Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Francis Light Grid

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(The Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower, King Edward Place)

Capt Francis Light occupied Penang in 1786, he landed at Fort Cornwallis, which is at the North-East corner of the island(now the Esplanade), where its "padang" (Esplanade field) provided a clear parade ground. He then laid down the Francis Light grid of commercial area to the south. That is the beginning of George Town(喬治市), and Capt Francis Light was the founder of George Town(not Penang).

Francis Light Grid is rectangular commercial area within the heart of old George Town, surrounding by Light Street(Lebuh Light), Beach Street(Lebuh Pantai), Malabar Street(now called Chulia Street), and Pitt Street(now Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling).

When Francis Light arrived in Penang 0n 11-8-1786, he named it Prince of Wales Island after King George III(1760-1820) of Britain. He found a group of 500 Chinese from Kedah who has established a main street on north-eastern part of the island since 1773. Capt Light incorporate the Chinese settlement into George-Town, the colonial city which then developed into a predominant Chinese identity. The main street was called Tua Kay
(大街) ,now China Street, which act as the central east-west axis of the urban street system (later become Francis Light Grid). It was reported that the leader of the Chinese residents was the first Capital China of Penang, Koh Lay Huan. (note: There were also small group of Malay residents outside George Town, who were fishermen at the time).

Light initially marked out the north shore for the cantonment and the public buildings, Fort Cornwallis, and the Government House,both of which was later reinforced by using convict labour. Georgetown was on the north-eastern shore of the island, with the British residents and the immigrant communities packed together in the tight orthogonal gridiron of the streets laid out by Light in 1794.

The Europeans settled at the northern part of the grid and shoreline, at Light Street. The Eurasians from Kedah and Phuket stayed at Bishop Street and Church Street (Lebuh Gereja). The Straits Chinese traders from Kedah and Melaka who came here to seek new opportunities converged at China Street while the Indian traders settled at Chulia Street. The other immigrant community from regional geographies were allocated adjacent street named after their ethnicity or place of origin, such as Armenian Street, Chulia Street, and Acheen Street.

Capt Francis Light was able to use the urban grid to organize the diverse settlers according to ethnicity and along streets. The division between blocks, instead of the lot themselves, became the criteria for identifying space.

1. Light street(莱特街) is in the city of northern public edge.

(Foo Tye Sin Mansion, Light Street)

Light Street was the first street of new George Town, and was named after Capt Francis Light himself. At the cape area, from Fort Cornwallis going south, along Beach Street, Bishop Street, Church Street and part of Weld Quay, was the Eurasians zone. Going to the east, the zone included Light Street and Farquhar Street as well. St George Church(built between 1817 and 1819,the circular monument in front of the church to Captain Francis Light(1817)and across the Light Street, the Palladian Supreme Court were within the area. Today, Eurasians are no longer there, many has moved out e.g. to Pulau Tikus , and some migrated to other countries. The area remained as the place for state assembly, court building, schools, Chinese Chamber of Commence, Great Eastern, Hong Leong Bank, Bank Negara etc, mainly public administration and commerce area.

Light street is also called po-le-khau(Police 口),which literally means entrance to the police court. The local Chinese called judge as po-le-chu in Hockkien dialect. Po-le is the polluted term for English word police, there was a police court at Light Street. In the early Penang, the military from East India Company is the only uniform unit which function as army as well as police. There was no separation of duty between army and police. They are called po-le or police by the local. Some of the top military leader like Capt Francis Light act as judge in the police court. The local used the term po-le-chu for judge,which literally mean the master or leader of the police. Light Street is called po-le-khau,literally means entrance to the police court, as there was a police court at the beginning of Light Street, the current state assembly building. . Mr Manington arrived as the first magistrate in 1794, just after the death of Francis Light; John Dicken was the first appointed Judge(or Hakim in Malay language)in 1800 (but reported arrived in 1801) during Sir George Leith term as Lieutenant -General of Penang. Police force of Penang only formed in 1807 when King George III awarded Penang "Charter of Justice" to form police force and the Court of Justice. The central police station was at the current Immigration office building(built in 1890). Both buildings, Immigration office and state assembly building were part of the police complex. Today, the police station is reduced to a small building facing Beach Street with staff quarter behind it.
Note: Police justice, or Police magistrate, a judge of a police court(minor court to try person bought before it by police).

