Monday, September 21, 2009 | By: rudi butt

Clock Tower

Updated (partial) on 9/21/2012

The Pedder Street Clock Tower (1862-1913)
Hong Kong's first clock tower was located at the junction of Queen's Road Central and Pedder Street. Designed by Rawlings & Company [1], the 80 feet high tower was the brainchild of John Dent [2] who, at a public meeting on July 28, 1860, proposed to erect by public subscription a clock tower, town clock and fire bell, the tower to be connected with a drinking fountain. A committee, composed of J. Brodersen, J.H. Beckwith, Douglas Lapraik, G. Lyall who was the co-founder of the mercantile firm Lyall Still & Co. 孻也洋行, Charles St. George Cleverly who was the second Surveyor General, was immediately formed to collect subscription, which at first flowed generously. Delay in the execution of the scheme soon caused the enthusiasm to cool down, subscription stopped, the scheme had to be curtailed, all the decorative features of the original pretty design had to be abandoned, and the result was an ugly tower obstructing the principal thoroughfare. Lapraik came generously to the rescue of the committee and provided, at his own cost, the town clock, which sounded for the first time on new year's eve of 1862, ushering in the year 1863. John Dent also stepped in and erected a drinking fountain next to the tower. A landmark for more than half a century, the Pedder Street Clock Tower became a serious obstruction to traffic as the number of motor cars continued to grow, since their first arrivals in Hong Kong in 1903-05. Work on the tower's demolition began in May 1913 and completed three months later in August. The Clock, being of no further service was sold at public auction, realizing $662.50. 


What's next, ...

Douglas Castle Clock Tower (1860- )
Built two years earlier than the Pedder Street Clock Tower, the Douglas Castle was George Lapraik's country house in Pok Fu Lam. The Mission Etranferes de Paris acquired the property in 1894 to operate the Nazareth Press for the monastery. In 1953, it was sold to the University of Hong Kong for use as students' residence, and named University Hall. I have not listed it as the first clock tower in Hong Kong for the reason that it wasn't a public building.

[1] Rawlings & Company, architects, later renamed as Rawling, Medlen and Company. The chief partner of the firm is believed to be Samuel Bartlett Rawling, an officer of the British Royal Engineers who, in 1860 in response to governor Hercules Robinson's public appeal for a water-supply scheme for Hong Kong, submitted a plan that would later developed into Hong Kong's first reservoir – the Pok Fu Lam Reservoir. Rawling was an assistant engineer in Surveyor General's Office from 1862 to 1863.
[2] John Dent of Dent and Co., relative of founder Thomas Dent, Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce 1863, Senior Unofficial Member of Legislative Council 1866-1867


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