An interesting historic site in the Settlement area is the Mandors’ Quarters (aka The Virgins’ Castle). The Mandors were the overseers of the Chinese indentured labourers known as “coolies”.
This photo was labelled “The Mandores’ Quarters” and taken on 20th May 1930. Source: National Archives of Australia R32:CIPC 7/24B
Unfortunately their quarters are now a ruin and then I might add, just part of a ruin, as only the back remnants of the building remain. This was the part of the building that housed the utility areas such as kitchens, toilets, laundry. The front of the building that was demolished had separate accommodation units each consisting of a bedroom and small living area. A breezeway originally separated the two parts of the building.
In recent decades the building has been known as “The Virgin/s’ Castle. Mui Fong tells the origins of that name: “In the 1970s, the phosphate mining company (BPC) started to repatriate workers (and their dependants), reaching the age of 57 years old to China/Singapore. Their children who has a job can stay behind and at that time there were no female single quarters as such so they place them in the building known as the Mandor Quarters, 2 to a unit. Long story short – The reason it’s named the Virgin Castle is, most of the girls who were placed there were between the age of 17 and 20 who were young and innocent at that time, hence Virgin Castle. These girls worked as typists and clerks.”
Later, married couples had moved in. The breezeway was converted into dining areas for each unit.
The photo below shows part of the old Mandors’ Quarters around the mid 1960s. Note the beautiful wooden doors and shutters and the wooden slats above them. The building looks well kept. What a pity its historical significance was never realised and valued in the proceeding years.
© Kit Chia. With thanks to Kit for this photo of him when he was a little boy playing outside his home at the former Mandors’ Quarters.
Here is another photo of the building below taken in the 1970’s/80s looking towards the supermarket in Settlement (formerly known as the Tradestore). Note the vegetable patches of the residents in the front yard and also the mature tree.
In a 2012 report by the Heritage Council it was stated that:
The Mandor’s House has been substantially altered with internal partitions and enclosures of the breezeway and service block. White ant attacks are evident and spalling and cracking of the masonry has occurred. The building was assessed as unsound by the Department of the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Territories and Tourism (DASETT) in 1991.
Some time after this the front half of the building (as seen above) was demolished by a developer but work was stopped leaving only the back utilities portion.
Fast forward to September 2018 the site was badly overgrown and fenced off.
By October 2022 the site was fully cleared of the jungle overgrowth and building debris. Select an image in the gallery below to see an enlarged version.
The fate of the mandors’ quarters aka The Virgin Castle has now been sealed. The final remnants of the building will be removed and new visitor accommodation built in its place.
Many things would have happened at this site and its surrounds from Christmas Island’s earliest days. As the site dates back to at least 1910, all the memories and layers of history hang in the air there. That’s something that can never be erased.
Let’s have a final walkthrough along the bottom floor of the ruin in the video below.