Fort Cornwallis

Penang's colonial

No pic at the moment -- Sorry!

What we say: 4 stars

Originally built of palm trunks in 1786, Fort Cornwallis was upgraded into the brick structure you see today in 1804. Once home to a barracks, gun powder magazine, chapel, harbour light, flagstaff, armoury, cell rooms, stores and many other administration buildings, in its day the Fort was a veritable one-stop-stop for all things colonial. Today, with just the chapel, gun powder magazine, lighthouse and a few low buildings remaining, it's difficult to imagine how they fitted it all in.

The Fort's sea-facing wall is lined with cannons, crowned by the prized Seri Rambai. This massive, 17th century cannon was initially a gift from the Dutch to the Sultan of Johor, who then lost it to the Acehnese, who gave it to the Sultan of Selangor, who lost it to, depending on who you're reading, pirates or the British (really little differentiated them back then). Upon reaching Penang, in a truly bizarre fit of madness, the British threw the cannon overboard. Subsequent salvage attempts were unsuccessful until the Viceroy of Selangor tied a rope to the cannon and ordered it to rise. This journey took nearly 300 years. Locals bestowed mythical powers upon the cannon and it is said that it can grant fertility.

Beside the Seri Rambai, you'll see the gunpowder magazine, within which there's a good display of cannon balls, gunpowder and kegs. Other points of interest include the chapel -- which now just houses a few paintings -- and the huge lighthouse, an imposing structure in an otherwise low-rise complex.

Also within the complex, but away from the water's edge, are several rooms, fragrant with the aroma of spices, that present a vast amount of information including the history of the fort, archaeological finds, conservation and preservation of the site along with detailed information surrounding Francis Light and the British East India Company.

It's interesting to note that with all the readiness for battle, the fort operated more like an administration centre and didn't once see the pointy end of a cannon.

While jokers may want to have their photograph taken with the statue of Sir Francis Light (the statue was modelled on his son as no pictures of the man himself were ever found) while wearing a traditional hat and toting a replica gun, the more serious might want to look for his missing sword. It is believed to have been melted down by the Japanese during their occupation in order to make a real one.

More details
Lebuh Light, Georgetown
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 09:00-18:00.
Last updated: 23rd September, 2014

Last reviewed by:
Ayesha ditched her power suit in favour of a wetsuit and ventured to Ko Tao to indulge in her passion for scuba diving. Apart from writing for Travelfish.org she manages the Master Divers Blog and whenever possible is underwater with her camera shooting fish!

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