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Thread: Ngong Ping Tea Plantation Dormitories, Lantau, Hong Kong, August 2018

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    Default Ngong Ping Tea Plantation Dormitories, Lantau, Hong Kong, August 2018


    1. The History
    The story of the Ngong Tea Plantation on Hong Kong’s Lantau island is inextricable linked to the man behind it. Brook Antony Bernacchi was born in London on 22nd January 1922. Son of Antarctic explorer Louis Bernacchi, he was called to the bar in Britain in 1943 and joined the Royal Marines during the Second World War.

    Brook_Bernacchi by HughieDW, on Flickr

    He arrived in Hong Kong with British liberation forces in 1945 as advisor to Major General FW Festing. Rather than return home when the handover was complete, he stayed and fashioned a life for himself, and, adequately equipped with his background in law, he quickly established himself in this field, joining the Bar and becoming a member of the Queen’s Councel in 1948.

    After walking on Lantau and discovering the Ngong Ping plateau, he fell in love with it and became friends with the abbot at the monastery. In 1947, he became the first Westerner to settle on Lantau when he bought 200 acres of land at a former nunnery in Ngong Ping, Lantau Island. Inspired by the tea estates he visited in Burma during the Second World War, he built a tea plantation on 70 acres of it as he considered its mountainous geography and wet, humid climate to be the perfect place to develop a tea plantation. Over 100,000 tea trees were imported from Ceylon and planted on the Ngong Ping mountaintop, comprising 4 different strains. The tea he produced was sold under the name Lotus Brand; the only Hong Kong grown tea available.

    Lotus brand tea by HughieDW, on Flickr

    The family home, All Knowing Lotus Villa (Bernacchi pictured in the doorway):

    Brook-Bernacchi-image-of-Lantau-house by HughieDW, on Flickr

    The plantation was also an opportunity for Bernacchi to engage in philanthropic works, including providing the opportunity of employment for recently released prisoners and drug addicts. Bernacchi also founded the Hong Kong Sea School in Stanley, to train disadvantaged young males for a career in the navy and established numerous other community welfare projects.



    Over 40 staff were employed at the plantation at the height of the company’s success in the 1960s. Sadly though, the competition from the mainland, with its much lower labour cost, drove prices down to a level that the Lotus brand could not compete with. The business was scaled down and continued over the new few decades off the back of Bernacchi’s earnings from his work in law.

    Bernacchi became Queen’s Counsel in 1960, but the following year he was diagnosed with a large brain tumour. Though the tumour was found to be benign, its removal by surgeons at the Royal Masonic Hospital in London left him without the power of speech and paralysed on his left side. Bizarrely he gained his speech in the reverse order he had learned it and initially could speak only Cantonese. Despite the semi-paralysis, Bernacchi remained vigorous in community life, and in 1965 he was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for public service. He married Patricia Sheelagh Heath in 1970. He had three step-children, Robert Whitehead, SC (formerly vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association), Dr. Ian Whitehead and Mrs. Sarah Driver (née Whitehead). “He was very engaging and could relate to anyone of any background or race,” Driver says. “He had a lot of Chinese friends and he refused to join any club that refused to welcome Chinese members.” There is a lovely account of Driver’s life at the tea plantation HERE

    After being diagnosed with brain cancer in 1994, he headed back to the UK for treatment, but not before handing over the reigns of the business to his employee and friend, Chan Woon Chi, a local cement maker who took on the struggling enterprise and attempted to diversify, incorporating a tea garden and vegetarian restaurant. Sadly, he died two year’s later on 22nd September 1996, aged 74 in London. His ashes were scattered outside his house near the plantation at his request and ownership fell to his wife, Patricia. She died in 2003 and the Lands Department then seized control of the estate in order to construct the 'Wisdom Path'. The ensuing legal dispute initiated by Bernacchi’s stepson saw the government taken to court and eventually having to pay compensation in 2010.

    2. The Explore
    Nearly forgot to post this last report from my Summer in Hong Kong. This follwos on from my report on the Ngong Ping Tea Plantation café. Across from the Tea Plantation café is a concrete building fastly being reclaimed by nature. This building was most probably the dorms for the workers who worked on the plantation. Although there isn’t an awful lot left the decay makes this small block extremely photogenic and an enjoyable half-hour explore.

    3. The Pictures

    View from the path:

    img9359 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    img9389 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    Ngong Ping 13 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    img9396 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    img9384 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    img9380 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    Nature is taking it back:

    Ngong Ping 11 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    Inside we go:

    Ngong Ping 09 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    Ngong Ping 07 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    Ngong Ping 05 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    Obligatory rusting fridge:

    img9385 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    img9386 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    And another:

    Ngong Ping 10 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    Home-made barbecue set:

    img9383 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    Old beds:

    img9395 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    Some very old bunks:

    img9397 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    Another rotting bed:

    img9398 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    And yet more beds:

    img9381 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    Ngong Ping 12 by HughieDW, on Flickr

    Another abandoned house just further along;

    img9399 by HughieDW, on Flickr

  2. Thanks given by: etc100, Hugh Jorgan, KPUrbex, krela, Mearing, oldscrote, prettyvacant71, psykie, rockfordstone, smiler, Tbolt
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  4. #2
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    Interesting write-up but not a lot left. Nature is taking over.
    When the going gets tough - the tough get going.

  5. Thanks given by: HughieD
  6. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hugh Jorgan View Post
    Interesting write-up but not a lot left. Nature is taking over.
    Cheers Hugh. Shame such a great man's legacy has come to this. At least his former house is still in good condition and inhabited.

  7. Thanks given by: Hugh Jorgan
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    That's excellent sir
    Don't panic, be reet!!!

  9. Thanks given by: HughieD
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    fantastic invading plants!
    ...

  11. Thanks given by: HughieD

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