Suffolk House refers to two early residences built on the same site located some four miles west of George Town, Penang, on the banks of the Air Itam River (Black Water River). The earliest of the two buildings is notable for serving as the residence of Francis Light, the founder of the British settlement on the Prince of Wales Island, commonly known as Penang Island. Following Light’s death in 1794, and with Penang becoming the fourth presidency of India in 1805, a newer Suffolk House replaced the original house, assuming multiple roles and was later neglected before its current restoration.
The mansion and the estate it was built on, the Suffolk Estate, is presumably named after Suffolk county in England. Light was born in Dallinghoo, Suffolk in East Anglia.
A stroll through the various streets in George Town brings one back into historical times.
Pre-war houses and heritage buildings can be easily seen in most parts of George Town.
As the the resting place of Penang’s European pioneers, the Christian Cemetery at Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah road in George Town is the oldest of such cemetery in the island. The cemetery (also referred to as Protestant Cemetery) is the resting place of Captain Francis Light (the Founder of Penang), the early British governors of Penang, the husband of Anna Leonowens (“Anna & The King”), and also the founder of Penang Free School. The cemetery is mostly shaded by trees with tombs as well as gravestones inhabiting the area since 1789.
The Queen Victoria Memorial Clocktower located nearby the Betel Nut roundabout in George Town (King Edward’s Place) is one of the famous landmarks in the island. The 60-feet high tower was built by Penang millionaire Cheah Chen Eok to commemorate Queen Victoria’s 1897 Jubilee at that time.
The Betel Nut roundabout structure is made up of a fountain with a 4.8m-high metal structure re-sembling giant pinang fruits is erected at the roundabout next to the clock tower.
Penang Hill (or Bukit Bendera in Malay) is a hilltop area comprising a group of peaks and is located approximately 6 kilometres from the city centre of George Town. It stands out prominently from the lowlands as a hilly and forested area.
The most convenient way up to Penang Hill is by means of the Penang Hill Railway, a funicular railway from Ayer Itam district to the top of hill. Construction of the railway took place between 1906 to 1923, at a cost of 1.5 million Straits dollars. The railway was opened to the public on October 21, 1923. The 2,007 m (1 mile 435 yard) journey takes about half an hour and the train may stop at intermediate stations upon request.
In 2010, the hill railway service was upgraded and the old funicular trains were replaced by newer ones, which are air-conditioned as well as carrying heavier load. The new train is faster and does not stop halfway at the middle station of the hill (unlike the old one). The ride up to the top of the hill will take around 15 minutes.
For Malaysians, the fare for a return (round trip) ticket is RM8 per adult and RM4 per child aged between three and 12. For foreign tourists, the return fare would be RM30 for adults and RM15 for children aged seven to 12.
The old funicular train
The new train as shown above
The Cheah Kongsi is one of the oldest and intriguing clan temple to be established in Penang in the year 1873.
Situated right at heart of Georgetown (Armenian Street), the Cheah Kongsi possessed a intricate and unique architecture as well as design which reflects buildings of ancient Chinese. The Cheah clan in Penang is the oldest of the five major Hokkien clan associations in Penang. Historically Cheah Kongsi was founded by Cheah Yam, a clan member who came from a village called Sek Tong in the Hokkien province of China.
Click here for the Location Map and the official website of the Cheah Kongsi is http://cheahkongsi.com.my/.
Constructed in the year 1924, the Penang Masonic Temple is both a heritage and historic Masonic building. The temple, located at 136 Jalan Utama (Western Road), Georgetown, was built as the centralized building for the four Freemason groups to meet at that time. It was built by both the Lodge Scotia and The Royal Prince of Wales Lodge. The building today is still used by the founding lodges for their meetings and is also utilised by 7 other Masonic bodies of either English or Scottish jurisdiction, which pay rent for its use.
Built during the British rule, Fort Cornwallis is the largest fort still remaining in Malaysia. This old star-shaped fort is situated at the north-eastern side of Penang island. The fort is named after Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis who was the Governor General of Bengal, India in the late 18th century.
Captain Sir Francis Light took possession of the island from the Sultan of Kedah in 1786 and built the original fort. It was a nibong (Malay: palm trunk) stockade with no permanent structures, covering an area of 417.6 square feet (38.80 m2). Despite the fort’s original purpose to serve the Royal artillery troops and the military, historically it was more for administrative purpose than defensive.
The Church of the Assumption is located at Farquhar Street, George Town, Penang and it is nearby St George’s Cathedral. The Church of the Assumption was founded in 1786, when Captain Francis Light first came to Penang. It remained as the seat of the bishop of Penang from 1955-2003 and it is also a World Heritage Church.
In 1786, Captain Francis Light landed on Penang Island and named it Prince of Wales Island. He set up the Fort Cornwallis. In conjunction with their landing in Penang which coincides with the feast of the Assumption of The Blessed Mary on 15 August that year, he and his companions built a church and named it Church of the Assumption. It was the first Roman Catholic church in the northern region of Malaysia, as well as the first church built after the British landed in Penang. They went on to control Malaya later on.