Map of Leith Street
Leith Street is one of the early streets of George Town, after the original Francis Light Grid. It was reported that it was built in late 18th century, at that time Penang Road included what is known as Northam Road. Leith Street was named after Major General Sir George Alexander William Leith(1765-1842), the Lieutenant Governor of Penang from 1800-1803. It is located between the junction of Chulia Street/Penang Road, and Farquhar Street. In 1969 road expansion, Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah was extended and cut through Leith Street.
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The Chinese called it Lian-hua-ho(莲花河）, "lian-hua(莲花)" in Chinese means lotus flower, and "ho(河)" means river, literally the name in Chinese is Lotus River. But there was no river in Leith Street, but there was a lotus pond in front of Cheng Fatt Tze's mansion, may be it is because of the lotus pond the street was named lian-hua-ho by Chinese. The lotus is correct, the river is exaggerate to make it sound better or more romatic, or more Chinese like. May be river sound better than pond in feng sui, money coming. Before that, it was called Siang-hó-chhū-chêng(相好厝前), which literally means In front of Siang Ho's house. Where is Siang Ho's house, who is Siang Ho? it must be important person in history.
It was reported in one of the website of "The House of Lim", the blogger's family house was at No.7 Farquhar Street at late 1890s, and 25 Farquhar Street before 1910. They owned No.1 & 2 of the Dundas Court. Dundas Court, Leith Street Ghaut, now no longer exist. Dundas Court was a cul-de-sac(dead end), which was perpendicular to Farquhar Street. It was named after Lieutenant-Governor Phillip Dundas, who succeeded Lt.-Governor Farquhar. Leith Street Ghaut is directly opposite Dundas Court. The OXA building (Old Xavier Association) and SXI was bombed during the WW2. OXA building was at the corner of Leith Street and Farquhar, and next to No 25. No 25 was not affected. As part of the road-widening programme in 1969, Dundas Court no longer exists in the street directory of George Town, Penang. The Northam Road which end at Penang Road was extended to join Farguhar Street near Love Lane. It cut the Leith Street between Blue Mansion and MWE Plaza, resulted in disappearance of Sin Ping Jit Poh office .
The following is extract from "The House of Lim, http://www.houseoflim.us"(with thanks),to highlight some history on the Dundas Court, and life in the area, but the most important is that it may give us some clue why the Chinese called it Lian-hua-ho, lotus flower river:
" Lim Chean Hock [1871-1924]lived at No.7 Farquhar Street for a number of years and later moved to his own semi-detached house at 25 Farquhar Street in the early part of the 20th century, about 1910 A.D., before the first World War (1914 - 1918). During that time, the present football field of St Xavier's Institution was a lotus pond (Farquhar Street was also known as “Lean Hwa Ho” to the locals. “Lean Hwa Ho” means “Lotus Pond” ). The surrounding area was very lonely after nightfall and according to stories handed down from the elders of the Lim family, pirates in "perahu"s ( small wooden boats ) from the mainland (Province Wellesley) would land at night on the nearby beach which is approximately 150 meters away, to rob the houses in the area.
In the early nineteen twenties, 25 Farquhar Street was linked at the back and at right-angle to another house, No. 2, Dundas Court. "As such, the combined houses had two main doors, two staircases, three air-wells and eight bedrooms in all. This was where the late Lim Chean Hock and Khoo Saw Saik raised their family of 7 boys and 8 girls. The two houses together with the other houses in the area were acquired and demolished by the Government in the nineteen sixties to make way for new roads. The present area between City Bayview Hotel and St. Xavier's Institution, at the junction of Leith Street and Farquhar Street, is where Lim Chean Hock’s houses were situated."
