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Saturday, Sep 18, 2021

Shelters, pendulum among historic school's charms

An 80-year-old pre-war building that houses Bonham Road Government Primary School and is recently declared a monument boasts air raid shelters and a historic pendulum among its many landmarks.
Secretary of Development Michael Wong Wai-lun wrote in his blog today that the school building was built between 1940 to 1941 and was formerly known as the Northcote College of Education. It was the first full-time education college in Hong Kong.

During Japanese rule, the college was closed and used as headquarters by the Japanese military police before being reopened in 1946. The college moved to Sassoon Road in 1962, and the Bonham Road campus was used by the United College of the Chinese University of Hong Kong until 1971 when the university moved to Shatin.

After renovation work was completed in 1973, the campus was returned to the then-renamed Northcote College of Education as a branch campus until 1997, when the college was incorporated into the Hong Kong Institute of Education and moved to a new campus in Tai Po.

Since January 2000, the historic building has been used as a school building by the BRGPS.

Susanna Siu Lai-kuen, the executive secretary of Antiquities and Monuments Office, said that the main building is a three-floor building constructed from concrete with a basement.

The building has an E-shaped layout with a long, narrow middle section and two symmetrical wings at each end. The design of the main building is a typical streamline moderne building, with many curves and horizontal lines and focusing on function over decoration.

The most distinctive features are the curved facade facing Bonham Road and the central rotating staircase. The wooden doors, wooden or steel-framed windows and their hardware, Italian plastered concrete tiles, and wooden flooring are all well-preserved historical building elements.

Wong said that the buildings are still being used for educational purposes, and that the main entrance of the main building still bears traces of the English name of the former Northcote College of Education.

There are two former air raid shelters in the basement, with an airlock for each that was built with the main building, which could also be used as escape exits. They now serve as a library and activity rooms. The design of such air raid shelters is rare among the existing historic buildings in Hong Kong, Wong said.

The former president of the NCE Past Students' Association School also pointed out another historical landmark -- the Foucault Pendulum, which is named after French physicist Jean Bernard Leon Foucault.

The pendulum was an astronomical device that was installed during the school's construction to prove the rotation of the Earth. It was lifted from the top of the rotating staircase and is still in good condition.

"The conservation of historic buildings cannot rely only on government resources. All stakeholders, including private owners of historic buildings and the public, should work together to enhance the community's awareness and attention to the conservation and to pass on to the next generation," said Wong.
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