MeetUp hikes are really a great way to explore hidden corners of Hong Kong… and yesterday I discovered the St. Stephens College Heritage Trail in Stanley. Public access to Heritage Trail is allowed on selected weekends and public holidays with a prior appointment – so we were lucky that one of our group members organised this event.
This is a well-respected and actually also the largest (in terms of its area, which covers 15 hectares) secondary school located in Stanley. The College was founded in 1903, with only five boarders and one day student – now there are more than 1,200 students. It is one of the very few boarding schools in the territory and many of its buildings in the campus are featured in the list of historic Buildings and Declared Monuments by the Antiquities Advisory Board. It also boosts an amazing view all over Stanley!
A heritage trail was set up in 2008, to link the several historic buildings together – and it is a great way to explore the long and rich history of St. Stephen’s College.
We gathered at the Student Centre, where we were greeted by a current student who spent the next 2 hours with us, walking us through the heritage trail.
We started off in one of the old class rooms – because that was one of the few places with air conditioning during the summer holidays. It felt weird to be back at school again, but luckily we didn’t have to raise our hands to ask questions!
From there our first stop was at the Special Room Block, which houses the gym hall, science laboratories and computer rooms. The opening ceremony was held in 1980 and the architect Dr. Tao Ho won a prize for his design.
The bell standing in the plaza of the complex is one of the symbols of the College. The bell was originally donated in September 1930 by the great granddaughter of the first Chinese Protestant Minister, Mr. Liang Fa, to glorify and honour God. After the Second World War, the bell was rediscovered by the Royal Navy and given to St. John’s Cathedral. Recognising that the bell represented significant history, the Cathedral purportedly donated it to the College in 1946 and it was used to call the students for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Next, we went to the main building, which consists of the School House and School Hall. This H-shaped building is chiefly based on the western colonial style in England and Europe at that time. It is a two-storey building with columns and arches. However, the roof is in Chinese style to suit the sub-tropical climatic conditions of Hong Kong.
The Main Building houses the school hall in the centre. The two wings, which have two storeys, were called the School House.
The School House is full of history. In December 1941 it was turned into an emergency military hospital by the Hong Kong Government shortly before the Japanese invasion. Then a very sad incident happened, the Japanese broke into the College early on Christmas Day 1941 and killed soldiers still wounded in their beds, as well as some medical and College staff. During the Japanese occupation from 1941 to 1945, the College was turned into an Internment Camp.
The Chapel was built in 1950 on the highest point as a memorial to all those who suffered and died in the College during the Japanese Occupation.
The stained-glass window depicts not only the suffering in the internment camp, but also the faith, hope and love which sustained so many throughout those years.
We visited the Centenary Building, skipped the Centenary Garden and the Sports Field (but we saw it from the distance) and made our way over to the HeritageGallery in Bungalow No. 3 (which used to house senior staff members).The Gallery provides insights into the history of the College, its development in the Battle of Hong and the Japanese occupation.
We finished this part of the Heritage Trail around lunchtime… and then made our way over to the Stanley Military Cemetery, about which I’ll write tomorrow.