The St Xavier's football field was the Lotus Pond, Farquhar Street was also known as Lian-hua-ho(莲花河). Perhaps it may be stream and lotus pond, and it was near the beach. That is the name Lian-hua-ho(lotus river),not lian-hua-ti(lotus pond). In 1805, an aquaduct was built from the waterfall via Pulau Tikus to a reservoir near Leith Street Ghaut. Any connection to the lotus pond.....the river may be the stream(aquaduct) to the lotus pond in the reservoir (located near the current St Xavier field)?. Lian-hua-ho may be referred to bigger area covered by Leith St and Farquhar Street until SXI football field. The place may be like the Gurney Drive or Esplanade of yesterday, where people can walk along the lotus river(莲花河)...
Note: Lotus-flower pond(莲花河), after a lotus-pond formerly at the side of the old St George's Girl's School(the building, now in a dilapidated state), which was filled up on account of many accidents involving people trying to get at the lotus. The old St George's Girl's School was in front of the Eurasian (Serani) school (St Xavier's Institution), and next to E&O Hotel. It was constructed in 1888 next to the residence of Anglican missionary.
The Malay called Leith Street Nyior Cabang, which in Malay is coconut leaves/branches. Nyior is Malay name for coconut, Cabang is branches. The Leith Street was lined with coconut trees, which gave the road its Malay name of Nyior Cabang. Initially the street was occupied by the peoples of the Indian subcontinent - the Benggalis, the Biharis, Malabari Indians, which were spilled off from neighbouring Chulia Street, Kampong Malabar, and Penang Road. Benggali Mosque was the legacy left by the Indian Muslim.
There was Leith St Ghaut, which was formerly known as Martina's Lane, which was named after Martina rozells, mistress of Francis Ligh. The street is no longer seen in the map. It was opposite the Boon Siew or former Sin Ping Daily's office, across the Farquhar Street, the road lead to the government quarters. In the late 70s I visited a friend's house, who was living in the colonial bungalow government quarter, a lecturer from MTC with the name of Mr Ng.
Leith Street later became an affluent enclave of rich Hakka Chinese during late 19th century. It was called the Hokka Millionaire's Row, because several prominent Hokkas had their mansions were built here. They included Leong Fee (the father of Leong Yin Kean), Tye Kee Yoon, and Cheong Fatt Tze.
George Alexander William Leith(1765-1842)
Major General Sir George Alexander William Leith, the second Baronet, (1775), K.C.B. O.B was the first Lieutenant-Governor of Prince of Wales' Island (Penang Island) taking the reins over from George Caunter, a Magistrate who was Acting Superintendent following the resignation and departure of the last governor, Superintendent, Major Forbes Ross MacDonald. He served in that position from his arrival in 1800 until 1803.
The first grant or land title was issued under his term. Among the institutions in the commercial town which date their foundation back to the Leith administration (1800-1803), when the first grants were issued by the East India Company, are the Kong Hock Keong (Goddess of Mercy Temple), the Kapitan Keling Mosque, the Tseng Lung and Kar Yin Hakka associations along King Street and the Kwantung and Tengchew Association on Penang Street. Over the next decade the Nagore shrine, built by Indian traders from Nagore; the Masjid Melayu, founded by the Arab merchant-prince from Aceh; and the Cantonese Tua Pek Kong Temple, on King Street; were also established. That means all these buildings were built before 1800.
Masjid Bengali(1803),Leith Street
According to some report, the Indians from Bengal first came to Penang in the late 18th century as 'sepoys' and convicts with the East India Company. Francis Light also brought out some 'Bengal farmers' from Calcutta to encourage agricultural enterprise on the island. The initial convicts may not be all from Bengal, they may be some from other states, the sepoys are Punjabi Sikh, who initially was stationed at Fort Cornwalli, but they are not Muslim. While the early Bengalis hailed from Bengal, the term 'Benggali' soon came to apply to other northern Indians who travelled overland to Calcutta in West Bengal and then sailed to Penang. The local always mistakenly called them Bengali. The Bengali are from West Bengal, North India near the North East; part of which is now Indian state, and another part is Bangladesh nation. The Argyll Road was also known as Bengali Hang or Bengali Lane, which revealed in old Penang, there were concentration of Bengali people or people from North India around the area, which included Bengali Muslim.
