On 26 November 1996, just months before Hong Kong’s historic return to Chinese sovereignty, the then British colony’s Marine Police formally beat their last retreat from the gracious old white stucco edifice – to the strains of bagpipes and drums – that had served as their headquarters for 112 years and 68 days.
“They did so in the form of a grand parade commanded by Superintendent Laurence Knox and made up of representative contingents from all over the command, including one dressed in the distinctive uniform which was discontinued in 1974,” writes Iain Ward, a former member of the Hong Kong Police Force, a Hong Kong Marine Police historian, and author of Mariners: The Hong Kong Marine Police 1948-1997.
“Retired Mariners from all over the world came back to witness the event, and the party afterwards – starting in the palatial new Officers’ Mess at Sai Wan Ho and ending up in the old Mariners’ Rest in Tsim Sha Tsui (to ‘finish the beer stocks off’) – can be imagined.”
The stately building’s fate was in question following the handover, with greedy real estate developers eager to tear it down and redevelop the property with yet another towering high rise.
Fortunately, saner heads prevailed, and it was decided to renovate the building, turning it into a boutique hotel with fine dining outlets. A luxurious terraced shopping mall with designer boutiques and a public plaza would be built at its base.
Renamed Hullett House, it threw opened its doors Tuesday. The hostelry has 13 spacious and individually designed guest rooms – each with a large private balcony and ceiling fans. There are also 5 themed F&B outlets. St. George is a fine dining Western restaurant. The Parlour serves English style breakfasts and afternoon tea. Loong Toh Yuen has Hong Kong style dim sum and innovative Cantonese style dishes. There are both indoor and outdoor dining areas, with al fresco seating in the 50 Pigeons Courtyard.
Stables Grill serves grilled dishes and tasty tapas in the old horse stables. Mariners’ Rest serves pub grub and grog in what was originally the sergeants’ mess.
Hullett House was named in honour of Richmond William Hullett, a 19th century Engilsh academic and scholar that lived and worked in Asia. As a dedicated botanist, he discovered the Bauhinia, which was adopted as colonial Hong Kong’s official flower in 1965. Since the handover, it has served at the Hong Kong SAR’s official symbol, gracing its flag, coinage and stamps.
Copyright: Michael Taylor