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British Governors of the Straits Settlement

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I create this page, on the British Governors of the Straits Settlement, because I need a place to house my research into the history of the British settlements. That way, I can easily visit it, as well as place links to it from my various writings on the history of Penang, Malacca and Singapore. For the sake of continuity, I have also included persons who were leading the British settlement before it became the Straits Settlement.

To learn more about the history of Penang, read also the Penang History page.





Captain Francis Light 1786-1794 Superintendent Established the first British settlement in peninsula Malaya, calling it George Town, after King George III. Renamed Pulau Pinang as Prince of Wales Island, after the future King George IV. Named Light Street in Penang after himself and Pitt Street after William Pitt the Younger, the Prime Minister of Britain from 1783*-1801 and 1804-1806. (*Pitt was the youngest ever Prime Minister of Britain at age 24 in 1783).
Fort Cornwallis was named after Charles Cornwallis, the 1st Marquess Cornwallis, who was the Governor-General of India in 1786 until his death in 1805, during which he was also made Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1798.
Philip Manington 1794-1795 Superintendent Took over from Francis Light as Superintendent of Penang after Light passed away, Manington was also the first Magistrate of Penang. Manington resigned within one year due to ill health.
Major Forbes Ross Macdonald 1795-1799 Superintendent Appointed by Sir John Shore, Governor-General of India. So far nothing of significance has been named after him. Elsewhere in the world, France invaded Holland in the winter of 1794/5. This was to have far-reaching effect of the Dutch settlement in Malacca. King William V of Holland escaped to England, where he issued instructions to Dutch governors overseas to admit British troops and vessels as those of a friendly power. In 1795 William Farquhar, Chief Engineer, led the British is taking over administration of Malacca from the Dutch. Macdonald could not get along with the merchants and his own staff, and several such issues prompted his resignation. He died in Madras the same year, 1799.
George Caunter 1795-1799 Acting Superintendent George Caunter
George Caunter

Caunter, for whom Caunter Hall was named, was Acting Superintendent while Macdonald was on leave of absence in 1797, and again in 1799, immediately after Macdonald resigned. He was Magistrate of the Prince of Wales Island with Phililp Manington Jr, the son of Philip Manington Sr, as his assistant until 1797, when he became Acting Superintendent, and Manington Jr became Magistrate.
Sir George Alexander William Leith 1800-1804 Lieutenant Governor George Leith
George Leith

Leith Street was named after him.
William Edward Phillips arrived in Penang on 20 April 1800 to act as secretary to Lieutenant George Leith. Land across the channel was added to Penang and named Province Wellesley, after Richard Colley Wesley, later Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, who was Governor General of India from 1798 to 1805.
Robert Townsend Farquhar 1804-1805 Lieutenant Governor Robert Townsend Farquhar
Robert Townsend Farquhar

Farquhar Street was named after him. Government House, now within the compound of Convent Light Street, was built.
William Edward Phillips was Collector of Customs and Land Revenues under R.T. Farquhar. In 1805, he purchase the pepper estate of the late Francis Light from James Scott and William Fairlie. Suffolk House may have been built between 1805 and 1811.
In Malacca, William Farquhar was promoted to Captain and made Resident of Malacca in 1803. In 1807, he was ordered to demolish the Malacca Fort. Lord Minto (Gilbert Elliot-Murray-Kynynmond, 1st Earl of Minto) was the Governor-General of India from 1807-1813.
Mr Philip Dundas 1805-1807 Governor of Penang Philip Dundas
Philip Dundas

Penang was made a Presidency of India in 1805, placed on equal significance with other British presidencies including Madras, Bombay and Calcutta. The head of government was promoted to governor, and staff grew from a handful under the four preceeding leaderships in Penang, to fifty. One of the staff of the new administration was an assistant secretary named Thomas Raffles (he later dropped Thomas and preferred Stamford to his name).

Dundas was governor as well as treasurer. Members of his council included John Hope Oliphant, Alexander Gray and Captain Norman Macalister.
Henry Shepherd Pearson 1807 Acting Governor For less than a year, 13 April - 17 Oct, Pearson was Acting Governor. William Edward Philip was acting member of his council.
Colonel Norman Macalister 1807-1810 Governor Captain Macalister promoted to Colonel, made Governor of Penang. Fort Cornwallis was rebuilt in bricks during his term.
Charles Andrew Bruce 1810 Governor C.A. Bruce served from only 24 March to his death in December of 1810. During his term Colonel Norman Macalister was appointed the second member of council while William Edward Phillips third and last member of council. When Bruce died, John James Erskine - after whom Mount Erskine was named - was called to the board as a member in council.
William Edward Phillips 1810-1811 Acting Governor Phillips became the Acting Governor of Penang upon the death of C.A. Bruce. He was to play the seat-warmer role again in 1816 and 1819 before finally being made Governor in his own right in 1820. Cross reference: Suffolk House.
In Malacca, William Farquhar was promoted to Major in 1811 and in 1813 he was given the title Resident and Commander of Malacca. The Dutch returned to Malacca in 1818. Cross reference: Porta de Santiago.
Archibald Seton 1811-1812 Governor Seton joined Lord Minto on the expedition to Java in 1811. After the conquest of Java, he was appointed Governor of Prince of Wales Island
William Petrie 1811-1812 Acting Governor William Petrie
William Petrie

Petrie was Acting Governor while Seton joined Lord Minto on the Java Expedition.
William Petrie 1812-1816 Governor Petrie took over from Seton as Governor of Penang, and served until his death in 1816. St George's Anglican Church was under construction.
William Edward Phillips 1817 Acting Governor Phillips was again Acting Governor, for a year, following the death of Petrie.
Colonel John Alexander Bannerman 1817-1819 Governor John Alexander Bannerman
John Alexander Bannerman

John Macalister, after whom Macalister Road was named, was a member of council. W.E. Phillips married Governor Bannerman's daughter Janet, at the St George's Church in 1818. Governor Bannerman died of cholera the following year.
William Edward Phillips 1819-1824 Governor Phillips was finally a full-fledged Governor of Penang. Sir Francis Souper Bayley and Sir John Thomas Claridge were Recorders of the Court of Judicature.
Stamford Raffles and William Farquhar landed on the south coast of Singapore on 29 January 1819, and the next day signed a Preliminary Agreement with the Temenggong for the British (the English East India Company) to establish a settlement (lit. a factory) there. Farquhar later became Resident of Singapore. By 1822, the trade of Singapore had exceeded that of Penang.
Robert Fullerton 1824-1826 Governor Robert Fullerton
Robert Fullerton

Fullerton Place and Fullerton Hotel in Singapore today bear his name. William Clubley and John Prince were members in council.
On 1 August 1826, the Presidency of the Straits Settlements was formed by grouping Penang (including Province Wellesley), Singapore (including Christmas Island and the Cocos-Keeling group) and Malacca. It was also known as the Eastern Presidency. The seat of government was at Penang.
Robert Fullerton 1826-1829 Governor Fullerton now served as Governor and Treasurer of the Presidency of the Straits Settlements of Penang, Singapore and Malacca. In 1829, Fullerton decided to move the seat of Government of the Eastern Presidency from Penang to Singapore. Lord Bentinck, Governor-General of India, visited Penang in 1829 and was not pleased with the number of large number of high-ranking officials drawing high salary. On 1 May 1830, the presidency was downgraded to residency - and with that, came a reduction in staff headcount. The Residency of the Straits Settlement came under direct control of the Presidency of Fort William in Bengal.
Robert Ibbetson 1830-1832 Governor Ibbetson was made Governor and Treasurer of the Residency of the Straits Settlements.
Kenneth Murchison 1833-1836 Governor
Samuel George Bonham 1836-1843 Governor
William John Butterworth 1843-1851 Governor William John Butterworth
William John Butterworth