The mosque is believed to have been founded in 1803, on a site granted by the East India Company during George Leith's term as Lieutenant-Governor of Penang. The new mosque building was built in 1958. Urdu was probably the principal language used in this mosque, although in certain periods the dwindling Urdu-speaking population was overshadowed by an increase in Tamil worshippers. Today, the Masjid Benggaii has become a base for the Tablighi movement, and the main languages used here are Malay and Tamil.
1805, an aquaduct was built from the waterfall via Pulau Tikus to a reservoir near Leith Street Ghaut and Hutton Lane respectively.
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion(1897),No 14, Leith Street
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion(or The Blue Mansion ,蓝屋)is located at 14, Leith Street (Lebuh Leith), which is in the buffer zone of the George Town Unesco World Heritage Site. The mansion was built by Cheong Fatt Tze or Teow Thiaw Siat(1840-1916),a Chinese of Hakka descent from Dapu, who was one of the richest men in Southeast Asia. Cheong was a world renowned Chinese entrepreneur, and was once referred to as The J.P.Morgan of China by the New York Times.
The mansion is of traditional Chinese architecture, built in a Hakka Teochew style, but with fusion of Chinese and Anglio-Indian influence in the interior design. Cheong, being a Hakka from Dapu county which is close to Teochew, naturally will choose Hakka Teochew style Chinese traditional courtyard home, but being in strait settlement he was also influence by the Indian and western influence.
The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion was built between 1897 and 1904. It was one of the many mansions houses owned by Cheong Fatt Tze, who had properties from Java,Sumatra, Penang, Singapore, Hong Kong and China. The mansion at his home village of Dapu was much bigger than Blue Mansion, but his favorite residence is still Blue Mansion. All his 8 sons were raised in Blue Mansion and all received English education from St Xavier's Institution, which is opposite the mansion.
The house was once rent out to many tenants, like the Chinese movie "72 tenants". The tenants were the working class. One of them is the Shih Chung School's(时中学校) Head Master, editor of Sin Pin Daily and historian who had authored many Penang history books which are classic today, Mr Khong Kwek Siong(邝国祥). Khong is a Hakka. Those were the busy days and the neglected days of the mansion.
The building was later sold by the descendants, and the new owner charged the mansion to a local bank(Maybank)as security for a loan. But when the borrower default, bank found it, as a heritage building, was difficult to sell. The property fell into ruin over the years, but in 1989 it was rescued by a small group of Penang conservationists, and painstakingly restored to its former glory. The building is an architectural masterpiece, as recognized by winning numerous awards including the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Most Excellent Project in the year 2000. The Blue Mansion now operates as a heritage homestay, and guests have full run of the mansion and grounds, which is only interrupted by the fully guided historical and architectural tours that run twice daily.
A street was named after him, but it was disappeared during Komtar construction; the state then renamed Hong Kong Street as Cheong Fatt Tze Street, which is between Carnarvon Street and Rope Walk.
Leong Fee Mansion(1907)(No 7)
Leong Fee Mansion, constructed in 1907, at NO. 7, Leith Street, Victorian-style Leong Fee Mansion on Leith Street. Leong Fee arrived in Penang from China in 1876 and six months later moved to Perak where he was to make his fortune in tin mining. In time, he had homes in both Ipoh and Penang, marrying with four wives and an untold number of mistresses. His Penang house was at 7 Leith Street, opposite Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion on George Town's "Hakka Millionaires' Row", next to St Xavier Institution. Leong Fee's success, however, was measured not only in the acquisition of wealth and wives but also in attaining prominence in civic life as a community leader and philanthropist. He was active in local government as well as serving as vice consul for the Manchu government. His greatest contribution to the Chinese community was undoubtedly his support for education in the founding of schools such as the Chung Hwa School and the Shih Chung School. Leong Fee (I857-1911) is the Hakka name of the tycoon also known as Liang P'i joo (in the Mandarin language). A friend of Cheong Fatt Tze, he was the Qing Government's fourth Vice-Consul in Penang from 1902 to 1908 and a member of the Perak State Council till his death in 1911. Some said he is a son-in-law of Cheong Fatt Tze. He was a wealthy miner and an educational philanthropist The tin wines he owned in Tambun, Perak, employed European engineers in the 19t century and were among the first to introduce open cast mining with modern machinery. This mansion at 7 Lebuh Leith was built around the turn of the century. Although it was described as 'built in the latest European style', the mansion is a westernised form of a courtyard house with a pair of enclosed courtyards on either side of a central aisle. It is decorated with Victorian elements such as cast iron balconies, and is distinguished by its imported slate roof. After the war, Leong Fee's Mansion served as the St Xavier's Institution for a number of years. The mansion now belongs to the Christian Brothers and has been leased to an art school in recent years. now occupied by Equator Academy of Art in Penang.
