Fort Cornwallis, built by the British East India Company in the late 1700s, is Malaysia’s largest remaining fort. Still, keep your expectations in check: if you’re used to defenses from Europe or Latin America, you could be disappointed.
Nonetheless, its convenient location in George Town makes it a worthwhile addition to your list of things to do in Penang.
Next to Esplanade Park, Fort Cornwallis happens to be both the most significant and oldest fort in Malaysia. And is one of the primary reasons why George Town is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
Built in the 18th century, this star-shaped fort has been through a lot since the 18th century. And represents tremendous historical significance to Penang and Malaysia!
Fort Cornwallis History
Fort Cornwallis was built upon the very first place in which the founder of Penang. Captain Francis Light, landed on back in 1786. It was named for the then-governor-general of Bengal. Marquis Charles Cornwallis, and was initially constructed of nibong palms rather than bricks. Multiple guns were stationed at the fort to deter undesirable visitors. Such as pirates and armed soldiers from Kedah or France.
About 20 years later, in the 1800s, the structure was reinforced with bricks by Indian prisoners. And sometime later, a moat was also added. The military status of the bastion was eventually revoked due to its more important administrative role. It was converted into a police station in 1886. During World War II, the Japanese used the fort and the park opposite as a supply depot and prison camp.
In the 1970s, the old fort was provided with a sewage system and electricity. And an amphitheater was built for cultural events. Today, only a handful of the original 77 cannons and the 10-foot high outer walls remain. Along with the flagpole and lighthouse!
Fort Cornwallis Lighthouse
Located beside the fort, the Fort Cornwallis Lighthouse was built in 1882. With its 21m-tall steel frame construction, Fort Cornwallis is a little unusual compared to the other solidly-built lighthouses around Malaysia! The flagstaff was used to communicate with its corresponding flagstaff on Penang Hill the arrival of ships or dignitaries.
Still, Fort Cornwallis is the second oldest in Malaysia after another (Tanjung Tuan) in Malacca. It takes 80 or so steps to climb up to the top to view the fort and the Malaccan Straits. If you like a view or a challenge.
Address: Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah, George Town, 10200 George Town, Penang Island
Contact: +604-263 9855
Opening Hours: Daily 9am–10pm