Saturday, May 5, 2012


I had the opportunity to visit a restored building today. On many occasions I had passed the road and saw the signage that invites visitors to the home just outside the city but never managed to take the turn and call at the place. The home has also been featured by Badan Warisan Malaysia in its publications. Itself managing the home now. Its historical background naturally added to the desire to know more and therefore the drive that led to it this morning.    

Surprisingly, you would expect to see the building smack on the frontage of a main road. Only after taking several corners and by passing two old government quarters, I came upon the majestic building. Stuck in its nakedness and an object to behold. Yes this was the 'SUFFOLK HOME'. It was an unexpected discovery because I had never imagined it to be as it is. It was if if I was transported to an earlier century.   

What a sight that greets you upon reaching the  large open space outside 'Suffolk Home'. Matured trees a true vintage of Penang showed its mark here. 

Francis Light, who established a trading port in " Pooloo Penang"  owned a pepper estate called 'Suffolk' after his home country in England. History cannot accept that he founded Penang as it was already owned by Kedah and even Admiral Cheng Ho had earlier mentioned about the island. Discovering history again no doubt placed things in its perspective.

Restoration of old buildings of course does not only manage to conserve the past but help to dig into reports about the building as much as the relevant insides of the project in question.

    The gravel road that takes the visitor to the front entrance of the home

The two storey house viewed at its frontage with its lawn.On the top floor could be 
seen the open terrace

    Another open terrace above the main entrance with its polished wooden floor -
the South Colonnade.

Francis Light traded in Penang in 1786 and had negotiation with the Sultan of Kedah over its territory. He died in1794. 'Suffolk' referred to two early residences built on the same site. The first was Light's residence whereas the second residence was built after his death. 

A note written by Capt James Welsh husband of Sarah Light daughter of Francis Light in 1818 noted:
" Our next visit was to Suffolk, three miles in the interior, where I had the pleasure of breakfasting with Col Bannerman, the Governor. The valuable estate of Suffolk once the private property of Mr Light and his favourite residence is one of the prettiest spots I have ever beheld. In the midst of fine extensive lawn, surrounded by majestic trees, a box bridge, with a clean brook meandering through the centre, stands the noble and commodious house , with a park and aviary in its front and the hill gradually receding in the background, crowned with woods of the richest foliage. Italy itself could not produce a more verdant or lovely landscape and to add to its unique attraction, the principal trees in the avenue leading from different directions to the house were all nutmegs, actually loaded with fruit much lie a large apricot."

   '... fine extensive lawn, surrounded by majestic trees, 
a box bridge with a clean brook...'

I cannot agree more with the writer who penned his attraction to the home and its site almost two centuries ago. As I stood at the site in the 21st century I cannot help admiring the pain- staking job carried by Badan Warisan, the Heritage Society of Penang and the restorers and planners to bring 'Suffolk Home' alive as it was before. Except with the absence of the nutmeg trees ( pokok buah pala)  all seems alive as pictured by Capt.Welsh.

The house reflected in a large mirror on a deck open cabana which formed part of the 
restaurant  at Suffolk Home now.

Our historical study of Francis Light in school before never disclosed that he had five children, three girls, Sarah, Mary  Ann and two boys William and Francis Lanoon. He willed his estate to Martina Rozells the woman he lived with for 22 years but never married  , a part Siamese and Portuguese woman reportedly a Kedah 'princess' awarded to Light by the Kedah Sultan. A marriage would undoubtedly put him an Anglican in a difficult position.  The property was reported as being taken over by James Scott and William Fairlie , business partners and executors of Light's estate.

Wandering through the country you might come across the most unexpected places. Today I came across one and and through its pages of history gets enlighten by the past and the present. Thankful to those that care to restore and preserve for our future.  


Al-Manar said...

Indeed it is a beauty. I should make an attempt to find my way there one of these days. Would GPS help?

KotaStar said...

No problem give me a call we will meet you in the city and you will have a good guide too the restaurant at the home is reputed to be excellant

mrmarin said...

I had tea with my friends at Suffolk House today.. although i expected a more majestic building, Suffolk house is indeed a splendid experience..