Timothy Tye's Travel Encyclopedia
St George's Church

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Anglican Church of St George the Martyr, George Town, PenangAnglican Church of St George the Martyr, George Town, Penang (17 April 2011)



The St George's Church (GPS: 5.42002, 100.33931) is the oldest Anglican church in Malaysia, and is the main place of worship for the British colonial administrators in Penang. Located along Farquhar Street, it is one of the loveliest British colonial heritage buildings within the core zone of George Town's Unesco World Heritage Site. It is on the route of a George Town walking tour I established for Penang Travel Tips.

I have initially credited the formation of the St George's Church to Reverend Robert Sparke Hutchings*, the same person who founded the Penang Free School, the oldest English school in Southeast Asia, and who gave his name to Hutchings School nearby. However, I have since uncovered more details on the background of the church.

According to historian Marcus Langdon, Reverend Hutchings was present when deliberations were going on regarding construction of a church; however, rather than being the main mover of the project, he was only one of those consulted. The desire to erect a church for the Protestant inhabitants of Penang had been present long before that and indeed plans were submitted in 1810, 1813 and 1814. It was not until the extension of the East India Company's Charter for a further 20 years from 1814 that plans were finally acted upon. Rev Hutchings arrived in August 1814 and held services in the Court House opposite in Prince St, a now defunct road which ran between Farquhar and Light streets.

Approval to build the church was received from London in 1815 based on plans provided by engineer Major Thomas Anburey but this was not implemented. Instead the church was built according to plans obtained by Governor William Petrie from Madras in 1816 with modifications by engineer Lieutenant Robert Smith.

Although Hutchings was present when these plans were being considered, his input appears to have been minimal. He had in fact suggested that the church be built on the site of James Scott's property, Ossian Hall, on Light Street, on the grounds of today's Dewan Sri Pinang. Hutchings actually went to Bengal before construction of the church commenced and did not return until well after the church was opened, Rev Henderson officiating in his place.

The St George's Church was named after the patron saint of England. The saint's name was often called out in battle, a practice that goes back to the 12th century. The church itself was built in 1816 using convict labour, when Colonel John Alexander Bannerman was the Governor of Penang. The cost of building it was 60,000 Spanish dollars. This was a princely sum, considering the British paid only 10,000 Spanish dollars per annum to Kedah for Penang, while they bought Singapore a few years later for also 60,000 Spanish dollars.

The church was designed by Captain Robert N. Smith of Madras Engineers. (Smith is also a gifted artist whose oil paintings of Penang landscape still grace the walls of the Penang State Museum nearby.) The church was designed in the Georgian Palladian style - that's a combination of the Georgian style, named after the reigns of King George I and IV, 1714-1830; and the Palladian style, named after the Grecian architecture of a Roman called Palladius. (Compare it to the St Andrew's Cathedral in Singapore). This calls for graceful Grecian columns along the front of the building. The original roof was flat. However, it was modified to its present gable shape in 1864, after the original flat roof was found to be unsuitable for the weather in Penang.

The first significant event to take place at the St George's Church was the marriage of Janet, daughter of Governor Bannerman, to William Edward Philips, in 1818. Philips was the man who took over the pepper estate belonging to Francis Light, on which stands Suffolk House, believed to also have been built by him. Incidentally, Philips was acting Governor of Penang in 1817, when the construction of the church building was started, and completed in 1818, during Bannerman's term.

St George's Church on Google Maps Street View



Front façade of St George's ChurchFront façade of St George's Church (17 April 2011)


Front façade of St George's ChurchSide view of St George's Church (17 April 2011)


Side façade of St George's ChurchSide façade of St George's Church (17 April 2011)


View of the Francis Light Memorial in the compound of the St George's Anglican ChurchView of the Francis Light Memorial in the compound of the St George's Anglican Church (17 April, 2011)


On the lawn of the St George's Church is the Francis Light Memorial.

Services are still held at the St George's Church twice every Sunday, at 8.30am and 10.30am.
Address: 1, Lebuh Farquhar, 10200 Penang, Malaysia.
Telephone: 604 261 2739 o Fax: 604 264 2292

Getting there

Take the City Hop On Free Shuttle Bus from Rapid Penang and alight at Station No. 6 (Muzium). The Penang Hop-On Hop-Off Tourist Bus also stops there. The St George's Church is located a short distance to the left of the Penang Museum.

