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New perspectives to save cultural heritage
Altan, M. Orhan

Siti Norlizaiha H. 3, & A.Ghafar A. b ,
a Universiti Teknologi MARA, Perak, Malaysia, norliharun@hotmail.com
b Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia, aghafar@usm.my
KEY WORDS: Building survey, documentation, restoration
Suffolk House known as the first ‘Great House’ of Penang, believed to have been built in 1790 by Captain Francis Light, the founder
of the British Settlement of Penang. Suffolk House was the home of the early governors and the scene of many important social and
official events. Situated at Ayer Itam, Penang, Malaysia, the building is the purest example of Anglo-Indian architecture outside of
India and the sole example of Anglo-India Garden House in Penang. The campaign to restore Suffolk House began as early as 1961
but it’s fully restoration was started at the end of 2000. A fund RM 500,000 had been allocated by the State Government of Penang
to restore the building. This paper highlights the historical background of the building and the architectural significance, building
conditions, restoration principle and scope of work covered in the restoration project. It also discusses some issues associated with
the project.
Suffolk House situated at Ayer Itam, Penang was the purest
example of Anglo-Indian architecture building in Malaysia.
After been left ruins for a decade and with a serious campaign
by Penang Heritage Trust the effort to restored it back were
ascertainable in year 2000. The restoration of Suffolk House
was carried out phase by phase depend the allocation of fund. In
October 2000, State Government of Penang had allocated RM
500,000 to Department of Civil Works, for the restoration
projects of Suffolk House. The phase one projects involved the
restoration of roof, ballroom and stabilized the wall structure.
The restoration Suffolk House was carried out in eight months
period and completed in middle of 2001.
Figure 1. The Suffolk House
1.1 Historical Background
Suffolk House is the double-storey building situated in open
grounds along the banks of the Ayer Itam River. This building
was built by Captain Francis Light (bom Suffolk, England
1740, died Penang, 1794), founder of Penang British Settlement
in 1790. Suffolk House is one of the earliest surviving ‘great
house’ of the region and the purest example of Anglo-Indian
architecture outside of India. It is also the sole example of
Anglo-Indian Garden House in Penang. Almost of all materials
were imported from India and Burma using the East Indian
Company trade routes, and construction techniques mirrored
those found in Garden Houses from Madras.
After Light’s death, the house was revived until Martina
Rozells, who also inherited Light’s house sold Suffolk house
and the surrounding estates to W.E. Philips in 1805. Suffolk
House served as the Governor’s Residence for Philips and his
father-in-law J.A. Bannerman, both who repeatedly served as
Acting Governors of Penang at various time. During Philip’s
time the residence was enjoyed by his charmed circle, the
Penang elite, and praised by visitors from far and wide. The
Suffolk House has been served as Government House in the
1810’s - 1820’s. Beside the social and administrative events,
this house was the place where Raffles came and discussed the
critical political issues about establishing a British port east of
Malacca, which later turned out to be Singapore.
In its prime, Suffolk House was featured by Captain Robert
Smith and other 19 th century painters. After many changes in
ownership, Suffolk House was used as the canteen of the
Methodist Boy’s School, until it was abandoned more than a
decade ago. The campaign to restore Suffolk House began in
1961, but short of funding and lack of support and interest in
conservation, the house left ruins. In 1993, Penang Heritage
Trust has conducted a dilapidation survey of Suffolk House.
The Trust also sourced for fund to clear up the surrounding area,
put scaffolding around the wall and cover the roof as temporary
protection from the weather. Today, Suffolk House stands as a
grand ruin. It is almost completely hidden from Ayer Itam Road
by the school building, but it still surrounded by green open
space on the bank of Ayer Itam River.