A few steps from Queen’s Road Central, concealed by skyscrapers, is an ancient, picturesque, Chinese market. It is a fascinating place.The easiest way to find Graham Street Wet Market is to walk down Queen’s Road in a westerly direction until you spot a couple of hawker stalls. Graham Street is a narrow, pedestrian-only lane crammed with barrows piled high with delicious fresh fruit, fish and vegetables.
Around 168 years ago, just before Hong Kong became a British colony, there was a bazaar on the site. It supplied the numerous foreign ships that sheltered in Hong Kong harbour with food. This Chinese marketplace was later known as the Middle Bazaar.
There was a tendency to name the streets of the new colony after British statesmen, generals and admirals. Occasionally a local personality had a street named after him. A notable example was the Reverend Karl Gutzlaff.
Gutzlaff was a Pomeranian saddle-maker turned missionary who preached Christianity to the Chinese while selling them opium. He was a brilliant linguist and later became Hong Kong’s Chief Secretary of Trade. Thanks to a survey he conducted in 1844, we know that both Graham Street and Peel Street were built on the site of the Middle Bazaar. There is a plan known as the Peel Street/Graham Street Redevelopment Project, which will destroy most of the old buildings in the wet market. Unfortunately most of Gutzlaff Street will also be demolished during the redevelopment.
The redevelopment site starts above Wellington Street and continues up to Gage Street. Peel Street, at the western edge of the site, was named after Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel, best known for the creation of the British police who were called “Bobbies” or “Peelers” after him.