Description of a View of the Island and Bay of Hong Kong | Robert Burford | 1844








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From Drawings, taken by Lieut. F. J. WHITE, Royal Marines,

In 1843.

London :

IN ་ ་་་ ༽




Wa 3711















The City of Baden Baden .

W 1708

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Hong Kong, or Heong Keong, the Island of Chrystal Streams, so called

from the many fine streams of clear fresh water that flow in all directions,

is the first permanent settlement that the British have obtained in China

during a commercial intercourse of more than two centuries with the

Celestial Empire. The Island is themost northernly of a group, called by

the Chinese the Thousand Islands, that stud the estuary of the Tigres, or

Canton River. It is about 37 miles E.N.E. of the Portuguese settlement

of Macao, and nearly 90 from Canton, and is divided from the mainland

of China by a narrow strait, opening into, and forming one of the most

extensive, as well as one of the best protected Harbours on the coast.

The convenience of its situation , and the safety of its Harbour, were the

inducements that led to its selection, as a rendezvous for British ships and

subjects, during the continuance of hostilities with China, and afterwards

to the demand that it should be granted as a permanent place of settle

ment. Its importance as a rendezvous for the mercantile community must

be evident toevery person , as it gives to our merchants an entire indepen

dence of the Chinese, as well as the Portuguese authorities, to whom they

were in a great measure subject when residing at Canton and Macao.

The Panorama is taken from a commanding situation in the Harbour,

and embraces a very considerable extent of view . On the south, is the

Island, presenting the wholeof the new Town of Victoria, already rising

into consequence . Streets of commodious houses, in every style of archi

tecture, several Churches and Chapels of different denominations, Wharfs,

Stores, and innumerable cottages and huts of the Chinese, stretch along

the shore, in an irregular manner, a distance of more than two miles ; whilst

various little eminences, rising atintervals, are crowned by buildings of con

siderable size, among which the Government House is conspicuous, from its

flag-staffwith the British ensign, as are several charitable Institutions,

from their size and situation ; the whole is backed by a range of high,

rugged, and barren hills, of every variety of character, and every diversity

of colour, forming an imposing back -ground, and contrasting finely with

the pleasing appearance of the Town. To the north, the mainland of

China presents a few buildings about the small Town of Kow-loon, and a


succession of lofty Hills and Mountains, as far as the eye can reach, some

rising suddenly from the water's edge, and towering to an immense height,

the rugged and stern character of which gives grandeur to the scene,and

produces a sublime effect. The whole of the immense bay between these

two points is entirely covered by Ships and craft of every description ;

largeheavy -built, and wretchedly appointed War Junks,offering a strange

contrast to the beautiful symmetry and correct proportions of the conti

guous British Men -of-War ; finely carved and painted Mandarin Boats,

fishing and fast Boats, San -pans, and every kind of Chinese Boat, many

of which are so close to the spectator, as to afford an interesting insight

into the manners, customs, and costume of this singular people.

The circumstances that led to the occupation of Hong Kong, which

were important and interesting, not onlyto Great Britain , but to the

world at large, are too recent and well known to require more than a very

brief notice. The repeated insults, annoyances, and unjust exactions to

which the British merchants had quietly submitted for a long series of

years, especially since the opening of the China Trade in 1834, at last,

through the insolence of the Government, and the arrogance and impudence

of the Mandarins, arrived at such a pitch as to threaten the total exter

mination of the whole foreign community . Affairs were at last brought

to a crisis, by the close imprisonment of the British representatives, and

other merchants, in the Factories, for two months, until they were at last

obliged to yield to the demands of theChinese, and permit the seizure, by

Commissioner Lin, of all the Opium in the Canton River, valued at two

millions sterling. The trade being thus completely at an end, and all

negotiations forits resumption unavailable, the merchants, &c., were ordered

to rendezvous at Hong Kong, as it then became imperative that prompt

and vigorous measures should be immediately taken for a more intimate

intercourse, which should place the trade on a firm and lasting footing, or

that it should be altogether abandoned .

