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19 April 2014

The Prince of Wales in Hong Kong - April 1922

The Prince of Wales visited Hong Kong as part of his world tour. He stopped off for two days and the whole of Hong Kong came to a halt. Sir Paul Chater played no small part.......

 The Prince of Wales was taken in his chair along the specially constructed triumphal way past the Hongkong Hotel and so by Queen’s Road to Garden Road and Government House. H.E. the Governor headed the procession, in a black chair with scarlet satin cushion, borne by eight coolies in white trousers and red coats with white crowns on their sleeves and mandarin hats. There was an escort of eight Indian Police on either side of the chair, Captain Neville, R.M.L.I., the Governor’s A.D.C. and two additional Indian A.D.C., walked behind the chair. The Prince followed in his chair also escorted by Indian Police, with Inspector Garrod and two Indian Inspectors in rear. After the Prince’s chair came three more chairs with four bearers, travelling abreast and containing members of the Prince’s staff. Other members of the Prince’s staff followed in motor cards.

The Prince of Wales in his chair


Sir Paul Chater gave the Welcome Speech on behalf of the British community.

How the British address, read by Sir Paul Chater was reported.

City en Fete

The Day Decorations

A thousand flags flaunting their colours in the breeze, thousands of paper lanterns, swinging gaily to each puff as if desirous of calling attention of their presence, was the city’s gala dress donned in honour of her Royal visitor. The buildings which ordinarily are teeming with men bent on business affairs today are closed, or filled with eager spectators whose only care and desire is to show by the warmth and affection of their welcome to His Royal Highness their loyalty and respect to the throne. Today and tomorrow will be historic in the annals of Hongkong. Her citizens have seen to it that the city’s beauty is worthy of the occasion and shall also remain historic.

The work of decorating has been long in hand.  Its growth to completion has been watched with interest.  It is completed. Hongkong may be satisfied.  To wander through the streets is but to add pleasure on pleasure.  Every thoroughfare in the centre of the city is a picture, each with some distinctive note to hold attention until it is claimed by new beauties which unfold themselves. The feelings of the people here are probably best expressed by the legend above Marble Hall [Sir Paul Chater's residence] which reads “God bless our Prince”. Composed of huge white letters and surmounted by the Prince’s feathers which will be illuminated at night, the decorating stands out in bold relief from the dark background provided by the hillside.  Viewed from the harbour or town it is a very striking piece of work.
 Queen’s Road has been well looked after, especially in the bank district. Here there is a profuse display of flags and lanterns. The International Bank Building seems one red mass, while further on comes Victoria Building almost unrecognisable beneath its coat of greenery and flags. 

A personal note on the back of this photograph by Lilian Bagram wife of Sir Paul's nephew
Theo Bagram, is perfect confirmation that this was the office and centre of
Sir Paul's business empire, decorated for the impending visit of the Prince of Wales . Lilian often referred to Sir Paul and Lady Chater as"the aunt and uncle".

One passes on to the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank with its coloured electric lights, its pillars wreathed in bunting of the national colours, its flags and, over-looking Statue Square its big electric sign representing the hong flag. So by the red-outlined City Hall to the Indian arch.

Naturally a centre of attraction is the corner formed by the junction of Pedder Street, Chater and Des Voeux Roads.  Here stands the fine building of Messrs. Jardine Matheson and Co. The pillars have been covered with blue and white bunting, the house colours the effect being heightened by lavish use of the house flag and the Red Ensign. From the tower to the roof are long strings of flags. Just opposite the Post office stands resplendent in its bunting-wreathed verandahs and flags. Facing over the harbour is a big crown flanked by the letters “G.R.”.  The decoration of the Hongkong Hotel has been carried out in electric light of various colours. The effect should be arresting at night. Alexandra Building has its dressing of flags and also some electric sign of the Prince’s feathers.  From the corner Des Voeux Road looks simply a red and beflagged avenue.  There is not a building but has contributed well to the general scheme.

