|Penang Heritage | Padang Kota Lama - Esplanade Fort Cornwallis|
If you take a stroll along Esplanade, you can hardly miss this significant icon. It occupies an area of 332,859 square feet of a star-like shape. The fort’s wall is approximately 10 m high. A leisure walk along the perimeter itself could easily take more than 10 minutes.
The first structure of Fort Cornwallis from palm trunks (or 'nibong' in Malaysian Language) stockade was constructed in August 1786, on the same year after Captain Francis Light managed to lease Penang Island from Sultan of Kedah. Fort Cornwallis only covered an area of 417.6 square feet then. The location of the fort was exactly the spot where Francis Light disembarked from his ship in 1768.
In 1804, Fort Cornwallis was rebuilt by Indian convicts with bricks and stones. Completed in 1810 when Norman Macalister was the Governor of Penang, amounted a cost of $80,000. In the original fort structure, a moat of 9 m wide and 2 m deep was built surrounding the fort but later it was filled up in 1920s due to malaria epidemic.
Designed with the intention to protect against piracy, Kedah and French Napoleon Wars, Fort Cornwallis
however never engage in any battle but rather an administrative barracks that were equipped with a chapel, prison cells, stores, a harbor light and a flagstaff. During 1920s, the fort was once occupied by the Sikh Police of the Straits Settlements.
Housing the first chapel ever built on Penang Island, if you visit Fort Cornwallis today, this old chapel of a triangular shaped root still stands soundly at the south-west corner of the fort. The chapel was completed
in 1799 and on the same year, the first recorded service took place when John Timmers wedded Martina Rozells, the widow of Francis Light.
Inside this fort, vintage bronze canons are among the exhibits showcased. One of the most outstanding canons was named 'Seri Rambai' dated back to 1603. It is positioned next to a gunpowder magazine, facing the Straits of Malacca. Seri Rambai had indeed made a long journey before resting here at Fort Cornwallis. If you observe carefully, 'VOC' was engraved on this cannon signifies an evidence from Dutch hand which was presented to Sultan of Johore. Then, it was given to Acheen and installed at Kuala Selangor. Somehow, it was seized by British and installed here in 1871. According to local folklore, childless woman can conceive after placing flower garland at its barrel. Guess I shall leave that for you to experiment! And share your success story with us.
Recently, there was an archeological excavation conducted within Fort Cornwallis compound. Among some
interesting items founds include debris of china, ceramic and metal. The archeological site (picture below)
displays the initial layer of barrack that housed the Europeans during the early days.
Today Fort Cornwallis is privately managed, houses a tourist information kiosk, souvenir shop, cafe, open air
amphitheater, clean washrooms and Captain Francis Light bronze statue right after you enter into the fort
compound to welcome you! The entrance fee is RM3 for an adult and RM2 for child. It is open from Monday to Saturday 9 am to 6 pm and close on Sunday.
My visit to Fort Cornwallis was not merely a historical walk but indeed has captured a thousand and one
visual memories in my mind that would linger for a very long time!
Tips: If you are putting up in George Town, take advantage and hop on the free shuttle bus (CAT) provided by Penang State Government.
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