The town of Butterworth was named after Willliam John Butterworth, who was Governor of the Residency of the Straits Settlements based in Singapore. In 1851, the Straits Settlement was transferred from the authority of the Governor of the Presidency of Bengal to be directly under the control of the Governor-General of India. Edmund Augustus Blundell was the Resident Councillor of Penang, reporting to Butterworth.
William John Butterworth 1851-1855 Governor W.J. Butterworth continued to serve as Governor of the Straits Settlements, under a different boss. Edmund Augustus Blundell was still the Resident Councillor of Penang, reporting to Butterworth from 1849-1855.
Edmund Augustus Blundell 1855-1859 Governor Blundell succeeded J.W. Butterworth as Governor of the Straits Settlements in Singapore. During that time W.T. Lewis was the Resident Councillor of Penang (1855-1860).
Major General Sir William Orfeur Cavenagh 1859-1867 Governor Cavenagh, after whom Cavenagh Bridge in Singapore was named, was the Governor of the Straits Settlements in Singapore reporting to India, until the transfer of control to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in London, putting Singapore in direct touch with the capital. Transfer Road in Penang was so named to commemorate the transfer of control. In Penang, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Man was appointed Resident Councillor, serving from 1860 to 1867.
Major General Sir Harry St. George Ord 1867-1873 Governor St George Ord became the Governor of the Crown Colony of the Straits Settlements from 16 March 1867 until 4 November 1873. During that time, Major General Archibald Edward Harbord Anson was the Lieutenant-Governor of Penang from 1867 to 1871. Anson Road in Penang and Singapore, and the now disappeared Anson Bridge in Penang were named after him. Also during Anson's first term as Lieutenant-Governor, the Penang Riots of 1867 erupted. From 1871-1872, Arthur Nonus Birch was acting Lieutenant Governor of Penang while from 1872-1873, Sir George William Robert Campbell, who was also Inspector General from 1866-1891, was the Acting Lieutenant Governor of Penang.

Archibald Anson
Archibald Edward Harbord Anson

Sir Andrew Clarke 1873-1875 Governor Sir Andrew Clarke was the Governor of the Crown Colony of the Straits Settlements from 4 November 1873 until 8 May 1875. Clarke Quay was named after him. Archibald Anson was once again Lieutenant Governor of Penang under Clarke. Anson was to be Lieutenant Governor of Penang until his retirement in 1881, and served under several bosses including St. George Ord, Clarke, Jervois, and Weld.
Sir William Francis Drummond Jervois 1875-1877 Governor
Major General Archibald Edward Anson 1877 Acting Governor Anson was briefly the Acting Governor of the Crown Colony of the Straits Settlements from April to August of 1877, until the arrival of Robinson
Sir William Cleaver Francis Robinson 1877-1879 Governor Robinson was the Governor of the Crown Colony of the Straits Settlements at Singapore from August 1877 to February 10, 1879. Reclamation work at Telok Ayer Bay in Singapore began during his term, and on this newly created land were built Robinson Road and Anson Road, named after the Governor and Acting Governor of that time.
Charles John Irving, after whom Irving Road was named, was the Acting Lieutenant-Governor of Penang from 1879-1880 and Resident Councillor of Penang from 1885-1887.
Sir Frederick Weld 1880-1887 Governor Weld served from 16 May, 1880 to 17 October, 1887. Weld Quay was named after him. During his term as Governor of the Crown Colony of the Straits Settlements, reclamation of the eastern shore of George Town was undertaken. Anson Bridge was built across the Prangin Canal, and named after Archibald Anson the then Lieutenant-Governor of Penang, 1880-1881.
After Anson retired as Lieutenant Governor in 1881, Major John Frederick Adolphus McNair became Acting Lieutenant Governor from 1881 to 1884 and was also the Resident Councillor of Penang in 1884. He retired the same year, 1884. Urban renewal took place in the Seven Streets Precinct, and McNair Street was named after him.
After McNair retired, Major Samuel Dunlop was Acting Lieutenant-Governor of Penang in 1884-1885. Dunlop Road was named after him.