Queen’s Buildings and Prince’s Buildings are in themselves quite a feature. Decoration on both of them has proceeded along the same lines. The verandahs have been transformed by the use of tri-coloured bunting, the spaces between the verandah pillars are hung with lanterns. On the east side of Prince’s Building facing on Statue Square, is a coloured electric sign depicting the Persian flag -  a lion holding a sword with a rising sun as background. 
A rare image from the 1922 visit of HRH the Prince of Wales.
Prince's Building showing signage that until now, had only
been described in newspapers and not seen. Here it can be
seen the flag as described above, the lion holding a sword.

Special attention has been paid to the adornment of Chater Road. Flanking it on both sides are white pillars connected by strings of greenery from which are suspended coloured lights. Above them rise the red glowing masses of lanterns and the fluttering flags.  It is a wonderful scene on which the eye lingers until it loses itself in the magnificence of Statue Square.

The buildings fronting on the Praya have not been overlooked by any means. On both King’s Building and that in which the Telegraph Companies are housed greenery has been tastefully combined with bunting and lanterns.  Butterfield’s has also a lot of attention paid to it.  Running vertically down the walls are streamers of white and blue, the red being supplied by lanterns. Amidst a profusion of flags the Prince’s crest is displays, the house flag also being prominent. The main feature of the decoration of the neighbouring V.R.C., building is the illuminated flag. The Naval Yard wall is outlined with lanterns and over the main gate is erected an illuminated anchor. The officers’ mess at the foot of Garden Road looks bright with its profuse display of flags.

At the Taikon Dockyard, which provided the Prince’s first glimpse of Hongkong, are two huge frames bearing the word “Welcome” whilst on the China Sugar Refinery, in letters 10 feet high is the legend “Our Prince”. The Tramway Company has its sign of “Welcome to our Prince” raised some 130 feet from the grounds. Messrs Ruttonjee and Son strike a somewhat original note with the sign “Tell father we are all happy”.

In Statue Square

 Lanterns, Lanterns Everywhere

Those who have spoken slightingly of the temporary beauties adorning Statue Square must surely have wished their words unsaid when the full glory of the finished product burst upon them this morning.  Statue Square was really the heart of the whole decorative scheme and, like red corpuscles bobbling about in the arteries that radiated from it, were lanterns, thousand and thousands of them.

Red lanterns were everywhere. They bordered the cornices of the Pavilion; they hung in rows from the garlands of ever-greens festooned between the pillars; one danced merrily in the breeze on the very summit of the Supreme Court dome. The Supreme Court indeed looked very unlike a staid hall of justice – it had the rakish air of an exhibition building in full carnival rig. Strings of bunting fluttered around the symbolical figures on the top of broad bands of red white and blue swathed in colonnade and balconies.

Wisely the decorators had refrained from over-dressing the Pavilion. Save for its effective boarding of lanterns and an odd cluster of flags to relieve the monotony of the walls here and there its chaste lines were left unembellished.  It looked a noble pile and one meet to be the scene of today’s historic function. Back of it the Hongkong Club was hung about, at every available point it seemed, with lanterns and the tall buildings that smiled down upon the square from the Western side too, had decked themselves fittingly to greet the Prince.

The strings of evergreens hung with lanterns, which linked up the pillars were an effective feature which harmonised finely with the contribution to the scheme which had been made by old mother Nature. Her handiwork, the green grass and the flowers and most of all the soft pink bloom of the trees, made a charming setting for the other parts of the charming picture that had been artificially evolved.

 The Pavilion - A Temporary Structure

The build up to the impending visit in April 1922 to Hong Kong by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales had been going on for months. Committees were formed, duties allocated, buildings were painted, and streets were swept, regimental bands practised, and the military rehearsed their marches and positioning, Chinese coolies were carefully selected as the chosen ones to carry the Prince, uniforms measured for, and several sedan chairs were spruced up. Decorations were planned, purchase and put up all over the city, and a Pavilion specially erected for the occasion of the royal visit was placed in the same location as the current Cenotaph in Statue Square.

The decorations were a spectacle

The Pavilion was built of lathe and plaster and was only a temporary structure. Measuring 180 feet by 150 feet and able to accommodate 3,000 people. For speeches and presentations it had row upon row of centrally placed seating whilst there were also banks of side seating. The cost of the Pavilion was around HK$50,000 approximately £7,000, at today’s values that figure is in excess of around £330,000 or US$559,000. As can be seen from the announcement in the local newspaper, there was meticulous attention to detail with regard to arrangements for the various functions taking place in the Pavilion, starting with the welcome speeches, the addresses by the University, St. Stephen’s Girls’ College, the local Masons, the Ex-Service Men’s reception, and finally the grand ball, they all had their own instructions.

