The Junk Bay Flour Mill, Rennie’s Mill – Hong Kong 1905-1908

Anthony Yao of British Columbia, Canada, at least on the 13th May 2004, when the following was posted, has written a brief account of the Hong Kong Flour Mill, popularly known as Rennie’s Mill, with a slant connecting the mill to the industrial history of western Canada. He has also added an interesting section about transport provided from Kowloon to the mill, it would be rewarding to have this information confirmed and added to with images of the variety of forms of transport provided.

I have been unable to contact Anthony and would be grateful if he would get in touch with me so that I could thank him for his research.

HF: I have slightly adapted Anthony’s article where minor errors of English occur.

Thanks to SCT for proofreading the retyped version of this article.

The Junk Bay Flour Mill – Hong Kong 1905-1908

Junk Bay Flour Mill, Portrait Of Rennie, Anthony Yao

Alfred Herbert Rennie, a Canadian businessman from Ontario, built the state-of-the-art Junk Bay Flour Mill circa the early 1900’s.

Rennie lost his life during a daily visit to the mill site while crossing the harbour in April 1908.(1)

The mill was self-contained, complete with a processing plant, storage space, warehouses and a jetty. A long aqueduct lead fresh water from the hill. Workers’ quarters were located nearby.

The location was quite isolated at that time, accessible mainly by water or a long walk from Kowloon City.

From the old pictures (2) I wonder if it was designed on a North American company town (or known as single-industry town) model, similar to the saw mills, whaling stations and canneries of the same period along the coast of Northern British Columbia, Canada.

The Flour Mill commissioned a vessel Maple Leaf as a worker station for workers from Japan.

The use of vessels as temporary workers quarters and/or offices was very common in single industry towns in Canada.

One very recent example was the building of the Alcam Smelter in Kitimat, British Columbia in 1948-53, a stern wheeler Delta King was commissioned at the Kitimat Mill site during construction and early stages of operation.

Unlike its North American counterpart, commonly built on top of wooden piles with boardwalks, the mill was built on the solid ground of reclaimed land.

Rennie had aggressive advertisements of the flour products in local newspapers and a popular media of the time – the Tung Shu (equivalent to the Farmer’s Almanac in North America.

The mill was demolished after the business was shut down.

That portion of Junk Bay was named “Rennie’s Mill”, the Chinese name of the former mill site was quite unpleasant, “Tiu Keng Leng”, literally “Hanging Ridge”.

Brief Note on the Kowloon Motor Bus Rennie’s Mill Service

The Kowloon Motor Bus Company had provided the Rennie’s Mill Service from the Kowloon City Ferry with various forms of transport due to the poor road conditions of Clearwater Bay Road and Anderson Road (an industrial road not intended for public access). The various types of transport used then included Commer bonnetted buses, modified Ford trucks serving route 30 from the Kowloon City Ferry. The terminus in the Rennie’s Mill area was located at the end of Tiu Keng Leng Road, 200 metres on the hill, where the staff quarters of the mill once stood, about a kilometre from the former mill site. There was a regular stop at Mau Woo Tsai (literally known as “mini spear lake”), a settlement built on the former worker’s quarters 1 km from the terminus.

After numerous near misses and serious accidents, route 30 encountered another serious operation road block, the rapid development along the access road to Kwun Tong new town depended on a series of roundabouts similar to the design of the Australian Capital’s State Circle, which caused traffic congestion between Kowloon City and Ngau Chi Wan tying up buses. As a result route 30 could not keep to its schedule. The service was suspended in 1967. Independent mini bus operators took over the service for the next three years.

Junk Bay Flour Mill, Unknown HK Buses, Anthony Yao

Article image has no title, source or date

In 1970 KMB introduced the 24 feet Albion “Chieftain”, a modified version of the 30 feet “Victor” as Route 90 from Choi Hung inline with other routes for the Sai Kung Peninsula service. Initially the buses were fitted only with the front door, over the years a rear door was added. The 24 feet Albion buses proved to be  very versatile, they were retired in the late 1980s. KMB used air conditioned mini buses to maintain the service until 1996.

Before the mass reclamation of the Junk Bay area in the late 1990s, the Tiu Keng Len Middle School was built on the former mill site.

With all the redevelopments in recent years, Rennie’s Mill will be remembered by the Tiu Weng Leng subway station on the Junk Bay branch line of the Hong Kong Transit Railway.

References:

  1.  South China Morning Post 15th April, 1908.
  2. Various pictures of the mill have been published in books about old Hong Kong.

Sources:

  1. The Junk Bay Flour Mill Hong Kong 1905-1908

This article was first posted on 8th January 2022.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. The Hongkong Milling Company (Rennie’s Mill)
  2. Alfred Herbert Rennie – biography, the Hongkong Milling Company and his suicide
  3. Alfred Herbert Rennie
  4. Alfred Herbert Rennie – additional information
  5. Rennie’s Mill : The Origin and Evolution of a Special Enclave in Hong Kong
  6. The Hongkong Milling Company – the flour mill site after closing – Kuomintang refugees
  7. The Sperry Flour Company in Hong Kong
  8. Far East Flour Mills (遠東麵粉廠)
  9. Kowloon Flour Mills (九龍麵粉廠)
  10. David L.F. Sung (孫麟方) and Hong Kong Flour Mills (香港麵粉廠)
  11. Anderson Road Quarry – plan to develop the site to build 10,000 apartments

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