Baozai 張保仔, who together with his wife Ching Shi 鄭氏 or Chang I Sao 鄭一嫂, ran the largest ‘pirate’ fleet the world has ever known, its later settlement as a major British army base in the 19th century, and to its more recent history as a major battleground and internment camp during the Second World or Pacific War.
The “village” has one declared monument, not the 1767 Tin Hau Temple, but the 1859-1974 police station which is now a Wellcome Supermarket. In addition, Stanley boasts 41 listed buildings of which 40 are pre-war, and two “Heritage Hong Kong style” bogus reconstructions. Our itinerary will begin at the Military Cemetery (1933 with graves going back to 1842) and St. Stephen’s Beach (boundary marker 1844), and take us through Pat Kan Uk (Eight houses, mid-1930’s), Stanley Public Dispensary (1930s/1948), the old Post Office (1937), the old Police Station on Stanley Main Street (1859), glance uphill towards the Carmelite Convent (1933), Maryknoll House (1935), and Ma Hang Prison (converted 1930s government stores), the Shui Shin Temple (Qianlong 1836-95), Tai Wang/To Tei Temple and the Tin Hau Temple (1767). We will pass Murray House (1844/2002) and Blake Pier (1909/2007) and end at Pak Tai Temple (1805) before retracing our steps for lunch.
Dr. Stephen Davies, a Briton with family connections to Hong Kong that go back to the early 1930s, served in the Royal Navy and Royal Marines (1963-67), briefly designed atlases, and taught sailing and mountaineering before falling off a cliff and having to be screwed back together (1967-68). After university in Wales and London (1968-74) he taught political theory at the University of Hong Kong (1974-89). From 1990-2003 he and his partner sailed 50,000 miles visiting 27 countries in their 38’ sailing sloop; useful background for a maritime historian.
He was appointed the first Museum Director of the Hong Kong Maritime Museum in 2005. From 2005-2011 he built the collection and library, found the museum a new location, got government and donor funding for the expansion and relocation, and created the design and storylines for the new premises. In 2011, he was appointed the museum’s first CSSC Maritime Heritage Research Fellow.
Dr. Davies currently teaches a course on the sustainable use of heritage buildings at HKU’s Department of Real Estate and Construction, of which he is an Honorary Professor. He is also an Honorary Fellow of the University’s Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences and an Honorary Editor of the "Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong". A prolific writer, Dr. Davies’s recent books are "Coasting Past: The last of South China coastal trading junks photographed by William Heering" (Hong Kong Maritime Museum 2013) and "East sails west: the voyage of the Keying", 1846-1855 (Hong Kong University Press 2014). He has just completed "Strong to Save: Maritime mission in Hong Kong from Whampoa Reach to the Mariners’ Club" to be published by Hong Kong City University Press in 2017 and is working on "Transport to another world: the life and times of HMS Tamar 1863-2015".