Cheah Choon Seng(謝春生) Mansion(no.8) - demolished
The official Residence of the 3rd Qing Dynasty Chinese Vice Consul in Penang, Xie Chun Sheng (謝春生（榮光、夢池), just beside Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion. Xie Chun Sheng was a Jia-ying Hakka, now called Meixian Hakka. It was later owned by Sin Pin Daily(星檳日報), a newspaper owned by Tiger Balm King, Aw Boon Haw's family. Aw Boon Haw was a Yongding Hakka. Historically, there were 5 Chinese Vice Consul in Penang, all are Hakka Chinese, they were :
(1) Zhang Bi Shi or Cheong Fatt Tze(張弼士, 1840 - 1916) Da Pu Hakka
(2) Zhang Yu Nan or Chang Yu Nan (張煜南（榕軒）,1851 - 1910) Jia Ying Hakka
(3) Xie Chun Sheng or Cheah Choon Seng(謝春生（榮光、夢池）, 1847 - 1916) Jia Ying Hakka
(4) Liang Bi Ru or Leong Fee (梁碧如（廷光、廣輝),1857 - 1911) Jia Ying Hakka
(5) Dai Xin Ran(戴欣然) or Tye Kee Yoon(戴喜雲)(欣然,春榮、喜雲）, 1849 - 1919) Da Pu Hakka
The house was now demolished and a road joining Northam Road and Farquhar Street by pass the land betwen the The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion and MWE Plaza. Northerm now extend to Farquhar Street, crossing Leith Street. The location of the Mansion was part of the road now between MWE Plaza and Blue Mansion. It was NO. 8, Leith Street.
Tye Kee Yoon Mansion, Leith Street(No 20)
Tye Kee Yoon's mansion is next to Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion. The owner Tye Kee Yoon(戴喜雲) was a Vice Consul of China in Penang, one of the founders of the Kek Lok Si, and was part of a group known as The Five Great Sponsors. He is a Da Pu Hakka.
Tye Kee Yoon (1849-1919) had arrived in Penang penniless, and had to work as a coolie. However, through sheer determination, he became one of the largest property owners in 19th century George Town. His businesses also included opium, spirits, pawn shops and medicine shops. As with many Chinese who made it big, he contributed generously to Penang society, including giving large sums for the setting up of the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, the Penang Adventist Hospital, Kek Lok Si Temple, the Penang Free School and Chung Hwa Confucious School.
Tye Kee Yoon bought up Goh Chan Lau, the mansion built by Cheah Tek Soon from Cheah's son-in-law Goh Say Eng, when the latter needed to raise funds for Dr Sun Yat Sen's revolutionary movement. Together with another early 20th century Chinese tycoon, Leong Fee, Tye Kee Yoon founded the Shih Chung School, which was located within Goh Chan Lau.
Tye Kee Yoon became the Fourth Chinese Vice-Consul of Penang in 1907-12 and Acting Consul-General of Singapore in 1911-12.
The mansion was once used as Leith Pub. Now the mansion is Red Garden Food Paradise, a one stop Penang food center. The mansion was painted red. May be we can call it Red Mansion to be compare with the Blue Mansion. It is located at 20, Leith Street. It is next to Cheong Fatt Tze's mansion, the Blue Mansion. The official website is http://www.redgarden-food.com/location.php. I hope the website will have a site for history of the mansion.
