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Fort Cornwallis

Said to be the largest standing bastion fort in Malaysia, Fort Cornwallis is located at Georgetown Penang. It was built in the 1700s by the British East India Company and named after the Governor General of Bengal, Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis. Ironically, being the largest bastion fort built for combat, Fort Cornwallis has never engaged in combat.



The original fort was built by Francis Light in 1786, when he took Penang from the Sultan of Kedah. It was merely a nibong (palm trunk) stockade with no lasting structures with an area of 38.80 metre square (417.6 feet square) and a purpose, to protect Penang from pirates and Kedah.

In 1804, came the eruption of the Napoleonic Wars when Colonel R.T. Farquhar was the Governor of Penang. He made some Indian labourers that were also convicts to rebuild the fort using brick and stone. This project was completed only in 1810 with a cost of $ 80 000 during the term where Norman Macalister was the Governor of Penang. It was surrounded by a moat that was 9 metres wide and 2 metres deep. However, it was filled in the 1920s because of the surge in malaria cases in the area.

Despite the fact that it was built for British military, it was mostly used administratively rather than for defense. On the 8th of September 1977, under the Antiquities Act 168/1976, it was announced as an Ancient Monument and Historic Site. From March 2000 to March 2001, the government started the restoration of Fort Cornwallis, to bring it back to its former glory. This cost RM 1.9 million.



The core of the fort hold a chapel that was built in 1799. The southwest bastion holds the main magazine which has a massive roof and buttresses all around it. It is believed to be the earliest roofed structure.

Cannons adorn the fort at almost every corner. The largest cannon of them all is the Seri Rambai that was cast in 1603. In 1606, the Dutch East India Company gave it to the Sultan of Johor. The, in 1613, the Acehnese took the Seri Rambai and carried it all the way to Aceh. In 1795, they gave it to Kuala Selangor but the British seized it in 1871 after a punitive raid in Kuala Selangor and brought it to Penang. It was returned to the fort in the 1950s.

At the northeast corner, stands a 21 metres (69 feet) tall skeletal steel lighthouse built in 1882 for 10 224-pound sterling. It is the second oldest after Cape of Rachado Lighthouse at Tanjung Tuan, Malacca. It was initially named Fort Point Lighthouse but was renamed Penang Harbour Lighthouse after the renovation from 1914 to 1925. The State of Tourism Development Committee Chairman claimed in 2006 that it is the only lighthouse that resembles a ship’s mast, the only one is Peninsular Malaysia not serving any navigational purpose.

Penang Island Highlights

Blue Mansion Captain Francis Light City Hall Esplanade Clock Tower Convent Light Street School Dhammikarama Temple Fort Cornwallis Guan Ti Temple Kapitan Keling Mosque Kek Lok Si Temple Little India Penang Hill Sri Maha Mariamman Temple St. George Church Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram