Strolling through the streets of the Yau Ma Tei area, I noticed a small house built with red bricks – it stood next to a high-raise apartment block and I almost overlooked it.
It was freshly renovated and had a sign on one of its sides, so I walked closer to find out what it is. It said the ‘Red Brick Building’ used to be the Engineer’s Office of the Former Pumping Station, Water Supplies Department.
It is the only surviving building of a 19th-century waterworks complex, which consisted of three two-storey buildings and a tall chimney for the boiler. It was built in 1895 and pumped pumped fresh water for use by the local population from several wells in the vicinity.
In 1911, the pumping station ceased operation. In 1912, the chimney was demolished and the buildings became a post office, goods store and a hawkers control office.
Its significance lies in the fact that it is the oldest surviving waterworks building in Hong Kong, and it is a good example of Hong Kong’s industrial heritage in the late Victorian era.
The Red Brick Building is now part of the Yau Ma Tei Theatre, providing a performing and practicing venue for small-scale Cantonese Opera performance.