Century-old Roman-style underground cistern uncovered on Bishop Hill in Shek Kip Mei (Updated: 9.53pm)

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28th December 2020 – (Hong Kong) Kalvin Ho, district councillor of Sham Shui Po posted on his Facebook page this afternoon that a Roman-style cistern on top of Bishop Hill in Shek Kip Mei was abandoned due to structural issues. The Water Supplies Department suggested that it be levelled and returned to the Lands Office. However, a Roman-style structure which is believed to be a cistern of more than 100 years was discovered during the process. Some local historians have compared the structure to Basilica Cistern in Turkey. The cistern, located 150 metres (490 ft) southwest of the Hagia Sophia on the historical peninsula of Sarayburnu, was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. Today it is kept with little water, for public access inside the space. One of the columns found has the year “1909” inscribed on it.

The cistern is an ancient Roman structure and the Water Supplies Department documents stated that it was built before 1930. The huge underground space is supported by more than one hundred granite pillars, the top is made of red bricks to form an arch, and the highest arched cement pool top is supported, and finally covered with mud. The existing service reservoirs in Hong Kong and Kowloon, such as Man Tin, Lok Fu, Cloud View Road, North Point, Kennedy Town, etc., were mostly built after the war, all of which were constructed of reinforced concrete. This Roman-style underground cistern was built before the war.

Picture source: Hong Kong Reminiscence Facebook page
Picture source: Hong Kong Reminiscence Facebook page
Picture source: Hong Kong Reminiscence Facebook page
Picture source: Hong Kong Reminiscence Facebook page
Picture source: Hong Kong Reminiscence Facebook page
Picture source: Hong Kong Reminiscence Facebook page
Picture source: Hong Kong Reminiscence Facebook page
Picture source: Kalvin Ho’s Facebook.
Picture source: Kalvin Ho’s Facebook.
Picture source: Kalvin Ho’s Facebook.

The district councillor has requested the Water Supplies Department to stop work immediately, and the district council meeting in January will also discuss conservation of the structure. At present, the public has been advised not to go to the historical site as it is dangerous.

At nearly 8am this morning, nearly 10 residents of Sham Shui Po District protested at construction site holding slogans such as “Respect public opinion, do not demolish historical site”.

Picture source: Kalvin Ho’s Facebook.
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