Government House, George Town





          
Government House, George Town, Penang (30 November, 2008)





Government House (GPS: 5.42273, 100.3389) is one of the oldest colonial structures in Penang that is still standing. It is also the oldest building of the British era in Malaysia. Nowadays located within the compound of the Convent Light Street girls' school, Government House was built around 1804-1805, when Robert Townsend Farquhar was Governor of the British Settlement at Prince of Wales Island.

To get a perspective of how old Government House is, bear in mind that it is older than most of the major towns and cities along the Malay peninsula including Singapore, Taiping, Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur.

The front porch of Government House (30 November, 2008)


Government House bears elements of the existing architectural style brought over from British India. The British military drew on the Anglo-Indian architectural style, which is more relevant to the climate than those back in England. At that time, a Straits architectural style has not yet emerged, and for want of functionality rather than aesthetics, Government House was built to be practical but plain.




Government House was the first non-military building that was built by the British East India Company. It was constructed during the term of Robert Townsend Farquhar as governor, and was completed in time for the new governor, Philip Dundas, to assume his duties when Penang had just been elevated to the status of India's fourth Presidency, in 1805. It stands on land owned by Francis Light's trading partner, James Scott, who obtained it after Light passed away. The British East India Company paid a monthly rental of 250 Spanish Dollars to Scott for the use of the premises.

The driveway approaching Government House (30 November, 2008)


At that time, it was known as the Admiralty House, probably after the Admiralty House at Whitehall, London, and some times, also known as Navy House. At that time in the early 19th Century, the Convent Light Street had not been built yet, while the name Government House was more commonly used to refer to what we know today as Suffolk House.

Under the British East India Company, Government House (Admiralty House) had a ballroom on the upper floor. Later it became the Governor's office and council chamber. Stamford Raffles worked here between 1805 and 1810, when he served as deputy secretary to the Governor of Penang, and had his home where Runnymede is located today.

The front porch of Government House (30 November, 2008)


The Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus was established by the nuns who arrived in George Town from 1852. In 1859, the nuns bought the 7-acre site, which includes Government House, from the British East India Company, to establish what we know today as Convent Light Street. Government House remains part of the school compound ever since. It was used as a novitiate during the earlier years. In 1924, part of it was converted into a dining room for boarders.

The Second World War brought much hardship to all in Penang, and many buildings were taken over by the occupying forces. Government House was turned into an internment camp for prisoners-of-war.

Today Government House is still functioning as part of the Convent Light Street School, housing the domestic science department. It is located a short distance behind Francis Light's Well.

Interior furnishing, Government House (30 November, 2008)


Getting there

From the Weld Quay Ferry & Bus Terminal, take Rapid Penang Bus Nos. 10 or 103 to Lebuh Farquhar, in front of St Xavier's Institution. Use the pedestrian bridge to cross Lebuh Farquhar, then walk to Convent Light Street. At Convent Light Street, ask for direction to Government House.

Government House is on the map of Light Street

List of Historic Buildings in Penang and Historic Buildings in Malaysia



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