Deacons Archive on Sir Catchick Paul Chater

In April 2014 Deacons, Hong Kong's leading law firm donated their entire archive to Hong Kong University to enable its preservation and future. Part of that archive were some of the legal documents associated with Sir Catchick Paul Chater thus ensuring an important part of Hong Kong's history is safe-guarded for future generations.

Over the coming months, I shall be showcasing some of those documents on this website. For anyone in Hong Kong you might like to go along to the exhibition and take a look.

Some of the exhibition documents can be viewed online here

Exhibition Information:
Date: April 4 to April 28, 2014
Opening Hours:  09:00 to 22:00 (Monday –Friday); 09:00-19:00 (Saturday); 10:00 – 19:00 (Sunday and Public Holidays)
Venue: Special Collections 1/F, Main Library, The University of Hong Kong
Free Admission

Hong Kong University's Press Release states:


Preserving the Past, Informing the Future “Deacons Archives” Turnover Ceremony cum Exhibition 3 April 2014

The University of Hong Kong Libraries is deeply grateful to Deacons for depositing the firm’s archival records with us permanently, which is now formally named as Deacons Archives. We appreciate very much Deacons’ belief in acknowledging the past, preserving the memory, and investing in the future. History is written with reference to the evidence of the past. We truly honour Deacons’ rationale for making the deposit, which does not only enable the Libraries to preserve the firm’s historical records perpetually, but also to make the Archives available for scholarly research and teaching purposes.

Deacons is Hong Kong’s premier law firm and provides an extensive range of legal and commercial services to local and international businesses. With roots in Hong Kong beginning in 1851, it has long and distinguished histories coupled with influential and prominent partners and clients. The firm’s archival records can help develop connections within our communities, commemorate and encourage philanthropic activities, and contribute to Hong Kong society’s understanding of itself.

Deacons Archives contains the bulk of the early surviving records of Deacons and its predecessors, including client deeds and papers, wills and probate, deceased estate client files, powers of attorney, business contracts and agreements, certificates, legal correspondence, accounting records, and more. The date range for the Archives is from 1846 to 2007, with a bulk date range between 1880s and 1950s. This surely provides valued information reflecting the social and economic conditions of Hong Kong particularly in the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century. It was indeed the active and progressive commercial activities which took place in the past that had contributed to Hong Kong’s growth from a “barren rock” into one of the most important international financial centres as it is today.

Deacons Archives is organized into 65 series, with over 160 boxes of records occupying about 35 linear metres of shelf space. This exhibition intends to convey the depth, breadth and richness of the Archives’ holdings. The documents on display are various types of records relating to The University of Hong Kong, wills of local renowned entrepreneurs, land lease and land sale deeds, and other intriguing records ranging from the 1900s to the 1960s. A number of damaged documents which have been repaired and restored by our Preservation and Conservation team are also on display, along with images to illustrate the different repair processes. We hope you enjoy the exhibition.

Items on Display:

Case 1 – University of Hong Kong


1.         A mortgage insurance issued in 1926 by the Commercial Union Assurance Company Limited to the University of Hong Kong as mortgagee.


To achieve a more balanced investment portfolio, one of the investment tools for the Finance Committee of HKU in the 1920s was to lend the endowment funds on local mortgages to secure higher returns.


2.         Agreement made between the University of Hong Kong and William Woodward Hornell on 6th June 1924, whereas William Hornell was appointed as the fourth Vice-Chancellor (1924-1937) of the University of Hong Kong.


The University would pay to the Vice-Chancellor during his appointment a salary of Two Thousand Pounds per annum payable monthly at exchange Hongkong Dollars Ten to the Pound Sterling by equal calendar monthly payments on the last day of each calendar month.


3.         An estate account dated 30th June 1911 of the Estate of Sir H. N. Mody Deceased Ledger indicates a total of HK$233,205 was made to the University of Hong Kong shortly after Sir Hormusjee Nowrojee Mody passed away on 16th June 1911.


Sir Mody, a Parsee businessman who was well-known for his public benefactions, unfortunately did not live to see the grand opening of HKU. However his generous contribution of HK$150,000 to help establish the University is always remembered as a perpetual educational benefactor in Hong Kong.

Case 2 – Wills and Probate


4.         Will of Sir Ellis Kadoorie (1865-1922). Sir Kadoorie, a Baghdadi Jew from Iraq, was a prominent Hong Kong businessman and well-known philanthropist. According to his testament, he desired his Trustees to set aside sufficient funds for annuities to support schools in Hong Kong and China, and hospitals in England.