In the year 1840 a British Naval and Military force, consisting of three

line of Battle Ships, two Frigates, fourteen other vessels, and four armed

steamers, carrying about 3000 military, arrived, much to the surprise and

alarm of the Chinese, in the Canton River. The campaign was opened on

the 5th of July, when British cannon, for the first time, wrested from his

Celestial Majesty a portion of his dominions, the Chusan group, with the

strong, and, until then considered, impregnable City of Tinghai. Nego

tiations followed these active measures, and were continued for several

weeks, but it soon became apparent that no faith could be placed in the

Chinese. The Mandarins, through whom alone official communications

could be made, misrepresented every thing to serve their own purposes,

and at the same time were strengthening their defences, preparing fire

ships, poisoning wells, sending poisoned tea for sale, and issuing furious

edicts for the extermination of the Barbarians. The truce being thus

annulled, the British force, on the 7th of January, 1841 , attacked and


took the Bogue Forts, which led to the immediate signing of a preliminary

treaty, one article of which was, the cession of Hong Kong as a permanent

settlement to the British, to which place, the fleet having returned , it was

formally taken possession of, on the evening of the 26th of January, by Sir

G. Bremer. A division of Marines were landed, and the Union Jack


hoisted on Possession Mount, under a royal salutefrom all the Ships of

the Squadron and the troops on shore. Captain Elliot nominated himself

governor pro tem., and appointed various officers to carry on affairs.

Far, however, from matters being finally settled , it was soon found that

the Chinese had again successfully deceived the Plenipotentiaries. The

treaty was not ratified nor the trade opened, but the forts were repaired,

forces concentrated, and large rewards offered for destroying British Ships

or Seamen - 100,000 dollars for a Man -of-War, 50,000 for the Commo

dore, Captain Elliot, or Mr. Morrison, down to 50 for a Lascar or Sepoy.

Keshen, in his report at this time to the Emperor, recommends all inter

course with the British to be prohibited, so that their stock of Tea and

Rhubarb should soon be exhausted, and they would be all submission, so

that the Emperor would have merely to bend down their heads and pin

them by the collar, so that they would have to pay gold and silver for the

Tea and Rhubarb, instead of deluging the land with Opium , and carrying

away Sycee silver in exchange ; for they subsist day by day on Beefand

Mutton, after which they take the divine medicines, Tea and Rhubarb , to

ensure a proper action of the bowels, without which they woulddie.”

On the 26th of February the Campaign was again opened , by the

reduction of the Forts of the Bocca Tigres, and by the 18th of March

every Fort was taken and every Junk destroyed on the river as far as

Canton, that City alone being spared atthe intercession of the Hong mer

chants. Negotiations were again opened with new Commissioners ; but it

being found that 50,000 Tartar Troops were introduced into the City, and

that preparations were making for firing the Fleet, Canton was attacked,

the defences destroyed, and the City alone saved from pillage by a ransom

of six millions of dollars, and the enforcement of the previous treaty . Two

thirds of the ransom having been paid, the expedition again returned to

Hong Kong, where, during thesummer, great sickness and loss of life took

place both in the Army and Navy.

Three months having passed without the treaty having received the

imperial signature, it wasdetermined again to open hostilities, and force

compliance, if necessary, even in the capital of the empire . In August,

Amoy was taken ; and in October, Chusan, Chinhae, and Ning-po, where

the troops went into quarters for the winter. In the meantime every

thing proceeded with the greatest activity at Hong Kong, under the

direction of G. Johnson, Esq., deputy superintendent of trade ; roads

were formed, forts built, and two batteries for heavy pieces erected at the

extermity of the southern coast ; and no sooner did the Chinese perceive

that the British invested a large capital in the soil, than they followed

their example, and with such extraordinary celerity were the building

operations carried on, that in little more than two months, at least two

hundred brick tenements were erected, besides bridges, roads, drains, and

other works.

In March, 1842, the British defeated the elite of the Chinese army

near Ning-po, shortlyafter occupied Chapoo,the great mart of trade with

Japan, and, after reducing every fort in their passage, on the 9th of

August anchored off Nanking, the ancient Capital of China, and the

second City of the Empire in extent and population. The Emperor, now


seriously alarmed, gave full powers to three commissioners, at any sacri

fice, " to put an everlasting stop to war ;" and the first treaty of peace

England ever formed with China was signed by the imperial Commis

sioners, three of thehighest nobles in the land, in the cabin of a British

74,H.M.S. Cornwallis, on the 29th of August, 1842, two hundred miles

within their greatest river, and under the walls of their ancient capital.

