Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Seven Streets Precinct

Seven Streets Precinct

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A precinct is a space enclosed by the walls or other boundaries of a particular place or building, or by an arbitrary and imaginary line drawn around it. The term has several different uses. It can, for example, refer to a division of a police department in a large city (not just the area patrolled, but the police station itself).

The Seven Streets Precinct in Penang is a triangular land space bordering Magazine Road(頭條路), Jalan CY Choy((崔耀才路), Jalan Gurdwara(古華拉路)/Jalan Brick Kiln(風車路). This triangular piece of land is anchored by Magazine Circus to the northwest(near Craven Cafe/Gama/Komtar today), the junction of Anson Bridge to the northeast(the bridge over Prangin Canal or Prangin Ditch), and Sungai Pinang Bridge(the bridge over Penang River or Sungai Pinang) to the south. Anson bridge was named after Major General Archibald Edward Harbord Anson,KCMG,was appointed as the last Lieutenant Governor of Penang from 1867 to 1882.

The anchor point of North west at Magazine Circus or local Chinese called Goh-chan-teng(五盏灯, which means 5 gaslamps), where Penang Road(檳榔路), Macalister Road(中路), Magazine Road(頭條路), Brick Kiln Road(風車路) and Dato Kramat Road(柑仔園) met. Actually it was a 6 roads junctions, the old Gladstone Road(火車路) had disappeared and make way for the Komtar project. The state tourism authority should have put up the old gaslamp at the juctions, to let the place have a nostalgic look of old Penang. In San Diego, there is an area called Gaslamp Quarter, which resemble the area, the place can be developed together with KOMTAR as shopping heaven. It was the place the Penang famous Nasi Kandar originated, from the simple dishes of working class,police and prison wardens to one of the most popular food in Penang, and the old Craven Cafe still open today.

The other anchor point is the Anson Bridge over Prangin Canal or prangin Ditch at Beach Street, where the place is close to the Prangin Whosale Market or Sia-buai, now demolished. From Beach Street it is connected to the commercial centre and banking hub. The canal connected it by canal to the seafront where the goods from the vessel are disload from the ships in the habour to the boats in the canal, and all the way to Prangin Market or even to Transfer Road Ditch at Titi Papan... from the Bridge street(now CY Choy Street) it connected to the working class neighborhood, where the pool of human labor was from. It was also the place where vegetable farms provided the fresh vegetables to the city.

The anchor point at the south is the bridge over Penang River or Sungai Pinang, where there was a fishing village,and warehouses are located. It is further connected to Julutong, then the country side, where the farm, orchard, plantation are found; vegetables, fruits, cash crops, timber and firewood can be obtained. Today, Penang River is one of the dirtiest rivers.

There are 7 major streets within the Seven Street Precinct, after Prangin Ditch, within the triangular grid or block bordering Magazine Road, Jalan CY Choy(formerly Bridge Street), Jalan Gurdwara/Jalan Brick kiln. The street are mainly named after people from Strait Settlement days. The block is actually followed Bridge Street from one bridge over Prangin Ditch to bridge over Sungai Pinang(Penang River). These main roads joined the Bridge Street and Brick Kiln Road the other end, parallel to each others. The Seven Streets Precinct, or Chit Tiau Lor in Hokkien, is an area in George Town immediately south of the Prangin Canal. This triangular piece of land is anchored by Magazine Circus to the northwest, the junction of Anson Bridge to the northeast, and Sungai Pinang Bridge to the south. It is a working class neighborhood.

The 7 main streets of Seven Street Precinct are:-

1. Magazine Road or Jalan Magazine(1st street or 頭條路) - named after the government gunpowder depot formerly there. The Chinese called it thau-tiau-lor(1st Road).

2. Noordin Street or Lebuh Noordin(2nd street or 二條路) - named after H. M. Noordin, Indian Muslim Merchant & one of the founders of the Kapitan Kling Mosque. The Chinese called it ji-tiau-lor(2nd street)

3. Presgrave Street or Lebuh Presgrave(3rd street or 三条路) - named after Edward Presgrave, who founded the law firm of Presgrave & Matthews on Beach St in 1898. The Chinese called it sa-tiau-lor(3rd Street). At night Presgrave Street become active as food street.

4. Tye Sin Street or Lebuh Tye Sin(4th street or 四条路) - named after Foo Tye Sin, a commissioner into the causes of the 1867 Penang Riots. The Chinese called si-tiau-lor(4th street)

5. Macalum Street or Lebuh Macalum(5th street or 五條路) - named after Colonel Sir Henry McCallum, Colonial Engineer of the Straits Settlements (1884-1889). The Chinese called it go-tiau-lor(5th street)

6. Katz Street or Lebuh Katz(6th street or 六條路) - named after the importing agents, Katz Brothers Ltd, established in 1864. The Chinese called it lak-tiau-lor(6th Street)

7. Cecil Street or Lebuh Cecil(7th street or 七條路) - named after Sir Cecil Clementi, Governor of the Straits Settlements (1930-1934).The Chinese called it Chhit-tiau-lor(7th street)

Other shorter side roads within the Seven Street Precinct, mainly named after places are:

1. Peking Road or Jalan Peking(北京路) - named after Beijing(北京市)

2. Nanking Road or Jalan Nanking(南京路) - named after Nanjing(南京市), the Chinese still called it 7th street, shared the same name as Cecil Street.