5.         Will of Emanuel Raphael Belilios, CMG, JP (1837-1905), a famous Hong Kong Jewish businessman. He was also Chairman of Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation from 1876 to 1882 and was appointed to the Legislative Council of Hong Kong in 1881.


Mr Belilios also gained his reputation as a philanthropist. In his testament, he specifically instructed his Trustees to purchase premises in the City of Calcutta to establish a free college named “Belilios’ College” which was intended for the education of the children of Jews.


6.         Will of Sir Catchick Paul Chater (1846-1926), CMG. Sir Chater was a renowned businessman of Armenian descent in colonial Hong Kong. Being member of the Executive and Legislative Councils, he worked tirelessly for the people of Hong Kong in its early days.


From the first codicil to his will, he bequeathed his residence Marble Hall and its entire contents, including his unique collection of porcelain and paintings to the Government of Hong Kong. Also from the schedule of Sir Chater’s property, which was attached to his will, he made numerous charitable donations both in Hong Kong and London.

Case 3 – Land Sale and Land Lease Agreements


7.         A Memorandum of Agreement of an auction sale of Crown land took place on 5th February 1900, when Sir Robert Hotung offered the highest bid of HK$7,990, above the upset price of HK$7,970, to purchase Inland Lot No. 1577 at Wong Nei Chong Road for a term of 75 years, with special conditions that only European residences and designs could be erected in the land.


Inland Lot No. 1577 is more or less equivalent to today’s No. 135 of Wong Nai Chung Road near Broadwood Road in Happy Valley.


8.         An agreement made between the Honourable Catchick Paul Chater and others and the Hong Kong Canton and Macao Steamboat Company Limited in 1890 to build and maintain a wharf or pier in the harbour opposite and adjoining to the extension of the remaining portion of Marine Lot No. 18 along the New Praya in Central.


Marine Lot No. 18 is approximately located at today’s 84-104 Des Voeux Road Central.

One of Sir Chater’s finest projects was the famous Praya Land Reclamation Scheme, where large scale reclamation from Western District to Central was carried out in stages from 1889 to 1903/04.

9.         A Lease was made between Her Majesty the Queen and George Duddell Esq. on 5th October 1846, concerning Farm Lot No. 8 situated at Hoong-heong-loo

District (紅香爐), Eastern Division of Hong Kong Island, for 21 years from 1st

July 1846, with an annual Crown rent of Three Pounds and Ten Shillings. The Lease was granted by Sir John Francis Davis, Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Colony of Hong Kong.

An extension of lease of the same Farm Lot was granted by Sir John Bowring on 6th September 1858 for another 54 years commencing 1st July 1867.

Farm Lot No. 8 is roughly equivalent to the present site of St Paul’s Convent and Hospital which is bounded to the west by Leighton Road, to the south by Caroline Hill Road, to the north by Tung Lo Wan Road and to the south by Cotton Path.

Case 4 – Sundry Records

10.       A deed of co-partnership made between the Honourable Sir Catchick Paul Chater and Sir Hormusjee N. Mody in 1906, where the name and style of the partnership was named “Chater and Mody”.

In fact Chater and Mody carried out business in partnership as property financiers, stock and share dealers as well as stock and share exchange operators since 1868.

Chater and Mody had so much in common. Both were exchange and bullion brokers, and they both lived in the same road Conduit Road, Sir Chater at no. 1 (Marble Hall) and Sir Mody at no. 37 (Buxey Lodge).

11.       Permission was given by the Superintendent of Imports & Exports Office to Messrs. Cawasjee Pallanjee & Co. in 1914 for moving 830.25 lbs. of malwa opium in 6 chests from its warehouse at 1A of Duddell Street in Central to a government licensed warehouse at 122 Jervois Street in Sheung Wan.

Among the Bombay merchants carried on business in the Colony, Messrs. Cawasjee Pallanjee & Co. was no doubt in the premier place. The Company engaged in general imports and exports and commission agents, dealing especially in Chinese silks, Indian opium and cotton yarn since 1840s.

It is worth mentioning that Messrs. Cawasjee Pallanjee & Co. had subscribed HK$1,000 to the HKU Endowment Fund in 1910 to help establishing the University.

12.       Deacons’ Entry or Note of Protest Register (January 1960 to November 1962), it comprises notes of intention to protest by ships’ masters.

Several entries of protest were made by Masters of vessels that due to the hard

hit of Typhoon Wanda (颱風溫黛) in Hong Kong from 27 August to 2 September

1962, where Hurricane Signal No. 10 was hoisted, they encountered violent storm and suffered damage in the harbour.

According to Hong Kong Observatory, damage and casualties caused by Typhoon Wanda were widespread in the territory. Of a total of 132 ocean-going ships, 24 were beached and 12 involved in collisions.