POOTUNG LIFE in Old Shanghai, China
 
Port visits in China allowed opportunities for US Naval attaches to take  photos of Japanese ships not otherwise accessible. ONI manuals have several views of cruisers, destroyers, etc, with the General Motors China plant in the background.


Holt's Wharf is the facility of Alfred Holt & Company - otherwise known as the Blue Funnel Line. Alfred Holt & Co. purchased land on the riverfront at Pootung, Shanghai, in 1906, building their own wharfs in response to rising costs of using other facilities, and also to secure their own position in the area. They also built similar facilities at Kowloon (Hong Kong) and at Hankow, however this appears to be the one at Shanghai.

Dan Jones



A Trip in Pootung
To most people in Shanghai the name of Pootung has no particularly attractive sound. They look across the river and opposite the Settlements see the steadily lengthening line of docks, mills, and various industries, studded with chimneys. Occasionally the place gains unenviable notoriety by the perpetration of some mean outrage by the band of desperadoes preying on the industrial fringe.

To the traveller approaching Woosung it looks a wide and melancholy waste of putrid marshes but the sportsman has some familiarity with it by reason of short week-end jaunts after the pheasant or snipe.

Yet Pootung is more than all this, and has some remarkable characteristics. In the first place, it contains, within a comparatively small area, a greater proportion of native Roman Catholics than any other part of China, with the possible exception of certain parts of Szechuan. Whole villages are Christian - not convert, but of the sixth or seventh generation - and, as is well known, the International Cotton Mill work-people, to the number of about 2,000, are drawn from these.



A Pootung Establishment, c.1937
"Our concrete wharf was strongly constructed on ferro-concrete piles with wooden pile fendering. Half of it had been built in 1906 but the second, or western, half was not constructed until after the first world war, about 1923 at the time of my first visit to the port. The object was to give better service to shippers and consignees and to avoid delays to the ships. It included a range of steel transit sheds along the wharf front, backed by multi-storeyed warehouses, called "godowns"…

We could berth four large ocean ships and still have room alongside for lighters taking delivery of cargo from the godowns, for all deliveries went by water in the absence of any road system on the Pootung side. There were houses and flats for the European staff, as well as quarters for the police and some of the Chinese godown staff. The whole compound was enclosed on the landward side by a high steel fence surmounted by barbed wire, pierced only by three small gates. Although Pootung was outside of the foreign Concessions and therefore Chinese territory the land had been bought and paid for. We flew the Union Jack from our flagstaffs and were generally regarded as a small piece of Britain, maintaining our own force of uniformed police watchmen.

The wharf owned a fleet of five tugs and steam launches, together with a small dredger, a hopper barge, and nine lighters, including one which could handle heavy lifts, flew the British flag. It had its own independent water supply from a deep well and its own generating station, powered by gas engines, to provide electricity. Travelling steam cranes along the wharf edge were available for loading or unloading lighters and small craft. Two movable pontoon landing stages provided access to the wharf from sampans and launches, while one of the latter, the Demeter, maintained an hourly service between the wharf and the Customs Jetty, on the Bund.

We lived in a third-floor flat above the office on the wharf front, looking out of our front windows on the Whangpoo, with the ships of every flag and type passing less than three hundred yards away. At the rear our view extended far out over the farms and villages of Pootung, the spire of some Catholic mission church rising here and there from the flat farmland, and the village of Yangking in the foreground. But it was the life of the river that held our interest. Down at the wharf our houses, flats, and gardens were large and well-equipped, with tennis courts and a small swimming pool. Though we all had friends up in Shanghai, and we had to go there to do any shopping or for any entertainment, the (half hour) launch journey was a deterrent and it was rarely that any of us went up town more than twice a week. The golf club at Hungjao was too far away to interest us, but Pootung residents were always welcome to use a home-made nine hole course at the Standard Oil Company's installation a mile down river from our place. In May 1939 their (the Rowing Club's) annual regatta was held at Holt's Wharf because of the difficulty presented by the Japanese occupation of the stretch of water where it was normally held."

Go To Shanghai Page