The treaty was highly favourable to the British , embracing the payment

of 21 millions of dollars, the opening of five ports for trade,and the

cession in perpetuity of Hong Kong to her Majesty. For 66 the said

barbarians begged that Hong Kong might be conferred on them asa place

of residence ; the Shewei Hanling and his colleagues, as the barbarians

had already built houses on Hong Kong, and yet could beg for favour,


granted that they might dwell there." ( Report of the imperial com


The important consequences that may be expected to flow from a

peaceful and unrestricted intercourse with the vast population of the

Empire, and the conducting of trade on terms of fair and honourable reci

procity, must behighlybeneficial to both nations. Hong Kong willbeaа . free

port, and will attract shipping from all parts of the world , and doubtless

will soon transfer the trade from Macao , Merchants will make it their

rendezvous and residence, the Chinese will become the carriers be

tween them and Canton, and commerce will pour wealth into the coffers

of the Empire at the same time that it enriches the stranger.

The Island of Hong Kong is of irregular shape, about nine miles in

length, varying from two to six in breadth. It is traversed by a con

nected ridge or cluster of high and rugged hills and mountains, from 500

to 2000 feet in height. On the northern side, that seen in the Panorama,

they rise very nearthe shore, and present a rocky and barren appearance ;

large masses of granite project in fantastic and picturesque forms, the

intervals giving shelter to herbage, fern, and bushwood ;in many parts

they fall perpendicularly into the sea, in others form vallies, or leave a

shelving shore of some extent. The southern side is far more picturesque

and pleasant than the north, and is perhaps more healthy, but it is ex

posed to the fury of the south -west monsoon ; the land is more level, and

the native villages better built, and it has two or three good bays,

especially Ty-tam and Chuck -py -wan, the latter being a great resort

of fishing boats, which are numerous on the coast. Magnificent granite

quarries are found all over the island , so that fortifications, wharfs, and

houses can be erected at a comparatively small expense, as labour is very

cheap. The supply of fresh water is abundant at all seasons ; a particu

larly fine torrent called the Heong Keong, which gives name to the

island, flows a considerable distance, and then falling over some shelving

rocks, makes its way to the sea. Three streams also intersect the town

at nearly equal distances. The quantity of land under cultivation is

about fifteen mows of 1000 yards square each , principally rice and

vegetables. The island is by no means well wooded, but in the vallies

some treesof size are found, they consist of a species of Scotch fir, palms,

bananas, plantains, wild pomegranate, and mangos ; other vegetable pro

ductions are lichees, pechees, longans, oranges,pears, pine apples, sweet


potatoes, and yams. The animals are deer, armadillos, land tortoises, and

snakes, not venomous, pheasants, partridges, quails, and snipes.

It is to be feared that the climate is not salubrious; there is on the

face of the hills a rank vegetation, and the ground after much rain be

comes elastic and boggy ; this, however, will be in a great measure

remedied, when less rice is grown and the land better drained. At pre

sent there is much malaria, and fevers appear to be endemic. The

Britishi suffered severe losses in the summers of 1841 and 1843. The

climate is so variable that the thermometer frequently ranges from ten

to twenty degrees in the twenty - four hours, being in summer generally

from 80 to 98. Cold blasts of wind and heavy falls of rain are followed

in quick succession by a burning hot sun, and the poorest natives endea

vour to guard against these sudden changes by so regulatingtheir clothing,

thatat one period of the day they wear the thinnest habiliments, and at

another woollen or fur, or a succession of garments.

When the British took possession of the island in 1841,the population

was estimated at about 4500, and about half that number living in boats ;

the latter portion was, however, shortly increased to a complete floating

town, by the thouands who came to traffic. Vast numbers have since

settled from Kow -loon, and other parts, houses having been built, which

they eagerly take at a large rent, and are industrious, obliging, friends to

good order, appear well satisfied with their change of masters, and

willprobably rank as some of the most quiet, happy, and best-conducted

of the subjects of the British government. The population is now at

least 30,000.