The Light Street was end with a pier, which served East Indian Company(EIC), which is now near the Penang Port Commission building. But when Weld Quay was formed after reclamation, Light Street was then linked to it. The part of Light Street between round about and Weld Quay is then named King Edward's Place.

2. Beach street (
土庫街) is in the eastern coastal edge.

(View of the Beach Street)

Beach Street remains as one of the longest streets and is well known as Penang banking district. Most of the heritage buildings remained are now headquarters of premier banks in the state. The historic commercial centre was segmented into the banking and trading areas related to port activities which included shipping companies, the import and export trade, and the wholesalers who dominate the southern section of Beach Street until now. The warehouses and godowns extended from Beach Street to the sea. By the 1880s, there were ghauts leading from Beach Street to the wharf and jetties as Beach Street receded inland due to land reclamation. A new waterfront was created at Weld Quay, where commercial buildings sprang up.

(i)Between Light St. to China St(Ang Mor Thau Kor Kay, 土庫街) - European Commercial warehouse Street

At the turn of the 19th century, the northern section of Beach Street and the adjacent Bishop Street were the ‘high street’ where the ‘modern’ European emporium and stores selling imported merchandise were situated. Among the early foreign companies that located their offices on Beach Street were the Netherlands Trading Society, the Hongkong & Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), the Chartered Bank, Boustead & Co., Guthne & Co., Caldbeck & Macgregor, Behn Meyer, Sandilands & Buttery, G.H. Slot and the stores of Pritchard & Co., Whiteaway, Laidlaw & Co., and others.

This area is now still the banking hub of the Penang. Hongkong & Shanghai Banking Corporation(HSBC) is now Hong Kong Bank, Chartered Bank is now Standard Chartered Bank, these are the two banks still remained .

(ii)Between China St. to Chulia St(Kang'a Kh'au, 港仔口) - Harbor Front - before land reclamation

Among the local businesses that were established here during this period were H.M. Noordin, Tiang Lee & Co., Guan Lee Hin Steamship, Tye Sin Tat, Pinang Sales Room, Koe Guan and others. Penang’s first petroleum lamps were installed on this section of Beach Street by Huttenbach & Co. Today, this area has lost its glory, as Chinese traders have moved out and Indian retailers are moving in. Ghee Hiang is the few old name that still remained.

Early to Mid 19th Century, land reclamation between 1880 and 1904 created the George Town that we know today, forever changing the character of Beach Street. Although it is no longer right at the beach, it still retains the name. Opposite the ghats, perpendicular to Beach Street, new roads were built inland e.g. Victoria Street, Pengkalan Weld. As with the buildings on Beach Street itself, the earliest structures along these off-roads were of wood and attap. Among them was the Catholic church formed in 1786 , which gave its name to Church Street, before it moved to Farquhar Street, and is still there, as the Church of the Assumption(1860). The Presbytery of the bishop of the Church of the Assumption gave its name to Bishop Street, which was the closest street off Beach Street from the European quarter at Light Street.

Beach Street was also later moved out of the original grid, extending its road until Sia-buai , intersecting by Jalan Magazine, and joined with Jalan CY Choy at the intersection of Jalan Noordin, which is the Chinese dominant commercial area. The part of the street outside the grid are:-

(i) From Chulia Street to Armenian Street - 中街 Tiong-ke(Middle Street)
(ii) From Armenian Street to Acheen Street - 緞羅申 Toan-lo-sîn(Tuan Losin or Tengku Syed Hussein street)
(iii)From Acheen Street to Malay Street - 拍鐵街 Phah-tih-ke(Blacksmith Street)
(iv) From Malay Street to Lebuh Noordin - 社尾 Sia-bui, Ujong Pasir(end of the beach)

3) Chulia street(牛干冬) on the southern

(View of the
Chulia street near Nagore Durgha Shrine)

It was initially called Malabar Street, after Malabar Indians.Malabar is a region between Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea. This part of India was a part of the British East India company controlled Madras State,when it was designated as Malabar District . It included the northern half of the state of Kerala and some coastal regions of present day Karnataka. Malayalam is the chief language of the region

