Former French Mission Building

The Former French Mission Building is a declared monument located on Government Hill at 1, Battery Path, Central, Hong Kong. It housed the Court of Final Appeal of Hong Kong from 1 July 1997 to 6 September 2015.[1]

Former French Mission Building
The Former French Mission Building in Central, Hong Kong.
General information
Architectural styleNeo-Classical
Address1 Battery Path
CountryHong Kong
Named forParis Foreign Missions Society
OwnerHong Kong Government
Design and construction
Architecture firmLeigh & Orange
DesignationsDeclared monument
Former French Mission Building
Traditional Chinese前法國外方傳道會大樓
Simplified Chinese前法国外方传道会大楼


The building in the late 19th century, then a residence of Augustine Heard and Company. St. John's Cathedral is visible on the left.

The building is built on a podium due to the hilly nature of Government Hill. Originally a mansion called Johnston House, the building was altered in the 1870s and 1880s to a three-storey building. The present three-storey building opened in 1917 as the result of a major renovation, also described as an "extensive rebuilding", of the previous structure.[2][3] The building is probably based on a previous structure near the site known as "Beaconsfield", but it is clad in red brick rather than an all white facade.[4] It is constructed in granite and red bricks in Neo-Classical style,[1] dating from the Edwardian period.[5]


Back of the Former French Mission Building.

The original structure on this site dated back to 1842.[5] The first Governor of Hong Kong, Sir Henry Pottinger resided there from 1843 to 1846. His successor, John Francis Davis also lived there for a while, before moving to Caine Road. The building likely served as one of the earlier homes of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong during this period (1843–1846). The building then had several owners, including Emanuel R. Belilios,[6] and was occupied among others by the tai-pans of Augustine Heard and Company, a trading firm that went bankrupt in 1876.[3] It was also used by HSBC and was home to the Russian Consulate in the 1870s.[7] The government then leased the building from 1879[7] and, by 1911, the Sanitary Board and Registrar-General's offices were located in the building.[8]

Entrance as the Court of Final Appeal (left).

In 1915, it was acquired by the Paris Foreign Missions Society, which commissioned a major renovation. The architects were Leigh & Orange.[9] In the process, a chapel topped by a cupola was added in the north-west corner, and the building was refaced with red bricks. It reopened in 1917 and became known as the "French Mission Building".[2][3] In 1953, it was sold back to the Hong Kong Government.[2]

From 23 August 1945 to April 1946 the building was used by the provisional Government of Hong Kong following the end of Japanese occupation of Hong Kong.

When the Communist Party expelled the Society of Jesus from Canton in 1949, it moved its St Ignatius Language School to Hong Kong where it was housed in the top floor of the building, together with accommodation for Joseph Mallin of the Society.[10]

It was then used successively by the Education Department, the Victoria District Court (1965–1980), the Supreme Court (1980–1983), and the Government Information Services (starting from 1987). It has been used as the Court of Final Appeal since the inception of the Court at the time of the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong, on 1 July 1997.[1][11] On 7 September 2015, the court moved to the Old Supreme Court Building.[12]


The building was declared a monument on September 14, 1989.[13] It was decided in 2011 that it would be made available for adaptive reuse after the relocation of the Court of Final Appeal to the Old Supreme Court Building.[14]

See also


  1. Antiquities and Monuments Office: Former French Mission Building Archived 16 February 2020 at the Wayback Machine
  2. Consulate General of France in Hong Kong & Macau: 16 stories about Hong Kong-France relations
  3. Wordie, Jason (2002). Streets: Exploring Hong Kong Island. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. pp. 22–23. ISBN 962-209-563-1.
  4. Antiquities and Monuments Office: Central and Western Heritage Trail: Central Route Archived 13 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  5. Former French Mission Building Archived 5 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  6. Bard, Solomon (2002). Voices from the past: Hong Kong, 1842-1918. Hong Kong University Press. p. 340. ISBN 978-962-209-574-8.
  7. "The Former French Mission Building - Brief History". Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  8. Empson, Hal (1992). Mapping Hong Kong. Hong Kong: Government Information Services. p. Plate 3–4.
  9. "From British Colonization to Japanese Invasion" (PDF). HKIA Journal (45: 50 years of Hong Kong Institute of Architects): 47. 30 May 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 February 2012.
  10. Society of Jesus (2016). Pictorial Memories of the Jesuits in Hong Kong, 1926-2016. Hong Kong: CLIC Ltd. pp. 63, 70. ISBN 9789887771203.
  11. Finance Committee - Public Works Subcommittee (Papers) 8 Nov 95: "Conversion of the French Mission Building into the Court of Final Appeal"
  12. "Court of Final Appeal moves into former Legislative Council Building". 7 September 2015.
  13. Environment Protection Department: List of Declared Monuments as on 1 January 1999 (archive)
  14. Legislative Council Panel on Development: "Progress Report on Heritage Conservation Initiatives", 15 July 2011

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