The new town of Victoria is well situated , facing the harbour. Where

two years before there was not a house, Sir H. Pottinger on his arrival

being obliged to reside in a tent, are now extensive wharfs, stores, forts,

long streets, a bazaar, and a market, -works of no small importance, con

sidering the impediments that were to be overcome in the shape of small

hills, headlands stretching into the sea, and other natural obstacles that

had to be removed . From the water's edge the land slopes gently up

wards; a fine military road sixteen yards broad has been formed, upwards

of 3000 yards of which is completed, and it is to pass entirely round

the island. Houses, principallyof granite, covered with red tiles, are

rapidly rising on either side, and some neat streets of one story erections in

the Chinesetaste branch at right angles from it, where space will admit.

Roads also branch off to Tytam and Chuck -py -wan, traversing the hills by

extensive cuttings, the earth filling up the hollows so as to make them

nearly level. Between the road and the water are many extensive

godowns and warehouses, and on the hills behind are several bungalows

and country houses of the functionaries, built at considerable elevation to

command fresh air and good views. Amongst the most prominent of the

public buildings are theGovernment House, the Court House andJail, the

Baptist Chapel, the Church and premises of the Catholics, Morrison's

Education Society, and the Medical, Missionary, and Seamen's Hospitals,

some of them fine erections on commanding elevations. The Chinese

town to the east of the Government Hill is neat and clean, and the whole

together contains at least 12,000 inhabitants.


The defences of the island, although not yet complete, are sufficient to

guard against surprise ; various forts and barracks are built where required

round the island, and a line -of-battleship and two or three brigs are sta

tionednear the main land. When the Expedition took its final departure

from China, Dec. 20, 1842, the forces left under the command of General

Lord Saltoun consisted of 1250 effective men , being part of the 55th and

98th regiments, a company of Royal Artillery, the right wing of the 41st

Madras Native Infantry, a company of Gun Lascars ,and one of Madras

Sappers and Miners.


No. 1.-Mr. Matheson's,

Situated at the eastern extremity of the harbour; a magnificent building in the

Corinthian style, surrounded with the richest foliage of the East.

No. 3. - School for Chinese Boys.

An extensive establishment maintained by private contributions, in which about one

hundred boys are clothed, boarded, and educated — some of whom, although notmore

than twelvemonths in the school, can read from an English book as clearly and with as

good an emphasis as most English boys who had been five times that term at school.

The house is kept in excellent order, and the boys are very neat and clean in their

persons, and careful of their books, of which each has a small collection. Few have any

desire to return to their former homes, although at liberty to do so ; and they laugh

much at the absurdities and ridiculous ceremonies of their former religion.

No. 4.- The Happy Valley.

A beautiful spot in the interior, running from North to South. It is well wooded, and

a fine stream of water rising in the hills, passes through a village at its southern ex

tremity, and falls into the sea opposite Kellett's Island. Captain Morgan has erected

several fine and commanding dwellings in the valley.

No. 6. - The Monk's Rock,

So called from its singular shape, which bears a striking resemblance to a holy friar.

No. 7.- War Junks.

The “ soldier ships" are about two hundred tons burden ; they have two or three

masts, with a large mat sail to each. Their form is rather more compact than that of

the trading junks, but still very awkward and unwieldy, a vast deal of timber with little

firmness of construction, or principle in workmanship ; the bulwarks are high towards

the ends of the vessel, but are cut away in the centre, where the gunsare ranged. The

guns are few in number , and inconsiderable in size, being rarely above 12- pounders,

and are mounted on wooden carriages, incapable of elevation or depression ; abaft the

main-mast is a cabin, the arched roof of which rises three or four feet above the deck ;

the arch is continued aft about ten feet, and forms a deck magazine.

No. 9. - Canton Bazaar.

A large native bazaar, well supplied with manufactures of all descriptions from all

parts of China, &c.

No. 14 .-- Mr. Johnson's.

Mr. Johnson was the Deputy -Superintendant of Trade at Canton ; he received the

appointment of Civil Governor of Hong Kong, and to his active exertions and unweary

ing care is to be attributed the rapid rise of the Town of Victoria, and the improved

appearance of all parts of the island.


No. 15. — Major Caine's, and the Jails.

The jails were one of the first important erections of the British ; they are strong

buildings, of granite, and were found to be of infinite service in the early days of the

settlement, from the number of lawless and ruffianly characters who visited the island.

Major Caine is the civil and military magistrate.

No. 16. - Catholic Church .

The Catholic Church, although neither very large nor handsome, is, from its situation ,

a very conspicuous building. Adjacent is the residence of the Catholic missionaries, of

whom there are about twenty, and about as many Chinese and Japanese converts.