The notice in the newspaper regarding arrangements at the Pavilion

Attending the ball? These are the instructions for guests.

The cloakrooms for the ball were at the Law Courts.

The Pavilion was described in the local papers as follows:

The specially constructed Pavilion had been handsomely decorated for the occasion.  The striking silken lamp shades suspended from the roof lent a pleasant touch of colour. The whiteness of the interior was further relieved by festoons of evergreens and flags and ensigns used for curtains to the windows.  In the Prince’s reception room a delicate colour of greyish blue is the prevailing colour tone.

This unique image of the specially built Royal Pavilion (behind Queen Victoria's Statue) erected for the two day visit of HRH the Prince of Wales to Hong Kong in 1922is rarely seen, there are postcards in circulation [see below] but I haven't seen photographs. However, the wonderful provenance on the back written by Lilian Bagram (wife of Theo Bagram who was a nephew of Sir Paul Chater) gives the only known personal description including its costs.
The note says: "Statue Square and the Pavilion specially built for the
reception and ball. It is of lathe and plaster only and is now being pulled
down before the typhoon season, as it would be blown away if left.
Cost fifty thousand dollars about 7,000£. Fancy!!!"

Another view of the Pavilion

The illuminations at Night.

The great success of the illuminations was the appearance of the warships in port. Ships have been picked out with electric lights before but never in the history of the Colony, probably, has there been such a splendid array of illuminated war vessels in the harbour. Outlined as they were with white electric lights they looked like enormously magnified specimens of the jeweller’s art or, if jewellery so large is inconceivable, then like design sketched in phosphor paint by some superhuman artist, against the dark background of the night. The Renown could not be “picked out” with lights in the time available, but she exhibited a splendid design of the “Feathers”. The only object on land in any way similarly treated to the warships was Queen Victoria’s statue which, also was outlined in white electric lights and had the appearance of a glass model of St. Paul’s Cathedral dome, brilliantly lighted from without. Another departure from the prevailing scheme was at the Hongkong Hotel which was be-jewelled with vari-coloured electric lights.

All else was ruby red. The circular and vase-shaped lanterns used were admirable for effective decorating and the wisdom of deciding upon one type for the night illuminations was clearly apparent. In the streets last night, Hongkong glowed with a strange unearthly radiance and the west macadam reflected the soft light in a way that greatly added to the effect.  From the harbour the scene was one of extraordinary beauty. Solid masonry seems to have completely disappeared and to have been replaced by ethereal palaces.  Where all were so successful it was invidious to mention names but some were worthy of special note.  The severe Grecian lines at Messrs. Butterfield & Swire’s, the delicately outlined tower and fa├žade of Kowloon Railway Station, a kind of ruined Greek temple at Holt’s Wharf, the wealth of detail at the Hongkong Club, the bold design at the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank were amongst those that were generally admired.  Sir Paul Chater’s Prince of Wale’s Feathers design and the lighted inscription “God Bless our Prince” spoke by night, as Sir Paul had spoken by day in the Pavilion, for the whole British Community. The scenes by night it should be added, were greatly enhanced by the magnificent firework display given by the Japanese community.

Racing – The Prince of Wales Stakes

There were five starters but the start of the race was delayed pending the arrival of His Royal highness.  Big crowds were lined up through the enclosure and at 4.25pm the Prince, accompanied by H.E. the Governor motored right into the enclosure to the accompaniment of loud cheering. He was met by Sir Paul Chater and Sir William Rees Davies and other stewards of the Jockey Club and as he appeared at the railing of his special stand he was again given an ovation. The Prince watched the race from the Governors stand but afterwards the Prince honoured Sir Paul Chater by a visit to his stand [private box].

The Prince of Wales at Happy Valley races.

 The Prince also played a game of polo at Happy Valley

The Prince of Wales playing polo at Happy Valley

The Royal Pavilion was demolished at the end of April 1922.
Reported in the Hong Kong Telegraph Friday 21 April 1922

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