Historical Timeline

A Brief History of the Central Police Station Compound

With a rich history dating back to the mid-19th century, the site comprises some of the earliest structures built during the foundation of Hong Kong. Through the generations, the site has constantly evolved, in sync with the development of Hong Kong.

The site is a unique cluster of relatively low-rise heritage buildings sitting in a prime location in the heart of Central, Hong Kong. Its significance was officially recognised in 1995 when the former Central Police Station, the Central Magistracy, and Victoria Prison were listed as Declared Monuments.

Photo Credit:Public Records Office, Government Records Service

Captain William Caine was appointed Chief Magistrate and given the power to police and detain, placing him in charge of law and order. Caine also oversaw the construction of the first magistracy and prison in Hong Kong.

The second-generation Magistracy was constructed on Arbuthnot Road.

Photo Credit:The National Archives

Prison overcrowding, due to a surge in population and crime, led to the redevelopment of Victoria Gaol based on a radial plan to increase jail capacity.

The first-generation Central Police Station was moved from Wellington Street to the current site. By 1864, the construction of the Barrack Block was completed. The site began to serve the functions of a police station, magistracy, and prison, forming an integrated law enforcement system.

Victoria Gaol was extended once again in the 1890s with two new prison blocks erected on Old Bailey Street. They were connected with the main block through a subway under the street. These two blocks were demolished at the end of the 20th century.


Parts of Victoria Gaol’s radial-plan prison were demolished in 1897 and 1901 respectively, leaving a T-shaped prison building. The space obtained by the demolition was used to build prison facilities and a workshop.


 

The extension of a fourth floor to the Barrack Block was completed, providing additional accommodation for the ever- expanding police force.

Photo Credit:Public Records Office, Government Records Service

The third-generation Central Magistracy was constructed in 1914. The new building originally housed two courtrooms and opened for its first hearing in April 1915.

Photo Credit:Antiquities and Monuments Office

A new Police Headquarters Block was constructed. The grand façade facing Hollywood Road was designed to reflect a sense of authority.

Prisons came under the charge of the newly established Prisons Department.

Former Vietnamese leader, Ho Chi-minh, was arrested in Hong Kong and spent part of his detention in Victoria Gaol.


Victoria Gaol was briefly closed in 1937 after the prisoners were transferred to the newly-built Stanley Prison. It was then reopened in 1939 and part of Victoria Gaol was turned into the Victoria Remand Prison.

Photo Credit:Public Records Office, Government Records Service

The compound suffered severe bomb damage in December 1941 and was subsequently used by the Japanese military until the end of WWII.

The former Central Police Station, the Central Magistracy, and Victoria Prison reopened after post-war repairs and construction. The Police Headquarters moved after the war and subsequently settled at Arsenal Street in Wan Chai.

Victoria Remand Prison was functionally changed into Victoria Reception Centre.


During the 1967 Riots, riot police were mobilised to respond to emergencies all over Hong Kong. A control room was set up at the former Central Police Station to make arrangements for everyday needs such as food, rest, accommodation, and duty assignments. Many riot-related cases were tried at the Central Magistracy and the Victoria Reception Centre served as a place of detention.

With the opening of Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre, Victoria Reception Centre returned to its original function and was renamed Victoria Prison.

Photo Credit:Antiquities and Monuments Office

The Central Magistracy was decommissioned in 1979 and subsequently converted into the Annex of The Supreme Court of Hong Kong in February of that year. Its judiciary function ceased in 1984. Afterwards, the building served as offices for the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre and various police associations.

Due to the influx of illegal immigrants from the Mainland, the government put an end to the “Touch-base" Policy on 23 October, 1980, providing a grace period from 24 to 26 October. This meant that illegal immigrants could no longer obtain the right of abode in Hong Kong thereafter. On 27 October, the Victoria Immigration Centre was established on the site to process immigration offenders.

Photo Credit:Antiquities and Monuments Office

The Prisons Department was renamed the Correctional Services Department, reflecting a shift of focus from punishment to rehabilitation. In 1984, Bauhinia House, originally a 19th-century watchtower, was converted into a half-way house for women who were released under supervision.

The former Central Police Station, the Central Magistracy, and Victoria Prison were listed as Declared Monuments under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance.

Photo Credit:Correctional Services Department

The former Central Police Station was decommissioned in 2004, followed by the Victoria Prison in 2006.


In 2008, The Government of the Hong Kong SAR and The Hong Kong Jockey Club announced a not-for-profit plan to revitalise the Central Police Station compound.

The Jockey Club CPS Limited (“JCCPS”), an NGO which oversees the conservation and revitalisation of the Central Police Station compound, known as “Tai Kwun”, was established.

Tai Kwun started the Oral History Collection Project, interviewing retirees who had worked in the compound and people who were closely related to the site, such as members of the Central-Western District neighbourhood.

In May 2018, Tai Kwun officially opened to the public in phases.

Tai Kwun received the Award of Excellence in the 2019 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.