No. 23. - The Market Place.

A large area, covered in, and well protected from theweather ; it is divided into

separate markets for fish, flesh , poultry, fruit, and vegetables, every thing having set

prices. It is plentifully and well supplied, both by the native inhabitants and from the


No. 24. - Chinese Town .

A vast number of the natives from various parts of China have settled in Hong

Kong ; those resident in Victoria inhabit houses built somewhat in the Chinese taste,

forming a small town. At present they adhere strictly in their acts, usages, and amuse

ments, to whatever is old ; this overcome, which it shortly will be, they will become a

different race.In size they are not generally inferior to Europeans, many are strongly

limbed, and possess considerable lightness of motion and agility, and are noted for

patient diligence, perseverance, and industry.

No. 26. - West Point Barracks,

The most extensive on the island. They have a wide colonnade round them affording

protection from the powerful rays of the sun. The naval commissariat, and the resi

dence of the commissary of the navy, is situated on the beach below the barracks ;

beyond is the western passage into the bay.

No. 29. - Lantao.

The Island of Lantao is a remarkable object, not only from its very great height, but

from its singular appearance ; the rough and barren rock rises abruptly from the river,

and appears in some parts to overhang its base.

No. 30.-Opium or Smug Boats.

The opium boat may very appropriately be termed the war galley ; they vary in length

from 50 to 90 feet, and pull from 30 to 60 oars. They are hatched where the rowers sit,

and are armed with one or two brass guns in the bow, and six or eight gingals, a long

gun carrying a leaden ball of two ounces, mounted on the gunwales. The crew wear

conical caps, formed of basket work of rattan, which will resist the blow of a cutlass.

Their shields, which are formed of the same materials, painted with various devices, are

about three feet in diameter ; they present a curious appearance, being hung in a line

outside the boat. The same description of vessel is used for mandarin fast boats ; but

from the superiority of the crew, in the many skirmishes that took place, the former

were mostlyvictorious.

No. 31. - Raft, and Group of Chinese at Dinner.

A large iron pot is placed on the deck, and the crew, being furnished with basins and

chopsticks, squat round it : they are then supplied by the person nearest it with the

contents, shrimps, pickled seaweed, pork, and various other messes ; and it is curious to

see the vast quantity of rice which each crams into his mouth at once, holding the basin

close to his lips, and shovelling it in with the chopstick .


No. 32. - Mandarin Boat.

These boats are very beautifully ornamented with carved work and paintings; the

apartments within are commodious and handsomely furnished, the walls being hung

with family and other portraits &c. , painted on glass.

No. 33. - Trading Junk .

The traders are perhaps as curious objects as any to be seen , they vary from 100 to

1000 tons; some are crescent shaped, some formed like a shoe ; their draught is light,

and their capacity for stowage great ; they have three masts, with large mat sails, which

are very dexterously managed by means of lines attached to the ends of the bamboos

which traverse them from top to bottom, at three or four feetdistance; these lines all

meet, and are attached to asingle rope which runs through a block, and is made fast to

the side, or to the tiller, and is managed by the man or woman at the helm. The smaller

class of boats and junks are frequently propelled in calms by a long scull at the stern ,

which at the same time serves for a rudder. Every boat, however small, has its joss

house, containing a figure of Bhud, or some other grotesque god , before which are placed

saucers of fruit and meat, and cups of tea and sam -tshu, a spirit distilled from rice, the

only one made in China, with which the people frequently become intoxicated.

No. 43. - Pirates' Bay.

A portion of the mainland, under which is Pirates' Bay, so called from being the

rendezvous of the opium smugglers and river pirates, a numerous and very ferocious

body, who alike attack natives or foreigners, and commit the most cruel barbarities.

No. 44. - The Cornwallis,

The flag -ship of Vice -Admiral Sir W.Parker. The anchorage for the men of war is

on the opposite side of the bay to Hong Kong, under the peninsula of Kow -loon - it

being more sheltered from the north -east - from which point the typhoons commence;

it is also more out of the way of the trading vessels' passage, and small craft, the owners

of which will sell the spirit called sam -tshu to the crews, which is always readily pur

chased, although its pernicious qualities are well known.

No. 48.- Kow - loon .

