The largest and one of the oldest forts in Malaysia offers fascinating insight into Penang’s colonial past.
Fort Cornwallis aims to show how life would have been for the British governors and civil servants that were based in Malaysia during colonial times (early 1800s). Original colonial structures, artifacts and authentically dressed staff and guides all help to paint the picture for you.
As you approach the fort, an imposing statue of Sir Francis Light is the first thing that comes into view. It was Light who oversaw the building of the fort in 1786, in order to protect the British trade route from potential attacks from pirates or the French. The fort was originally constructed from palm trunks, and the star-shaped, stone structure that you see today was completed in 1810.
History buffs will love the chance to wander around Fort Cornwall’s original features. Because it was never attacked, the structure remains much as the soldiers and civil servants who worked here would have known it. Examine the gunpowder magazine, imagine a prayer service in the original chapel, and have your photo taken behind the bars of the jail.
Don’t miss the Sri Rambai Cannon, the largest of Fort Cornwallis’s 17 cannons. The Sri Rambai has a colorful history that dates back to 1606, encompassing Dutch, Portuguese and British owners. Interestingly, the historic cannon is revered locally as a fertility aid. You may see women dropping flowers into its hole, hoping to increase their chances of becoming pregnant.
Guides dressed in bright red, colonial regalia are on-hand to offer tours for a small charge. But you’re also welcome to walk around the fort by yourself, which is easily done in an hour. Light refreshments and souvenirs are available at the kiosk near the entrance.
Fort Cornwallis is located in Georgetown, easily accessible by public transportation and close to the Victoria Memorial Clock on the Esplanade. The fort is open daily and there is a nominal charge for entry