Hop Fung Iron Works
On a hot Summer's day, i met Mr Chan On Cheung, owner of Hop Fung Iron Works, and brother 9 within a family of 11 brothers and sisters. A lovely welcoming character. The metal works factory is hidden deep in the remote area of Yuen Long. Hop Fung has more than 50 years of history and it all started with Mr Chan’s father, a metal worker. As the demand for construction work grew in the early 1960s, Mr Chan Senior decided to open his own factory with a strong cast of 80 workers. As i walked along a vast space of land full of all sizes of drainage covers and metal pipes, i felt a surge of child-like excitement. Once upon a time, metal work production was conducted right here in HK, and involved heating up metal bricks to over 2000 degrees celsius then pouring the molten metal into a bespoke mould to cool down. Once cooled, a layer of paint is added on top. High quality metal is used to ensure a good looking and durable end product.
I learnt that there is a reason why the covers have different shapes and patterns. It helps to distinguish what lies beneath! So for example a round pattern symbolises rain water. Square is sewage water. Then codes are used within the patterns to denote different governmental and country standards.
When No 9 brother was 12-13 years old, he helped out in the factory with his brothers and sisters, and although working in a very dangerous setting, he thought nothing of it. With the opening up of China, the main factory moved to the North of China together with many other factories at the time. Strict environmental regulations meant they could no longer use coal-burning ovens, and had to change to electricity.
Today his clientele have many different needs and demands and business is good. All the production now takes place in China but the original factory with all its history now acts as a trusted designer and supplier in Hong Kong. i suspect this is one industry that will go on for a long long time. As long as there are construction works, there will be a need for what they produce.