John Frederick Adolphus McNair
John Frederick Adolphus McNair

Sir Cecil Clementi Smith 1887-1893 Governor Clementi was Governor of the Crown Colony of the Straits Settlements at Singapore from 17 October, 1887 to 30 August, 1893. Clementi in Singapore was named after him, as was Cecil Street in both Penang and Singapore. Development of the Seven Streets Precinct south of the Prangin Canal was carried out during his term in office. Meanwhile in Penang, Allan Maclean Skinner was Resident Councillor from 1887-1897. Skinner was the first Resident Councillor to stay at the Residency of Penang, now called Seri Mutiara. Sir William Edward Maxwell was named Acting Resident Councillor of Penang from 1887-1889. He was also Lieutenant-Governor of Malacca in 1870. The Maxwell Road in both Penang and Singapore were named after him.

William Edward Maxwell
William Edward Maxwell

Sir William Edward Maxwell 1893-1894 Acting Governor Henry Trotter was was Acting Resident Councillor of Penang, taking the post of Maxwell, who was acting as governor, from 1891-1895. In 1894-1895, Francis James Anderson also acted as Acting Resident Councillor of Penang.

Francis James Anderson
Francis James Anderson

Sir Charles Mitchell 1894-1899 Governor Mitchell was Governor of the Crown Colony of the Straits Settlements at Singapore from 1 February, 1894 to 7 December, 1899. Charles Walter Sneyd-Kynnersley was Resident Councillor of Penang 5 May - 23 Dec. 1897 and 8 April 1900 - 24 Feb.1901 and in 1903. He was also Acting Resident Councillor of Penang from 25 April 1889 to 9 March 1890 and 4 23 March 1897.
James Alexander Swettenham 1899-1901 Acting Governor Swettenham was Acting Governor of the Crown Colony of the Straits Settlements at Singapore from 7 December 1899 to 5 November 1901.
Sir Frank Athelstane Swettenham 1901-1904 Governor Mitchell was Governor of the Crown Colony of the Straits Settlements at Singapore from 5 February 1901 to 16 April 1904. Swettenham was also the first Resident General of the Federated Malay States, now part of the Royal Colonies, from 1 July 1896 to 1901. He first arrived in the Malay peninsula in 1871, when he served as a cadet in Singapore. He learned Malay and played a role in the Pangkor Treaty of 1874. Swettenham Pier was named after him.
Charles Walter Sneyd-Kynnersley was Resident Councillor of Penang from 5 May to 23 Dec. 1897 and from 8 April 1900 to 24 Feb.1901-1903, and also acted as Acting Resident Councillor in between.
Sir John Anderson 1904-1911 Governor Anderson was Governor of the Crown Colony of the Straits Settlements at Singapore from 16 April, 1904 to 2 September, 1911. Anderson Bridge in Singapore was named after him. During this time, James K. Birth was Resident Councillor from 1904 to 1907 while the position was filled by Robert Norman Bland ”from 17 Feb.1907- 14 March 1908 and 7 May 1908-1910. Bland was also Acting Resident Councillor in Malacca (22 April- 10 Sept. 1900 and 26 Nov.1901 - 13 June 1903 and 15 Oct.1903- 1 Jan.1905). Resident Councillor of Malacca (1 Jan.1905- 13.March.1906). Acting Resident Councillor of Penang (22 Nov.1906 - 17 Feb. 1907).
Sir Arthur Young 1911-1920 Governor Young was Governor of the Crown Colony of the Straits Settlements at Singapore from 2 September, 1911 to 17 February, 1920. William Evans served as Resident Councillor of Penang from 1910 until 1914 while Alfred T Bryant served from 1914 to 1917 and Walter C Mitchell from 1917 to 1919.
Sir Laurence Guillemard 1920-1927 Governor Guillemard was Governor of the Crown Colony of the Straits Settlements at Singapore from 17 February 1920 to 3 June 1927. Guillemard Reservoir was named after him. During this period, Gilbert Amos Hall was Resident Councillor of Penang (1919-1922), Arthur Blennerhassett Voules was Resident Councillor of Penang (1922-1925) and Stewart Codrington was Acting Resident Councillor of Penang from 11 May to 8 Oct 1924. Codrington Avenue was named after him. William Peel was Resident Councillor of Penang in 1925-1926. Peel Avenue was named after him. Ralph Scott was Resident Councillor of Penang in 1926-1928. Scott Road was named after him.

