Tai Kwun

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 under British colonial rule. Through the generations, it has been a constantly evolving site to meet the needs of Hong Kong law enforcement requirements.

The site is a unique cluster of relatively low-rise 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 the Victoria Prison were listed as Declared Monuments.

Historical Timeline

Beginning Stage
The National Archives

Captain William Caine was appointed Chief Magistrate to establish law and order and oversee the construction of the first magistracy and prison in Hong Kong.


The Colonial Police Force was officially established. Charles May was appointed Superintendent of Police and suggested the reconstruction of gaols and a new magistracy.

Credit: The National Archives

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

Credit: The National Archives

Colonial Police Force expanded and the Central Police Station was moved from Wellington Street to the site. By 1864, the construction of Barrack Block was completed. The site began to serve the functions of police station, magistracy and prison, forming a close-knitted law enforcement system.

Development Stage
The National Archives

In 1893, Governor Sir William Robinson approved a further prison extension. New buildings were added and part of the Victoria Gaol’s radial-plan prison was demolished leaving a T-shaped prison building.


The Central Magistracy was reconstructed during 1912 to 1914 to house two courtrooms. The new building opened for its first judicial session in April 1915.


A new Central Police Station Headquarters Block was built at the north of the Barrack Block. The façade facing Hollywood Road was built in Neo-Classical style.


Prisons came under the charge of the Prisons Department.


Former Vietnamese communist leader, Ho Chi Minh, was arrested by the British authority in Hong Kong and was held in Victoria Gaol.

Challenging Stage
Original colours of the photo has been changed

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


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 the Victoria Gaol Prison reopened after the post-war repairs and constructions.


During the 1967 Riots, riot companies were mobilized to respond to emergency situations over Hong Kong Island. A control room was set up at the former Central Police Station to make arrangement for daily requirement, such as food, rest, accommodation and duties. Many riot-related cases were tried at the Central Magistracy and the Victoria Remand Prison acted as a place of detention.

Transitional Stage

Victoria Remand Prison was functionally changed into Victoria Reception Centre in 1967. A decade later, with the opening of Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre, Victoria Reception Centre returned to its original function and was renamed as Victoria Prison.


The Central Magistracy was decommissioned in 1979. The building was converted into Supreme Court Annex in 1980. In 1984, the Central Magistracy building ended its judiciary function. Later, the building was used by both the Police and the Immigration Department.


Due to the influx of illegal immigrants from mainland China, the government put an end to the “Touch-base Policy”, meaning illegal immigrants could no longer obtain Hong Kong identity from October 26 onwards. Victoria Immigration Centre was set up on October 27 in the Victoria Prison to process immigration offenders.


Prisons Department was renamed as Correctional Services Department. Rehabilitation has then become one of the main foci of correctional services. Bauhinia House, which has once been a guard tower in the 19th century, was converted into a half-way house for women inmates under supervision.


The former Central Police Station, the Central Magistracy, and the Victoria Prison were declared as monuments under the Antiquities and Monuments.


The former Central Police Station was decommissioned in 2005, followed by that of the Victoria Prison in 2006.

Revitalisating Stage

In 2007, The Government of the Hong Kong SAR and The Hong Kong Jockey Club announced a not-for-profit plan to fund the revitalisation of the former Central Police Station compound.