3. Herriot Street or Lebuh Herriot(8th street,八條路) - named after Stuart Herriot, British merchant who wrote the petition of the Capitan China, Chung Keng Kwee, and others in 1872, asking for British intervention in Perak after the Larut Riots. The Chinese called it peh-tiaû-lor(8th street)

4. Sandilands Street or Lebuh Sandilands(9th street,九條路) - named after After G. M. Sandilands, a British trader who co-founded Lorraine, Sandilands & Co. in Penang in 1859. The Chinese called it kau-tiau-lor(9th Street)

McNair Street(過港仔橫街)

The street called McNair Street or Lebuh McNair, have been broken into 2 parts after development of KOMTAR. One part connected Carnarvon Street or Lebuh Carnarvon(沓田仔街), and Jalan Lim Chwee Leong(formerly Prangin Road) to Magazine Road(just opposite Hui Aun Association惠安会馆). The street is then broken by Magazine Road, and no longer a thoroughfare. The other part between Magazine Road and Sandilands Street. It runs vertically from north to south, at the middle of the triangular block of Seven Streets Precinct, cutting the precinct into two halves. McNair Street is named after Major John Frederick Adolphus McNair, Acting Lieutenant-Governor of Penang (1880-1884). The Chinese called it koe-kang-a-hang-ke(過港仔橫街), which literally means side road of Bridge Street(過港仔直街). In the old days, McNair Street start from the Sia-boi(杜尾万山)roundabout straight to Sandilands Street. I still remember at the corner with Maxwell Road(港仔墘) which was from Penang road to Magazine Road, but now shorten to a small part at sia-boi side(“柴埕”), at the corner there was a coffee shop, next to a fruit shop.

This is the place, where used to have the porridge stalls, where you need to sit on the stools over the long bench. This type of porridge stalls have been the norm of the working class residents in Seven Streets Precinct, and this had been their daily routine for many decades until KOMTAR and repel of Rent Control Act. The living heritage is lost like others.....if you still want to try the nostalgic porridge by sitting on the stool over the long bench, there is one stall opposite the Trader Hotel at Magazine Road still have the old tradition.

Jalan CY Choy(崔耀才路)

Jalan CY Choy was formerly Bridge Street(過港仔直街), named after the Anson Bridge over the Prangin Ditch and the bridge over the Pinang River, which it links. New Malay name after C. Y. Choy(崔耀才), the last Mayor of George Town (1964-1966). The Chinese however divided it into 3 parts, namely

(i) North (Beach St) end - 過港仔 Kòe-káng-á, which literally means Past the Prangin Ditch

(ii)Middle - 枋廊 Pang-lông which literally means sawmill

(iii)South (Jelutong Rd) end - 城隍廟路 Sêng-hông-biō-lor, which literally means City god temple road

Outside the Seven Streets Precinct, after Jalan CY Choy(formerly Bridge Street), toward the seashore are the area with many timber houses on the swampy land. These streets are normally end with the words Ghat or Gat in Malay. Ghat being a Hindi word meaning a broad flight of steps leading down to a riverbank or seashore.


The extract from reported the following:

"For much of the 19th century, the area was a collection of Chinese villagers, with Koay Kangnga ("Across the River") being the settlement closest to the Prangin Canal. Beach Street continues south in the form of a country path that meandered along the coast towards the plantations in Gelugor and Batu Lanchang (by the way, "Batu Lanchang" in the 19th century refers to much of what is Green Lane today). Living in the Seven Streets Precinct area (it wasn't called that yet) were Hokkiens who worshipped at temples such as the Seng Ong Beow Temple, at that time surrounded by mangrove, somewhere between land and sea. The kampung houses within that area were not arranged in any particular order - it is similar to the kampungs we see today, with clusters of houses interrupted by vegetable plots. The settlers, mostly farmers, sent their produce to the Prangin Canal, where they are loaded to boats and distributed elsewhere in town. Similarly, fish and imported goods come in through the canal and are sent to godowns and sundry shops".

(source: Seven Streets Precinct, by Timothy Tye)

The houses along the streets within the Seven Streets Precinct today were built in the late 19th century. The spill of effect from the Francis Light Grid and Carnarvon Street/Sia buay area slowly bought development to the precinct. Vegetable farms and wooden houses were replaced with brickhouses, businesses of sawnmill, foundry and some cottage industries were developed. But the area remained as the working class population. It was the no man land where Chinese gang and triad activities were active. Most of the people from the city will avoid the area. The area remained as that until late 70s and early 80s, where some public housing was developed in the area after KOMTAR project.

In the late 80s, due to the industrial development, some of the small foundry in the area, began to developed into supply base for the electronic factories in Bayan Lepas, some small companies become successful and being listed in Bursar Malaysia today. Some of the second generation are doing well and become professional or sucess in business, moved out. The area was also affected badly by the repel of Rent Control Act. Area in Magazine Road is now seeing the negative effect. The last lantern or "teng" maker at Magazine Road has left. However in the Bridge Street or CY Choy Street today, there is still some cultural activities at the area during the Chinese New Year, the 9th day of first month of Chinese lunar calendar. The cultural activities or praying activities are unique, and should considered as living heritage for Penang.

The precinct still have one of the rich source of colonial pre-war shop houses, it is also a golden area where the developers are eyeing for. It is a pity that the area is not included in UNESCO World Heritage Zone.

The State government and MPPP urgently need to listed the area, before it is too late...... do we have the political will to preserve this precinct?......

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