By 1798, it had already acquired the name Chulier Street, as it was then written. Until 1803, Chulier Street reached only till Love Lane. When Chulia Street was extended, the section beyond Love Lane was then known as Chulier Road. Today the whole stretch is known as Chulia Street, or Lebuh Chulia. This name is derived from the old Chola kingdom, and like Malabar, refers to the early Indians that settled there

The Chola Empire was ruled by a Dravidian Tamil dynasty of that name that ruled primarily in southern India until the 13th century. The dynasty originated in the fertile valley of the Kaveri River. Under Rajaraja Chola I and his son Rajendra Chola I, the dynasty became a military, economic and cultural power in South Asia and South-east Asia, including large part of Malaya and Indonesia. The old Chola country comprised the region that includes the modern-day Tiruchirapalli District and the Thanjavur District in Tamil Nadu.

From the beginning of the 18th century, after Malacca fell into Portuguese hands, it was closed to Muslim trade. Tamil Muslims traders or Chulias, originating from the Coromandel coast, started settling in Kedah. And when Light established a trading post in Penang, they began to move from Kedah to the island as well. Malayalee immigration to Penang can be divided into two waves. The first wave(1786-1950) was a mix of (i) voluntary individual immigrants, including those who came as traders and (ii) convict labour brought in to Penang after it became a penal settlement for India in 1789. The second wave (1920-1957)was made of educated young men who came voluntarily to the country in search of employment opportunities, primarily in white-collar occupations.

Chulia Street had also been previously known as Kling Street , like a similarly named street in Singapore. Indian Community strongly felt that "Kling" had taken on a degrading connotation. It had become a socially undesirable term, referring exclusively to the Indian coolies /convicts who were considered the lowest of low in Strait Settlement.

In 19th century, all Hindus from Madras and elsewhere in Southern India were known as Klings in bazaar Malay. But over time, the term kling became restricted among the English-speaking residents to mean the coolie class, Tamil or Telegu. The Peninsular Malays though still spoke of Indians of all classes from the Coromandel Coast in Southern India as Orang Kling, and the Madras presidency as Negri Kling.

Kling had its origin in the term "Kalinga", the ancient empire of Southern India which traded with the Malay Peninsula and Java and Sumatra. Kling is a corruption of Kalinga called by local Malay.In Penang, the local Hockkien however called the South Indian, “ kelinga”, which is much closer to Kalinga than Kling. The local Chinese still called the South Indian as kelinga or ke-ling-- jan in Cantonese. Chulia street(east of Chulia street which is within the original grid) and King Street(south of market street), and now the Market Street is called kit-len-a-kei(吉寧仔街).

The earliest immigrants from Southern India were known to the first European merchants and officials as the Chulias, who were mostly Muslims. Presumably, the later European residents and the Chinese settlers heard the local Malays calling the Hindus Klings, and followed suit.

Kalinga was an early kingdom in central-eastern India, which comprised most of the modern state of Odissa / Utkal, as well as some northern areas of the bordering state of Andhra Pradesh. Kalinga was an independent kingdom blessed with prosperity. During 260 B.C Asoka, the great emperor invaded Kalinga. This war was a turning point in the life of Asoka. The Kalinga war saw huge loss of lives and bloodshed. This massacre forced Asoka to resort to Buddhism. Kalinga Kingdom is a glorious kingdom in history of India. The Kalinga is not degrading name, but it is an honour to be named after Kalinga. The name did not refer only to the coolies or convicts, it refer to a great historical kingdom. We should be proud of the name kalinga, and remove the misunderstanding, the one who disgrace the name is the one who do not know history.

The Chinese Hokkien divided the Chulia street into 3 parts:

1. East of Pitt Street(original street) : 羅粦街 Lo-lin-ke( refer to HM Noordin shop); 吉寧仔街 Kiet-lêng-á-ke ( literally mean Indian Street, now usually Market St)
2. Love Lane to Pitt Street: 大門樓 Toa-mui-lau, which means great archway, after the two archways into a large compound house formerly here
3. West of Love Lane: 牛干冬 Gu-kan-tang, which was derived from Malay words "Kandang Kerbau", which literally means the cattle pen in Malay(kandang). (Note: A pen is an animal enclosure)
Generally now Chulia Street is called Gu-kan-tang(牛干冬).

