George Town, the Historic City
1798 map of early Penang by Captain H. B. Popham
George Town and Melaka are jointly inscribed as the Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca, and together, the two cities stand as testimony to the centuries of maritime trade that shaped this country and a had a significant influence on the region.
The Historic City of George Town was the first British port town along the Straits of Malacca. Founded in 1786 by Francis Light in the name of the East India Company, it is situated at the cape of the northeastern tip of the island, between the hills and the sea. Never intended to be a settlement colony, the development of George Town during the first century after its founding can be attributed to the courageous and entrepreneurial spirit of early migrant communities who found in George Town a place to make a living and begin a new life.
The site comprises a rich collection of historic buildings, vernacular, administrative and religious, constructed by the European trading settlers under the British East India Company, and later the British colonists, and migrants from various parts of the India-China trading route. These early settlers formed their own neighbourhoods or quarters, centred on certain streets or intersections. The European or colonial quarter was to the north, close to Fort Cornwallis, the administrative centre, and clustered around St. George's Anglican Church on Farquhar Street. The early Chinese, Indian and Malay settlements grew out of the grid of early George Town, and the names of the streets of George Town today stand as testimony to the original communities and to the multicultural history and development of the city.
Campbell Street circa 19th century, Courtesy of Malcolm Wade
"Melaka and George Town, Malaysia, are remarkable examples of historic colonial towns on the Straits of Malacca that demonstrate a succession of historical and cultural influences arising from their former function as trading ports linking East and West. These are the most complete surviving historic city centres on the Straits of Malacca with a multi-cultural living heritage originating from the trade routes from Great Britain and Europe through the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and the Malay Archipelago to China. Both towns bear testimony to a living multi-cultural heritage and tradition of Asia, where the many religions and cultures met and coexisted. They reflect the coming together of cultural elements from the Malay Archipelago, India and China with those of Europe, to create a unique architecture, culture and townscape." – UNESCO
George Town meets three of UNESCO's Outstanding Universal Values to make it recognised as a site of historical importance to the world. To learn more about this, click here to link to UNESCO page, or here for GTWHI-produced video on the OUVs.
Map of George Town