Sunday, February 8, 2009

Victoria Park - Tientsin

Came across this postcard of Victoria Park in the old British Concession of Tientsin (Tianjin) at a sale in London recently. Victoria Park must have been one of the best laid out treaty port parks in China at the time. It’s still there and quite nice though most of the structures were a bit shabby the last time I visited a while back and it was a bit deserted.

The large grey building behind the Park is Gordon Hall, named after General Charles Gordon (later Gordon of Khartoum) who as well as suppressing the Taiping Rebellion around Shanghai had laid out the design of the British Concession of Tientsin. Gordon Hall formed the focal point of the British Concession and the seat of government for the concession too. Close by was the Astor Hotel which is still a hotel and had what was called a ‘restoration’ a few years back – you could have fooled me, it still looked a classic example of shabby ‘communist’ hotel style though the interior hadn’t been mucked about too much with the exception of the foyer/lobby. They still had the old open lifts though they weren’t working. The cenotaph in the foreground is to the British Tientsin resident who died in World War One.

Any number of memoirs, notably Brian Powers’s great Ford of Heaven, recall Victoria Park, the uniformed Chinese park attendants and being taken their ad kids and then heading over after school. I can’t date this postcard exactly but it appears to be post-1918 at least.


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Alexei Mazin said...

Hi Paul,

Victoria Park was donated to the British administration by my great granduncle, Alexei Dmitrievich Startsev (born Alexei Nikolaevich Bestuzhev). He was an entrepreneur, Tea merchant and industrialist and built over 40 stone commercial and residential buildings in Tianjin (mainly in the British concession) between 1870-1900.

Alexei Mazin