(View of the junction of Beach Street & Chulia Street. The building is the fire station)

Chulia Street was also extended seaward during 1888-1904. The resulting road from the central fire station(built in 1909) to the sea was called Chulia Street Ghaut. Until then, there was a pier where Chulia Street ended(just after Yeoh kongsi). Chinese called it 姓楊公司街( seh-eiow-kong-si-ke,meaning Yeoh kongsi street), 柴路頭(cha-lo-thau,meaning firewood was sold there before Maxwell Road), 吉寧仔街路頭 (Kiet-leng-a-ke lor-thau,meaning entrance or beginning of Chulia Street)大水井 (Toa-tsuí-che, meaning big well after big water tank there,the road also include Pitt St (middle).

Chulia Street was initially occupied by Indian, both Hindus and Muslims. The Hindu Indian was later concentrated on the region inside the grid(now Little India). It was the Chulias Indian Muslim that have great influence to the character of the original Chulia Street within the grid. The most notable heritage here are Nagore Durgha Shrine, Masjid Kapitan Keling(land given in 1801 built only in 1910), and Noordin Family Tomb. The Chinese began moving into Chulia Street only after the end of the 19th century when Indian Muslims population in Chulia Street declined. It may be due to their moving to wakaf land near Masjid Kapitan Keling , Pitt Street and other new development area in Penang e.g. Kampong Malabar and Chowrasta Market. The street was then occupied by Chinese traders. Han Chiang Ancentral Temple(built in 1870) of Penang Teochew Association is the only clan temple at the original Chulia street within the old grid. Yeoh kongsi(楊氏霞陽植堂),built in 1841,is with address 2, Chulia Street at Chulia Street Ghaut. It was reported at the time when it was built, it was located right on the waterfront and has its own jetty. But reclamation created Victoria Street, and added new land in front of the temple across Victoria Street.

Chulia Street is now between Beach street to Penang Road,out from the original grid. It become the street for Chinese traders. But recently some Mamak Nasi Kandar restaurant are moving into the Chulia Street within the original grid(from Beach street to Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling), may be the place is closer to Little India,and good for business prospect.

4)Pitt street( 椰脚街) are on the western inland boundaries.

(View of
Pitt Street at traffic light junction with Chulia Street. The rear view of Queen Street Sri Mariamman Temple is at the back)

Pitt Street was named after William Pitt, the prime minister of Britain when Francis Light first established Georgetown in 1786. Pitt Street was the formal name of this road before they changed it Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling. Pitt Street has three other Chinese names and one Malay name which are:

1. South of Chulia Street: 'Ia Kha' (椰腳)(meaning: under the coconut tree) or 大水井 Toa-tsuí-che (also Chulia St Ghaut), which means big well.

2. Between China Street to Chulia Street: 'Tua Balai'(大峇唻 or 大Balai) (meaning: big police station(balai), after the Pitt St Police Station which is located near the shops)

3. Between Light Street to China Street: 'Kuan Im Teng Cheng'(觀音亭前) (meaning: in front of Kuanyin or Goddess of Mercy Temple)

4.'Simpang Lelong' (meaning: Auctioneer's Junction)- the junction between Chulia Street and Pitt Street, named after the public auctions that were carried out here.

Generally Chinese called Pitt Street, Ia-Kha(椰脚)

(Masjid Kapitan Kling, Pitt Street)

Pitt street,now Jalan Masjid Kapitan Kling, remained as it is of the old grid. The street is also known as harmony street. It is because all 4 main religion are represented here. Kuan Yin Temple(1800,觀音亭/广福宫) , Sri Maha Mariamman Hindu Temple (1833), Kapitan Keling Mosque (1801), and Anglican St George Church(1817-1819) were located along the street. During the term of Lieutenant-Governor Sir George Leith (1801-1803), some of the religious institutions along Pitt Street were issued land titles. Next to Kuan Yin Teng temple is Penang Chinese Town Hall(槟州华人大会堂), located at 22, Jalan Masjid Kapitan Kling, formerly known as "Ping Chang Hui Kuan"(平章会馆), established in 1881. Pitt Street is famous for its Indian Muslim jewelry retailing and money changers.