Tye Kee Yoon Road, or Jalan Tye Kee Yoon, in Penang Island was named after him.
Penang Heritage Chocolate Boutique Mansion(NO 22)
There are 80 varieties of high quality chocolate from Beryl’s at the newly-opened “chocolate mansion” in 22, Leith Street categorised under seven different themes - tiramisu, fruit, health, sweetheart, coffee, panned chocolate and Malaysian. The best-seller is without doubt the absolutely gorgeous Tiramisu Chocolate — made of white chocolate, dark chocolate, milk, butter and mint. Another favorite is Panned Chocolate with a choice of almond, green tea, hazel and white chocolate.
The boutique also sells traditional white coffee and espresso coffee using roasted coffee beans coated with dark chocolate that makes a great drink to go with bread or cookies.
Anyone know who owned this mansion?...
The World Optical Co, Leith Street(no.24)
World Optical Co was found by Lam family, located at 24, Leith Street. An old optical shop, said to be Penang's pioneer in optical business. The optical shop was found by LAM HOHNSON(藍允旋) in 1934. He went to Singapore, and trained as optical technician, and gradually opened the shop when the business opportunity is good. Lam Hohn Son is a Dapu Hakka, an active community leader in Penang. He was the director(董事) of Penang Teochew Association, director(董事)of Chung Ling High School board of directors(董事会).He was also the President of Penang Taipu Association 1955-1958. The shop is now managed by LAM PIN LIK(藍秉力)and his wife. The optical shop was the premier optical shop not only in Penang, even kedah and south Thailand patronizing the shop. The regular customer including Tunku Abdul Rahman and royalty of Kedah and Perlis.
Cathay Hotel(No. 15)
Cathay Hotel（國泰旅社）, located at No 15, Leith Street, historical hotel at a colonial bungalow. A heritage hotel offering mid-budget accommodation. In old day, it was once an international hotel, where Chinese painter Xu Bei Hong(徐悲鴻)may had lived and painted many art pieces here。Its neighbour is another hotel, Waldorf Hotel.
Li Teik School, Leith Street
The Li Teik School 5th branch(蓮花河麗澤第五分校), actual location unknown. The school is no longer there. I try to locate the place, but my late grandmum(died at age of 98 years last year), who was very familiar with Leith Street and Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion was not able to remember the school. The school was established pre WW2. A report in 1935 still reported the existence of the school. Art exhibition by early art group used to be held in the school. Anyone know the location? I guessed it was at 19, Leith Street, as it looked like building structure suitable for school. I hope I am correct....
The Shanghai Tailor in Leith Street. The tailor shops owned by Shanghainese Chinese are the high end tailor in old Penang. Another business the Shanghainese are famous for was the laundry service. There was an old saying, you make a high class coat with Shanghainese in Leith Street, and you wash it with Shanghainese laundry. The tailor were located at Leith Street. There are still two laundry shop in the street,one at No. 52, even called Great Shanghai Laundry. It is located just opposite the Bengali Mosque.
The Japanese community in Leith Street as in 1910 report were ,
(i) Nagata Dental Clinic, Leith St branch
(ii)Nikko Studio at Leith Street - The Japanese brought in the cameras and introduced the concept of photo studios to Penang. At the beginning of the 20th century, a Japanese by the name of Okaniwa had already operated a photo studio named Nikko Studio at Leith Street
(iii)Kondo Hairdressing, Leith St
(iv) Japan Hotel at Leith St,
There is no more traces of Japanese community in Leith Street after WW2.
20 Leith Street Fun Pub & Bistro(no. 11A)
Boasting as the biggest beer garden in the Upper Penang Road enclave, 20 Leith Street Fun Pub & Bistro sits directly opposite the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion. It was owned by Cheong Fatt Tze for his other wives. Ironically, 20 Leith Street is actually located at 11-A, occu-pying three lots in a row of double-storey heritage terrace houses. A stark contrast to the blue mansion which stands “si-lently” on the corner of Leith Street, the outlet comes to life in the evening as the crowd starts trickling in. I wonder why it is called 20 Leith Street? is it it was formerly at 20, Leith Street?....Please take care of the heritage building while enjoy your drink.....
