Monday, February 10, 2014

Bruce Lee & I - Betty Ting Pei (1976) - Cornwall Street, Kowloon Tong

Here is an interesting scene, for me at least because I travel up here pretty much everyday. It's a shot looking up Cornwall Street very soon after the road was actually completed.

Cornwall Street now runs from Waterloo Road, all the way up to the Chak On Estate near Tai Wo Ping, however, originally it only ran as far as the lower section of Beacon Hill Road (which for some reason is completely disconnected from the upper part where Betty used to live!) - which is basically where the closest traffic bollard is in the above screen grabs. Even by 1973, just a few years before this film was made, the western end of Cornwall Street had been laid out but the Govt had yet to make the two ends meet across the railway track near the Beacon Hill Tunnel - this is essentially the section we can see above. Look closely and you can see where the bridge over the track is/was.

Of course the bridge is still there even though the track has now been moved, but the old trackway still exists and so the bridge still needs to be there. Anyway, here is a modern comparison and yo can see how much has actually changed. That's where Beacon Hill Road (lower section) starts on the right and marks the initial extent of Cornwall Street before its extension.


  1. Stumbled on this post while I was researching something for my Dad.

    As a child in the mid-1950s, he lived in a bungalow on Cornwall Street, right alongside the Beacon Hill Tunnel's southern portal. (Roughly where Google Maps shows something called the Cornwall Club, although on Street View it looks more like residential properties.)

    Nearby -- perhaps within a half-mile or less -- he remembers there being an enormous granite boulder similar to the more-famous Sung Wong Toi boulder, perched atop several others. This created a room/cave with a flat, dry sandy floor beneath, and as you'd expect for such a location in HK, it included an altar with joss sticks, fruit, wine etc.

    Apparently he returned in the late 60s or early 70s to take a picture, but it was gone, perhaps due to the Cornwall Street extension you mention above. (If anybody knows more about or has a photo of these boulders, I'd love to be able to show it to him.)

    Anyway, as part of the search for into on that, I happened to answer your question about the two disconnected Beacon Hill Roads. I have maps from 1968, 1974 and 1978 that all show an intention to join the two halves of Beacon Hill Road. (There's a dashed outline of the road that would have connected them in a straight line between the two.)

    So presumably, some time in the very late 70s or after, the plan was dropped for whatever reason, leaving us with two distinct roads that were supposed to have been connected, and which share the same name.

    1. Well, first I'm glad I got the location correct :)
      It's nice to know when these images invoke memories, it's one of the reasons I feel film has a lot to offer in terms of documenting how places used to look.
      With regards to Beacon Hill Road's two parts, I think it may be related to the path of the original train tunnel. If you look at the govt geomap, the tunnel goes through the hill at that exact spot so I am inclined to believe the rock above the tunnel was deemed unsuitable for having a road above it! Just a guess, I can't really think of any other reason. There must be a geotechnical report somewhere but as of yet I haven't had the time to look.

    2. I'd be surprised if the tunnel beneath is why they didn't extend the road, for two reasons.

      One, the tunnel is largely through solid granite, which would probably make it very strong indeed, once construction was finished. And it had been there since 1910 or earlier, so there should have been no question mark over its stability. (Construction actually started in 1906, but I'm not sure when that portal was opened. My understanding, though, is that they were working quite a few rock faces simultaneously, boring not just from both ends of the tunnel, but also digging down vertically at points in between and then boring from those points towards the other tunnel sections.)

      Perhaps more significantly, though, the tunnel *already* crosses under Beacon Hill Road before you get to that point, quite close to its intersection with Cornwall Street. The government's GeoInfo Map is definitely accurate here, because I found a second even more convincing source which confirms it.

      While researching my Dad's recollections for him, I stumbled on the Environmental Protection Department document above. Towards the end, it has very detailed drawings of both the north and south tunnel portals. It reconfirms that the tunnel crosses beneath Beacon Hill Road directly in between One Beacon Hill Tower 5 and No. 4 Beacon Hill Rd.

      I can't think of any good reason that they'd be willing to cross over the tunnel once lower down (where there's less rock to bear the load), but not a second time further up the hill, where you'd have an extra 25 meters of solid granite between road and tunnel.

      If I had to make a guess as to why they didn't join the two parts of the road, it would be that it comes too close to Lung Cheung Rd. above, and hence would've needed a steeper-graded slope between the two. That would likely mean a much thicker, more expensive retaining wall -- and for little benefit, because there's not much space to sell land on either side of the portion of road that was never built.

      Still just guessing, but I think it probably came down to that old Hong Kong decision-maker: Money. Can't make enough profit out of that piece of road, so cancel the project! ;-)

    3. ARGh! You do realize there is no room for common sense on my blog ;-)

      Interesting thoughts though. But it doesn't explain why the spit of land between the two halves hasn't been redeveloped. I would have thought costs would be far outweighed by profit these days.

      That said, there is currently underway a project to link up both sides of Lung Cheung Rd with Lung Ping Road via a set if bridges. They've been up there for nearly a year doing site formation and two of the bridges are well on the way.

  2. Well, well, well... I showed this link to my Dad, and it turns out that the black-roofed building in your screenshots dates back to the 1950s, and was his amah's quarters as a kid. He's now over the moon with memories of eating salt fish, preserved cabbage and lap cheong sausages in there as a seven-year old with, it seems, a very generous amah.

    And all thanks to our resident Hong Kong movie expert, whose work. Well done, Phil! :-) I highly doubt he'd have watched Bruce Lee & I unprompted, so without your contribution he'd never have seen his one-time haunt resurrected...

    1. Excellent!
      There are a few ex-Kowloon Tong peeps in the 60's FB group who would remember. It may be worthwhile asking there about the old rock.

    2. Great tip, thanks. I don't think I'm in the 60s group, but I'll ask for an invite...

    3. I think you're already a member: