An interesting historic site in the Settlement area is the Mandors’ Quarters (aka The Virgins’ Castle). The Mandors were the overseers of the Chinese labourers known as “coolies”. Unfortunately their quarters are now a ruin and then, I might add, only half a ruin as only the back remnants of the building remain. I’m not sure of the story behind this partial demolition; all I know is that the front of the Mandors’ Quarters were demolished before the work was halted, I presume because of heritage reasons. How this could happen to a historic building I’m not sure. Admittedly, the original building structure was altered over the decades. Nevertheless, its significance should have been valued more.
This photo was labelled The Mandores’ Quarters and taken on 20th May 1930. Source: National Archives of Australia R32:CIPC 7/24B
In the 1960s single female, schoolteachers and nurses were housed here hence its nickname “The Virgins’ Castle”. In the 1970s/80s married couples had moved in including members of my own family and friends.
What is left of the old Mandors’ quarters appears now, sadly, to be in the last stages of demolition by neglect. Many things have happened at this site and its surrounds from Christmas Island’s earliest days. All the memories and layers of history hang in the air here particularly, I feel, behind the building and that is something that can never be erased. Perhaps this is why it has been one of my most favourite sites to visit. Considering the site’s location, right where the first coolie lines were once located in the very early 1900s, I have to wonder what an archeological dig would uncover in its grounds.
And finally, I have here a photo showing part of the old Mandors’ Quarters around the mid 1960s. Note the beautiful wooden doors and shutters. The building looks extremely well kept.
With thanks to Kit Chia for this photo of him when he was a little boy playing outside his home at the former Mandors’ Quarters.
Update: 12th September 2018 – My sister-in-law, who lives on the island, has just sent some photos of the site (see below). It now appears to be totally overgrown and fenced off.
An investor has purchased land on Gaze Rd (the site is locally known as the Virgins’ Castle) and has submitted plans and applications to build a 30/35-room international standard accommodation to meet the needs of the associated dive business and international flight between Christmas Island and Jakarta … After a year or so, the proponent is still waiting on approvals to enable building to commence. The reasons for the delays are unknown …
“Inquiry into Opportunities and Methods for Stimulating the Tourism Industry in Northern Australia Submission 21 – Supplementary Submission 2” dated the 16th February 2018
A local construction group and tourism developer consortium are the developers.