Leith Street in 20th century
By the mid 20th century, Leith Street had lost its glory. All the early millionaires have passed away, and their mansions have fallen into disrepair. Some of their children lived oversea and moved out from Penang. Some of the properties were sold and eventually each of the properties at Leith Street changed hand and begin a new lease of life, as hotels,hawker complex or pubs. The street has changed to entertainment hub linked to Upper Penang Road. However some of the heritage buildings were fortunate to remain. Leong Fee's mansion became a learning institution, the Akademi Seni Equator. Cheong Fatt Tze's mansion was restored in a project that won a prestigious Unesco award, and today serves as a boutique hotel.
At the junctions of Leith Street
Adventist Hospital, Muntri Street(moved)
The Adventist Hospital was found in 1924. The original building of Adventist Hospital is still standing today, at the junction of Muntri Street and Leith Street,just opposite the World Optical Company, and today it houses Lum Fong Hotel and kopitiam coffee shop on the ground floor. The hospital had moved to Burma Road.
Chongqing Photo Studio, Chulia Street(closed)
Photo studio by Yong Mun Sen(1896 – 1962), Chongqing Photo Studio(at the corner of Chulia street and Leith Street). Reported to be the pioneer Chinese photo studio of Penang, most of the old photo in Penang were taken from the shop. Another Siow Siong Photo Studio in Penang Road, was Yong Mun Sen's relative and apprentice. Both Yong and Siow are Dapu Hakka. Yong was a pioneer artist in Malaysia. 1920 marked the important stage in the Penang art history, as it was the year Yong Mun Sen came to Penang and built his studio. An Art class, Tai Koon art studio was conducted by the pioneer artist at the upper floor of the double storey shop house of the photo studio. The shop house is now abandoned and unoccupied. Yong Mun Sen was a pioneer artist in Malaysia, he was named Father of Malaysian Painting. His art studio, Mun Sen Gallery opened in 1936, was at a double storey shop in Penang Road, across the road(Argyll Road) from Odean Cinema, the same row to Boon Pharmacy, next to a hotel. Both the art studio and hotel no more around, the place is now a car park.
Hong Kong Shoe Shop(香港鞋店), Muntri Street
Hong Kong Shoe Shop(香港鞋店), located at corner of Muntri Street and Leith Street. An old shoe shop found by Wong Sam Chye(檳城鞋王黃三才). Jimmy Choo(周仰傑 worked here and apprentice from the owner of the shop prior to his departure to London. This ‘one in a million’ guy is a Penang Hakka Chinese, born into a family of cobbler. Became a shoe designer (he even created his first pairs at the age of 11) and moved to London. His life voyages which liken a typical Chinese movie where a small town boy make it big in London, to an international fame. The brand is best known for its exquisitely hand-made, incredibly expensive shoes and handbags. Jimmy Choo is a world famous shoe designer, a proud son of Penang. He was once an apprentice in Hong Kong Shoe Store, Muntri Street. He is a ex-student of Shih Chung School at Love Lane(which was also found by Hakka Chinese).
1 George Alexander William Leith, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Alexander_William_Leith
2.Days Gone By: Growing up in Penang(2007), by Christine Wu Ramsay, published by Areca Books, Penang(written by the great-granddaughter of Leong Fee)
3. Jalan Tye Kee Yoon, http://www.penang-traveltips.com/tye-kee-yoon-road.htm
4. Jimmy Choo – From Penang to London-based Billionaire, by Zul, http://skorcareer.com.my/blog/jimmy-choo-from-penang-to-london-based-billionaire/2007/11/16/
5. Official website of Blue Mansion, http://www.cheongfatttzemansion.com/
6. The House of Lim, http://www.houseoflim.us(Very interesting blog on Lim family, it was part of Penang history, highly recommended).