The British Consulate at Takow

Sunset time today

This area, Lot No. 288, is the site of the old Foreign Cemetery at Takow, as Kaohsiung was once known. Thirty-nine men, women and children were buried on this site, and although their remains are probably still here, only three gravestones can be found (marked Blue on the map).

 The Takow Foreign Cemetery stands on a portion of the land that the first British Consul Robert Swinhoe had permanently leased in 1864, foreigners being unable to purchase land, at Shao-ch'uan-tou to construct a British Consulate. The site is recorded as being beside the Freshwater Creek, which one can still hear running down the drain in Lane 60, Teng-shan Street, on its way to the Fishing Harbour. For many years the site was inaccessible by land, and, being located on the north shore of Takow Lagoon, could only be reached by boat.

In June 1867 Sir Rutherford Alcock, the British Minister at Peking, visited Takow to assess the consular accommodation. Alcock reported that the site chosen by Consul Swinhoe was totally unsuited for a British Consulate, adding that the site 'might make a convenient cemetery and seems fit for nothing else.' Alcock then authorised the Acting Consul Charles Carroll to offer the whole site to the Foreign Community as the Government's contribution to a burial ground provided that the Foreign Community paid all farther expenses, and build a small Mortuary Chapel. Nothing further happened until Archer Rotch Hewlett became Acting Consul in January 1870.


In November 1870, Acting Consul Hewlett held a Public Meeting at Takow to reconsider Alcock's offer of a cemetery site. A Committee was established and, on 10 March 1871, reported back to Acting Consul Hewlett that they had raised enough money to construct a walled burial ground on a portion of the site offered, but insufficient to build a Mortuary Chapel. On 3 May 1871 Acting Consul Hewlett gave permission for the construction of a Foreign Cemetery on a portion of the site to proceed.

The Takow Foreign Cemetery was built on a site measuring approximately 44 metres by 25 metres with an area of 1,084 square metres on the Lagoon shore, with a surrounding wall topped by iron railings. The burial ground was prepared and divided into three levels by the erection of two retaining walls built with boulders and then white-washed. A pathway of bricks, with walled steps between the levels, was built through the centre of the Cemetery and led down to a wrought iron gateway and gate in the centre of the Lagoon-side wall, which had been built to surround the burial ground. Finally, the whole burial ground was covered with turf.

When the Takow Foreign Cemetery, with its surrounding wall and the same shape as Lot No. 288, was properly surveyed by the British Office of Works it was found to be 1,407.2 sq m.

Of the thirty-nine graves at the Takow Foreign Cemetery, at least six were employees of the Imperial Chinese Maritime Service, Takow Customs, including George Carter Stent who, by overseeing the construction of the first lighthouse on Saracen's Head at Ch'i-hou, brought great benefit to the inhabitants of Takow. Among the others buried here is the Reverend Hugh Ritchie, who gave all his money towards the founding of the first Girls' School in south Taiwan; and Mary Donnithorne Warren, the wife of Pelham Laird Warren, who was the longest serving resident British Consul in South Formosa and later rose to great prominence as the Consul-General at Shanghai.

After the closure of the South Formosa Consulate in 1911, there was no longer anyone to oversee the Takow Foreign Cemetery. When Consul Thomas Harrington at Tamsui received a report in 1915 on the very poor condition of the cemetery, a Takao Foreign Cemetery Fund was established to regularly maintain the cemetery and carry out necessary repairs. The last entry in the Fund was on 30 June 1940, showing the balance to be ¥92.

On 4 December 1925 the British Government sold all their properties in South Formosa, with the sole exception of the Takow Foreign Cemetery. By 1925 the area south of the Cemetery had been built up and in the 1925 Sales Contract the Japanese Government, as an expression of goodwill, undertook to build a road from the Cemetery gate down to today's Linhai 2nd Road to establish a Right of Way (the Right of Way is shown coloured Green on the map, the northern part is now Private Property). In all, the Japanese administration took good care of the Takow Foreign Cemetery.

Marking the end of the Second World War, Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender on 2 September 1945 by which she surrendered Formosa to the Allied Powers. However, the United States had already decided that Formosa should be surrended to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. After diplomatic relations with theNationalist Government of theRepublic of China were restored, the British Consulate returned to Tamsui in December 1946 with Vice-Consul Geoffrey Marsh Tingle as Acting Consul.

The British were most concerned with fate of Hong Kong and, as they saw the Chinese Communists gaining control of the Mainland seaboard, decided not to register any British Government properties in Formosa with the Nationalists. The British considered the Instrument of Surrender as an Armistice, and that the status of Formosa could only be decided by a Peace Treaty, thus they termed the Republic of China's occupation of Formosa as 'illegal'.

Accordingly the Takow Foreign Cemetery was never registered with theRepublic of China's Taiwan Provincial Government. On 28 November 1949 an application was made for the ownership of the Takow Foreign Cemetery site under the Taiwan Provincial Government's regulations for the re-registration with the Republic of China authorities of properties held in Taiwan and entered in the Japanese Land Register, and for the seizure of land not claimed within two months of a public announcement by the city or county land administration authorities. The Cemetery site was duly seized by the Taiwan Provincial Government and registered on 5 January 1950.

On 9 August 1967 the fate of the Takow Foreign Cemetery was sealed. The Provincial Government approved the change in land use from 'Graveyard' to 'Building'. A temple, the Yueh-ti-tien, was built on the site in 1967, and the gravestones were systematically removed by some 'old soldiers', who lived in the area immediately to the north of the cemetery, and that the land, once cleared, was sold in small parcels as building plots.

Today the site is registered as Lot No. 288, owned by the Kaohsiung City Government, and administered by the Bureau of Finance. In 1983 the Lot Area was re-surveyed and reduced from 1558 sq m to 1516 sq m. Almost all traces of the old graveyard have gone, except for three remaining gravestones (marked Blue on the map) and the site is known to few people. However, those men, women and children that lie buried at this site of the Takow Foreign Cemetery deserve to be remembered, not least for the contributions they made to Taiwan over 100 years ago.

There were once four foreign cemeteries in the Taiwan area - at Makung in the Pescadores, at Keelung, at Tamsui and at Takow, today's Kaohsiung. The Makung cemetery was closed in 1954 with the remains being carefully transferred to the Keelung Cemetery. Both the Tamsui and Keelung Foreign Cemeteries are today well cared for, but the Takow Foreign Cemetery has fallen into utter ruin.

It is hoped that the present-day authorities in Kaohsiung, with your support, might seek to safeguard both the memories and the remains of those who lie in this near derelict and forgotten graveyard.

Address of Takow Foreign Cemetery 

Nos. 2 to 30, Lane 60, Teng-shan Street, Ku-shan District, Kaohsiung City 804.

The British Consulate at Takow | Address: No.20, Lianhai Rd., Gushan Dist., Kaohsiung City. Phone number: 07-5250100 | The Bureau of Cultural Affairs
Tel: 07-2225136. Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday AM10:00-PM07:00 (The box office will be closed PM06:30) Saturday,Sunday and National Holiday AM09:00-PM07:00 (The box office will be closed PM06:30) Closing schedule:Closed on Monday(Open as usual if Monday coincides with a national holiday)
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