Rear façade, St George's Anglican ChurchRear façade, St George's Anglican Church (14 May, 2011)

2010-2011 Restoration of St George's Anglican Church

The St George's Anglican Church underwent a 9-month restoration in 2010-2011. The RM1.8 million resoration was carried out under the Ninth Malaysia Plan allocation by the National Heritage Department. The result of the restoration is a gorgeous whitewashed building that is believed to have returned the church and the Francis Light Monument to their original states.

The St George's Anglican Church was designated one of the 50 National Heritage Treasures of Malaysia in 2007.

Interior of St George's Church, after the 2011 restorationInterior of St George's Church, after the 2011 restoration (14 May, 2011)


Altar of the St George's ChurchAltar of the St George's Church (14 May, 2011)


Interior columns of the St George's ChurchInterior columns of the St George's Church (14 May, 2011)


Baptismal font, St George's Anglican ChurchBaptismal font, St George's Anglican Church (14 May, 2011)

The St George Anglican Church is on the map of Farquhar Street

St George's Church Before Restoration

I have photographed the St George's Church over many years. Here are some of the shots taken before the church underwent restoration.

2008

View of St George's Church in 2008View of St George's Church in 2008 (8 January, 2008)

2002

These were taken in 2002. At that time, we never even dreamed that one day George Town would be recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It just seem so far fetched.

St George's ChurchSt George's Church (20 July 2002)


Gable-shaped roof and Grecian columns on the front façade of St George's ChurchGable-shaped roof and Grecian columns on the front façade of St George's Church (29 July 2002)


Francis Light Memorial and the St George's ChurchFrancis Light Memorial and the St George's Church (29 July 2002)

Upper North Archdeaconry of the Anglican Diocese of West Malaysia

The following are the Anglican churches on the northern part of West Malaysia:
  1. Bagan Jermal Anglican Church, 4 Jalan Bagan Jermal, 10250 Penang, tel: 012 473 8621 (Mr Charles Ooi)
  2. Bukit Mertajam Anglican Centre, 117B, Lorong Tembikai 1, 14000 Bukit Mertajam, Penang
  3. Christ Church, 531 MK 16, Jalan Air Itam, 11500 Penang, tel: 828 6497
  4. Church of the Good Shepherd, 57 Jalan Perusahaan Jelutong 3, 11600 Jelutong, tel: 019 557 6930 (Rev John Kennady)
  5. Church of the Redeemer, 306 Jalan Bagan Lebai Tahir, Bagan Ajam, 13050 Butterworth, tel: 323 1568
  6. Emmanuel Harvest Centre, 276/2 & 278/2 Jalan Dato Ismail Hashim, Sungai Ara, 11900 Bayan Lepas, tel: 658 6515
  7. Gereja St Mark, 1-14B, 30000 Jalan Baru, NB Plaza, 13700 Perai, tel: 012 2421091 (Dss Julih Bah Aew)
  8. St George's Church, 1 Farquhar Street, 10200 Penang, tel: 227 7612 (Rev Joel Leow)
  9. St Mark's Church, 3826, Jalan St Mark, 12000 Butterworth, tel: 332 8197 (Rev John Kennady)
  10. St Paul's Church, 56 Macalister Road, 10400 Penang, tel: 226 0614 (Rev David Teh)
  11. St Paul's Church, Lorong Rusa 6, Taman Selamat Alma, 14000 Bukit Mertajam, tel: 551 4005 (Rev George Micheal)
  12. St Philip & St James' Church Sungai Petani
    3A, Jalan Kapal Terbang, 08000 Sungai Petani, Kedah
    tel: 04 421 0420; Rev Eisu Das: 016 549 2738, rev_jse@yahoo.com
  13. St Thomas Church, Jalan Hospital, 09000 Kulim, Kedah, tel: 551 4005 (Rev George Michael), 226 0614 (Rev Stephen Soe)

Acknowledgement

I thank Marcus Langdon for furnishing additional details surrounding the building of the St George's Church.

List of Churches in Penang and Churches in Malaysia



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