27 Mar Fort Cornwallis
Walk alongside Penang’s famed Esplanade Drive past the Town Hall and you will find yourself standing in front of an imposing relic. Indeed, Fort Cornwallis stands as a Penang icon but is most notable for being one of the first few structures ever constructed on the island when Captain Francis Light discovered and colonised it as his own.
Fort Cornwallis is touted by various local travel outlets as the largest standing fort in Malaysia; in fact, it had never actually been involved in any sort of conflict whatsoever, although it was upgraded from its original nibong foundations into something more brick-and-mortar. Captain Light built the fort in 1786 to defend Penang from pirates and Kedah folks who weren’t quite pleased with Light wrestling Penang Island away from the Sultan of Kedah. No such conflict came, and thus the fort served a more administrative function, rather than a defensive one.
The fort houses an imposing bronze statue of Light, the Sri Rambai cannon which has a history of its own, a row of barracks and adjacent jail cell, and perhaps the first Christian chapel built on Penang Island, where Light’s widow Martina Rozells remarried John Timmers the same year it was completed. It also has a steel lighthouse which was constructed in 1882, then renovated into what Penangites now call the Penang Harbor Lighthouse.
Today, Fort Cornwallis has been given a bit of a makeover due to the recent addition of a high-end fusion restaurant named “Kota” – which is Malay for “fort”. As it stands, though, the fort remains a popular recreational area for locals and tourists alike who are curious to see a relic of a bygone era nearly untouched by the sands of time – an iconic memento of Penang’s founding father.