Pitt street except for the change of name, remained as it is.( But it was also reported that Pitt Street was actually until Prangin Canal)

Streets within the Grid

The streets within the original Francis Light Grid are:-

1. Market Street(Lebuh Pasar)- Pasar 街(market street) , 吉寧仔街 kit-leng-a-ke(Indian street)
2. China Street(Lebuh China)- 大街 toa-ke(main street)
3. Church Street(Lebuh Geraja)- 義興街(gi-hin-ke,name after kongsi Ghee Hin)
4. Bishop Street(Lebuh Bishop)- 順德公司街(sun-tek-kong-si-ke), 漆木街(chhat-bok-ke), Luzon禮拜堂前, 柴工街 (chha-kang-ke)
5. Penang Street(Lebuh Penang)-廣東街(kui-tang-ke), 唐人街(tng-lang-ke),九間厝(kau-keng-chhu),馬交街(ma-kau-ke), Chettiar 街(che-ti-ke)
6. King Street(Lebuh King)- 大伯公路(toa-pεh-kong-lơr),九間厝後(kau-keng-chhu-au),廣東大伯公街 (kui-tang-toa-pεh-kong-ke),啊片公司街(a-phien-kong-si-ke),和成公司街(ho-seng-kong-si-ke),舊和成街 (ku-ho-seng-ke),吉寧仔街(kit-leng-a-ke,also Market St).
7. Queen Street(Lebuh Queen)- 十二間(tsap-ji-keng), 舊和合社街(ku-ho-hap-sia-ke)
8. Union Street(Lebuh Union)- Police後(po-le-au,behind the police station)
9. Lorong Che Em - Pekan 裏 (pok-kan-lai, which means within the town).

Little India was later developed inside the grid, it is now included Market Street, King Street, Queen Street,and Penang Street,which are within the Grid.

Moving outside the Grid
The plan of the city reflected an economy contingent on the cooperation of the non-European traders. The ethnicity identity and proximity however shaped the migrant community's self-determination. Initially the grid was effective in controlling and categorizing the subject population, but it soon collapsed. The Jawi-Peranakan community, a hybrid of Muslim Indian and Malay, and Chinese Peranakan (Baba) flourished in Penang. Moreover the various communities combined across the racial lines in periodic feuding against territorial rivals.
(extract from Hidden Hands and Divided Landscapes: A Penal History of Singapore's Plural,by Anoma Pieris, University of Hawaii Press, 2009)

By early 1800s, Georgetown had grown to include two more streets - Armenian Street inhabited by the Armenians and Acheen Street, home to the Achehnese, other Sumatrans and Malays. For the Chinese Hokkien community, Armenian Street was separated into two parts. The first stretch of the road between Jalan Mesjid Kapitan Keling and Acheen Street, was called Pak Thong-ah Kay (拍銅仔街,Coppersmith’s Street) or Ta Thung Kai in Cantonese.

Penang Road is reported to be the first road to be built outside the Francis Light Grid.

In 1832, Penang formed part of the Straits Settlement with Melaka and Singapore. It gained its city status in 1957.

Besides being a commercial interest and land of opportunities, Penang was also a liberal haven to the various communities - the Malays escaping Siamese attacks in Kedah, the Eurasians fleeing religious persecution in South Thailand, the Manchu-oppressed-Chinese and the South Indians who left a homeland of poverty and strife.

To encourage settlers, the port was accorded a duty-free status and new arrivals were allowed to claim as much land as they could clear. From virtually an uninhabited island, the population grew to 10,000 by the end of the century. Penang became a trading post for tea, spices (clove and nutmeg from local plantations), china, pepper from Acheh and textiles from India. Later on, the regional trade grew to include tin, then rubber.

It became the crossroads of great civilizations, a melting pot of the east. Traders and settlers came from the Europe, India, China, the Malay Archipelago, Thailand and Burma.

Francis Light Grid failed in its intention to control people based on division using space along the street within the grid area ; the grid's border was broken, there was social interaction, trade dealing, racial alliance(similar to political coalition today), and inter-marriage resulted in collapse of grid's purpose of controlling by space. The interaction cross the border, cross the island, finally cross the nation......George Town began to develop and grow in size....

The area and people within the original grid prosper until Penang lost its free port status. Francis Light Grid is now only part of Heritage Zone in the Heritage City of George Town. But George Town is now more than Francis Light Grid.......

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