Malaysia has a proud and vibrant history which is reflected through impressive architecture and number of heritage buildings around the country.
In recent decades there has been a concerted effort to protect the historical buildings in Malaysia and nowhere is this more apparent than in the old trading port of Penang.
People who take a trip to Penang can reap the benefits of the region’s passionate approach to the protection its rich history and culture through the preservation of its heritage buildings.
These efforts have resulted in George Town being given state recognition by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a worthy achievement that reflects Malaysia’s overall commitment to heritage conservation.
The Queen Victoria Jubilee Clock Tower in Penang is one of the most recognized architectural and heritage icons of Penang and tourists flock to see it in its splendor.
Built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s 1897 Diamond Jubilee, the Jubilee Clock Tower was constructed in George Town (then a British Straits settlement) in the same year at the intersection of Lebuh Light (Light Street) and Lebuh Pantai (Beach Street).
Built in the Moorish style, the tower is sixty feet tall with each foot symbolizing a year of Queen Victoria’s reign. The six steps that lead up to the main door are designed to reflect each decade of her reign.
Unfortunately Queen Victoria never lived to visit Penang or see the finished building as she died on 22 January 1901 before its completion in 1902.
The clock tower is composed of four tiers with the base tier designed in an octagonal shape. The next two tiers comprise of four distinct faces and are decorated with windows, balconies, and four working clocks. The top tier is rounded off with Roman pillars and adorned with a domed cupola.
On the bottom tier, an inscription reads, “This clock tower is presented to Penang by Cheah Chen Eok in commemoration of Her Majesty Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee 1837-1897”.
The building of the Queen Victoria Jubilee Clock Tower in Penang was funded by local Chinese millionaire Cheah Chen Eok who is argued to have been eager to flaunt his wealth in the eyes of the British administrators.
Visitors who take a trip to Penang will see that the clock tower leans slightly to one side. This anomaly is largely the result of bombs being dropped in the vicinity during World War II that demolished the Government Building close by.
Cheah Chen Eok’s legacy also extends to the Moon Gate which can be seen on the way to the Penang Botanical Gardens.
The Jubilee Clock Tower is a popular location for firework displays during festivals and other celebrations including New Year and Merdeka Day which attract both locals and international visitors.
With its UNESCO heritage status, the UN body recognizes George Town as a critical historic region, which highlights its cultural idiosyncrasies which have developed as a result of its former role as a port linking the East to the West
The capital of the strait of Penang was founded in 1786 by the British and set up as the colonial power’s first outpost on the historic trading route – Straits of Malacca. Penang’s strategic location to the shipping route naturally attracted immigrant groups including Malay, Chinese, Indians and Arabs who were all intent on improving their fortunes. Subsequently, this amalgamation of rich cultures contributed to a unique and stunning cultural landscape that still exists today.
George Town was named after Britain’s King George III and before long; many companies in the shipping industry had set up premises in the city. As a result of these businesses setting up shop during this era, many of the buildings in George Town reflect Victorian, Georgian, Chinese and Anglo-Indian style.
In the 1970’s, policies were put in place to protect these heritage buildings and other historical buildings in Malaysia. In addition to local government support, other organizations such as the Penang Heritage Trust have also contributed to George Town becoming a living heritage city that now draws visitors from all around the world.
Location of the Queen Victoria Jubilee Clock Tower: Junction of Jalan Tun Syed Shek Barakbakh, Beach Street, Light Street and Weld Quay.