Stewart Codrington
Stewart Codrington

William Peel
William Peel

Ralph Scott
Ralph Scott

Sir Hugh Clifford 1927-1930 Governor Clifford was Governor of the Crown Colony of the Straits Settlements at Singapore from 3 June 1927 to 5 February 1930. Clifford Pier in Singapore was named after him, despite objections from the merchants who wanted it to retain the name of an older pier named after A.L. Johnson.
Captain Meadows Frost was Resident Councillor of Penang from 8 July 1928 to 1930.
Sir Cecil Clementi 1930-1934 Governor Clementi was Governor of the Crown Colony of the Straits Settlements at Singapore from 5 February 1930 to 9 November 1934. Clementi was the nephew of Sir Cecil Clementi Smith who was Governor in 1887-1893. During this period, Edward Wilmot Francis Gilman was Resident Councillor of Penang from 17 April 1930 - 15 Aug. 1931 while Percy Tothill Allen was Resident Councillor of Penang from 16 Aug. 1931 - 1933. Arthur Mitchell Goodman was Resident Councillor of Penang from 1933 to 1941. During this long period, when Goodman was on leave of absence, James Startin Wills Arthur was Acting Resident Councillor for Penang in 1934; George Alexander de Chazal de Moubray, Acting Resident Councillor of Penang, from 8 December 1937 to 6 July 1938.
Sir Shenton Thomas 1934-1942 Governor Thomas was the last Governor of the Crown Colony of the Straits Settlements at Singapore before the Second World War. He served from 9 November 1934 to 15 February 1942. Having decided to stay put in Singapore when the Japanese invaded, Thomas was held as a prisoner-of-war from 15 February 1942 to 15 August 1945. Shenton Way in Singapore was named after him.
Leslie Forbes was Acting Resident Councillor of Penang from 1940-1941. The Second World War reached Penang under Forbes, who was interned at Changi Prison.
Lt Gen Shotaro Katayama 1942-1943 Governor Lieutenant General Shotaro Katayama served as first Governor of Penang under Japanese Occupation. He was succeeded by Major General Masakichi Itami in 1943, who in turn was succeeded by Lt General Seiichiro Shinohara in 1944.
Sydney N King 1946-1948 Resident Commissioner At the end of the Second World War and with the return of the British, Sydney N King assumed the position of Resident Commissioner. He was succeeded by Arthur V Aston in 1948 and by Robert P Bingham, who was the last British Resident Commissioner, serving from 1951 until the country achieved independence in 1957.
Raja Tun Uda al-Haj Raja Muhammad 1957-1967 Governor Raja Tun Uda was the first Governor of Penang after Independence. He was succeeded by Tun Syed Sheh Shahabuddin, who served from 1967 until 1969, when Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah became Governor. He in turn was replaced by Tun Haji Sardon Haji Jubir, as the Yang Di-Pertua Negeri, from 1975 until 1981, when Tun Datuk Dr Awang bin Hassan assumed the position until 1989, when he was succeeded by Tun Tan Sri Datuk (Dr) Haji Hamdan bin Sheikh Tahir, serving until 2001, when the incumbant Tun Dato' Seri Utama (Dr) Haji Abdul Rahman bin Haji Abbas became the Yang Di-Pertua Negeri of Penang.

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