Opposite to the north-east extremity of Hong Kong is the small town ofKow-loon,

from which the fleet derived abundant supplies. A peninsula of considerable extent,

with only a few Chinese hamlets upon it, runs from the town in a south - easterly direc

tion, and being level ground, would prove of immense advantage if it were attached to

Hong Kong. The Chinese still retain possession of the town, in which they have a square

fort, and a battery of eleven guns, facing the eastern passage, which might considerably

annoy vessels entering ; two other forts faced the island,which have been destroyed.

Kow signifies winding; loon, or lung, a dragon, as applied to a winding range of hills

on the main land,which fancy has likened to a dragon. Lin occupied Kow -loon, early

in 1839, with a considerable body of troops; and it was here that hostilities first com

menced, in consequence of his having prohibited the supply of provisions to the fleet.

On the 5th of September,Captain Douglas, with the boatsof the Cambridge, andCaptain

Smith , with the Louisa Cutter, and a squadron of boats, attacked and destroyed several

large Junks.

No. 50.- Trading Junks.

These junks are from the north of China , Chusan, Amoy, & c.; they differ much from

other trading junks, being better built, and more ship -shape ; they also carry cotton top

and studding - sails.

No. 51.Salt Junks.

The salt, which is a royal monopoly, is conveyed in boats of about 100 tons, built in a

crescent shape, and floating high of the water ; in some the projecting sterns rise at

least 40 feet above thesurface. They are built of pine, neatly put together and var

nished : they have a solitary mast about 90 feet high, without shroud or stay.


No. 53. Kellett's Island .

A small rock in the bay, on which a fort has been constructed and a few guns

mounted, which command the entrance to the bay and the town of Cowloon.

No. 54. - San -pans.

The San -pans,or three plank boats, are a class of small boats that are very numerous

in all parts of the Canton River, plying across or between the numerous ships and

the shores. They are generally worked byone, or sometimes two Tartar women , who

live entirely in them, sleeping at night under a sliding bamboo roof. They have the

appearance of a long boat cut short, their greatest breadth being at the stern, which

forms a semicircle. They move with considerable velocity, and are guided with much


No. 56.- Bay of Victoria , or Hong Kong.

The strait which separates Hong Kong from the mainland is not, at its western

entrance where it is completed by some small islands, more than one mile wide, when

it suddenly opens intoa noble bay, at least three miles across ; at the eastern extremity,

by the irregularities of the coast, it again becomes so narrow as to be completely land

locked, but in rough weather, owing to foul winds and adverse currents, the entrance

is difficult to make. The harbour, thus formed , probably cannot be surpassed by any

other in the world, not only by reason of the greatnumber of ships of all classes it can

accommodate, but also from its anchorage, which is good in all parts, being better pro

tected fromtyphoons, and other sudden changes ofweather, than any other on the coast

of China. The depth of water, close to the island, is sufficient for a 74 to anchor within

a cable's length of the shore, which must be a great commercial acquisition . Here for

many months the opium mart had it head -quarters; hither it was brought from India,

and deposited in the Hercules and Lintin store -ships, which represented the British and

American interests, and was thence transhipped in fast boats for the coast.

Perhaps no harbour in the world presents more to amuse a foreigner ; the bustle

amongst the boats , which are beautifully managed, is extraordinary, the beating of tom

toms and gongs, when they are about to make a passage, awful; the Chin Ching Joss,

for a prosperous voyage, is also an invariableceremony, which consists in setting light

to variously shaped bits of paper , coloured and gilt, and throwing them into the water,

at the same time firing bundles of crackers.

No. 57. - Junk from Cochin China.

These junks are employed in carrying grain from the south, returning from the

northern provinces laden with salt, which is there made on the coast in vast quantities,

by the sea water being filtered through mounds of earth, or by allowing the water to

evaporate in the sun in wooden tanks,the salt chrystallizing on the planks.

No. 58 .-- Fishing Boats.

The fishing boats are of large size, 25 to 30 tons, with either two or three masts, and

the common fore and aft mat sails of China. They usually sail in pairs for mutual

assistance in fishing, which is done by dragging a large net between them . The Chinese

seas are said to contain aa far more abundant supply of fish , and of a superior quality, to

any found in the known world.


Printed by J. MITCHELL and Co. (late BretteLL ) , Rupert Street, Haymarket.



















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