Bailey’s Shipyard – 1908 Account

IDJ: While many people in HK will recall Taikoo Dockyard and Hong Kong & Whampoa Dockyard or the Hong Kong United Dockyards as they were later known, few will be aware of Bailey’s Shipyard or the Cosmopoliton Dockyards which were quite substantial operations.

The following account of W.S. Bailey & Co., often called Bailey’s Shipyard, is from Twentieth Century Impressions of Hongkong, Shanghai and other Treaty Ports of China, ed A Wright, 1908.

Bailey's Shipyard Detail 1908 Wright Account From IDJ

Thanks to Richard McGeough for re-typing the original article.

This well-known firm of engineers and shipbuilders was founded in 1897 by Mr. W.S. Bailey, who began business as a consulting engineer and importer of steam pumps and engineers’ requisites. In 1900 Mr. Bailey was joined in partnership by Mr. E. O. Murphy, and the present works at Kowloon Bay were established. The firm’s first order was for the 50-foot steam launch Ida, and was received from the Hong Kong Steam Laundry Company.

Machine shop c1905

From that time to the present orders have flowed continuously and it has been necessary to make frequent additions to the premises and plant in order to cope with the increasing stream. The works now occupy about six acres, and have a sea frontage of 450 feet, so that eight vessels may be laid down at the same time. When established only three years the Company received the order for the Canton River steamer Kwong Chow (now the Kwong Sai), of 600 tons displacement and 200 feet in length. The boat was completed a year later and up to that date was the largest steel vessel built in the Colony.

Newly built twin screw Kwong Tung c1905

In 1905 the firm, in response to a repeat order from the same owner, undertook the construction of the steel twin-screw steamer the Kwong Tung, and while engaged upon this contract they also had in hand four iron barges, each of 600 tons capacity, for Messrs. Markwald & Co., of Bangkok, besides several smaller vessels and general work. At this time upwards of two thousand five hundred men were employed in the yard.

Steam boilers being installed in the hull of the Kwong Tung c1905

Messrs. W.S Bailey & Co. have recently completed the steel cruiser Loong Sheung (Flying Dragon) for the Imperial Chinese Navy. On the occasion of our representative’s visit over a thousand men were at work, and there were on the stocks a steel twin-screw lighter being built, under Lloyd’s 100 A1 survey, to carry 825 tons deadweight at a speed of nine knots; and a steel oil barge 150 feet in length for the Standard Oil Company of New York.

There were also fifty-two steel buoys under construction for the Manila Government. At the same time the firm were erecting large oil tanks at Haiphong and Saigon for the Standard Oil Company, for whom they had just previously completed a similar installation at Hongkong.

In seven years the firm have turned out over eighty vessels, including stern-wheelers, light draught vessels, and motor boats, both twin and single screws.

The senior partner, Mr. Bailey, was born in Dublin and served his apprenticeship was an engineer with the Australasian Steam Navigation Company, of Sydney, N.S.W. He came to Hongkong in 1890 and joined the Hongkong, Canton and Macao steamboat Company Ltd., in whose steamers Honan and Heungshan he served until he started in business for himself. Mr. Bailey is a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, London.

Mr. Murphy is of Irish parentage, and was born in Liverpool, where he served his apprenticeship with Messrs. John Jones & Sons. He was afterwards junior engineer in several vessels of the White Star Line, and arrived in Hongkong, as second engineer of the Abyssinia, in 1895. For the next five years or so he served as chief engineer in the C.P.R. liners Empress of India, Empress of China and Empress of Japan. Mr. Murphy is a Whitworth scholar, and vice-president of the Institute of Marine Engineers, London.

York Lo: “In 1958 Chow Mud-wai and Chow Chin-yau (鄒振猷) acquired the former site of the Bailey Shipyard in To Kwa Wan where they built Wah Lok Theatre (華樂戲院) in 1960. The cinema had capacity of 1261 seats but only lasted for 12 years as it closed in 1972 and was re-developed into a residential building.”


  1. Chow Mud-wai (周沕桅) – Maker of Steel Windows, Owner of Theaters and Philanthropist
  2. Wah Lok Theatre / 華樂戲院 [1960-1972]

This article was originally posted on 28th March 2014.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. William Seybourne Bailey co-founder of Bailey’s Shipyard
  2. E O Murphy, co-founder of Bailey’s Shipyard
  3. Bailey’s Shipyard during the Occupation 1942-1945
  4. Chinese Airline buys Bailey’s Shipyard – a hotbed of political strife 1949-1955





  • Robyn Evans

    I am WS Bailey’s granddaughter and was delighted when I found this information on my Grandfather. I am curious if there’re any ships still on the Harbour that were built in his yard? I have found one ship, The Gleniffer, that was teak built and exported to Canada. It is now resident in Vancouver having been beautifully restored. See it here:

    • Brian Beesley

      I thought maybe Gleniffer was a renamed “Pride of the West” but I found a photo of the former and it’s not. PoW was about 65 feet, and was also built of teak. She was powered by a 5 cyl diesel engine. I remember the brass plate in the wheelhouse that said ” Built by WS Bailey in Hong Kong.1908. The reason it stuck in my mind was that my family were from Hong Kong and I asked my grandfather if he knew Bailey. He did, but not well. I may have another relative who was a marine engineer, and may have worked at WS Baileys back then. I wonder if you have any old HK photographs?

      • Hello Brian

        Good to hear from you and to learn of your research into individual boats made at Bailey’s Shipyard.

        All the information we currently have about Bailey’s is contained in these articles on our site.You will see from that we have concentrated on a general history of the yard and its founders:
        a) Bailey’s Shipyard – 1908 Account
        b) William Seybourne Bailey co-founder of Bailey’s Shipyard
        c) E O Murphy, co-founder of Bailey’s Shipyard
        d) Bailey’s Shipyard during the Occupation 1942-1945
        e) Chinese Airline buys Bailey’s Shipyard – a hotbed of political strife 1949-1955

        If you can find further information about your relative working at the yard I would be delighted to hear it – maybe even post it.

        And if you come across specific boats built at Bailey’s and can provide a few details and an image or two I can also post that.

        Best wishes
        Hugh Farmer

    • Brian Beesley

      I found some info on the WS Bailey yacht I was looking for known as Pride of the West. She was brought to Vancouver and in 1919 was owned by William Farrell and named “Sheileena” I recall her brass builder plate having the year 1908, so I’ve yet to trace her first years. She had several more owners and different names including “Heather M” and “General Kitchener” ( 1939-1947 when owned by the Canadian Army ) before she became “Pride of the West” twice. She was apparently wrecked in 2010 after running aground. I’m still trying to get some photos.

  • Brian Beesley

    “Pride of the West” was in West Vancouver in the 60s. Built 1908 at Bailey’s

  • I am searching for an vessel built in 1908

    James M. Jewell was a US Army launch built in Hong Kong during 1908. Steam driven, displacing 55 gross tons and manned by a crew of nine

  • keith McIntosh

    Hello, I am Keith McIntosh,
    W. S. Bailey was my grandfather, what an amazing life he had.

    • Brian Beesley

      Hi Keith,
      Good to see you on here. Do you have any photos of your grandfather or any of his boats. As you can tell by my posts, I’m seeking information on a particular vessel, but my grandfather knew your grandfather in Hong Kong. I expect most of the British heritage folk knew each other as many would have moved in the same circles of friends and associates.

      Brian Beesley

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