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2.2.

5 ST GEORGE’S CHURCH

2.2.5.1 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The St George's Anglican Church along Farquhar Street is one of the loveliest heritages
Anglican Church in George Town, Penang. The formation of the St George's Church was
credited to Reverend Robert Sparke Hutchings, the same person who founded the Penang Free
School, the oldest English school in Southeast Asia, and who gave his name to Hutchings
School nearby.

St. George's Church is the oldest Anglican Church in Southeast Asia and is located in
George Town, Penang, Malaysia. The St George's Church was built in 1816 using convict
labours, when Colonel J.A. Bannerman was the Governor of Penang. The cost of building it was
60,000 Spanish dollars. This was a princely sum, considering the British paid only 10,000
Spanish dollars per annum to Kedah for Penang, while they bought Singapore a few years later
for also 60,000 Spanish dollars. It was completed in 1818 on the initiative of the Penang
Colonial Chaplain, Rev. Robert Sparke Hutchings (who also went on to found the Penang Free
School) and consecrated on 11 May 1819 by the Bishop of Calcutta, Thomas Fanshawe
Middleton.

On 6 July 2007, the church was declared one of the 50 National Treasures of Malaysia
by the Malaysian government. The services of the church still carried out until now.
Figure 2.37: The overall view of St. George's Church.
Source: Field study (2008)

2.2.5.2 ARCHITECTURE STYLES AND ELEMENTS

The church was designed by Captain Robert N. Smith of Madras Engineers. (Smith is
also a gifted artist whose oil paintings of Penang landscape still grace the walls of the Penang
State Museum nearby.) The church was designed in the Georgian Palladian styles which are
the combination of the Georgian style and the Palladian style, named after the Grecian
architecture of a Roman called Palladius.

The most striking feature of the church's architecture is without a doubt the huge Grecian
columns lined outside the front entrance (Refer to figure 2.38). They immediately remind one of
classical Greek structures such as The Parthenon, The Propylaia, the Temple to Athene and
The Erechtheion. The pavilion which sits in the lawn also lends a Grecian air to the ambience.
The brick structure has a solid plastered stone base. The aforementioned pavilion was actually
erected in 1886 to commemorate Sir Francis Light. Underneath the dome is found a marble
plaque framed by two columns, dedicated to Light.
The church was painted in white colour and there is plenty of cornice decoration at the
façade of the building to constitute the impressive of the design (Refer to figure 2.39).When the
occupants realized that the original Madras-style flat roof was unsuitable for the climate in
Penang; a gable shaped roof was built in its place, in 1864. The octagonal-shaped steeple,
visible from afar, forms the apex of the roof (Refer figure 2.40). The mahogany trees in the lawn,
which came from India as seedlings, were planted by A.B.Mackean in 1885. The ones still
remaining today are survivors from the destruction wreaked by WWII.

The war took its toll on the church. Although the structure escaped relatively unscathed,
the interior was another story. Looters carted off plaques, memorials and furnishings. A total of
24 memorials life-size marble figures were ruined during the heavy looting. Pews, the pulpit, the
lectern and the organ had all to be replaced. Work to restore St George church back to its
former self started soon afterwards and was completed in 1948. Sunday services were
immediately resumed.

Figure 2.38: The huge Grecian columns lined outside the front entrance
Sources: Field study (2008)
Figure 2.39: The side view on the left of the St. George's Church. Cornice decorative was used
in the building design.

Source: Field study (2008)

Figure 2.40: A gable shaped roof was built in 1864 due to the original Madras-style flat roof was
unsuitable for the climate in Penang.
Source: Field study (2008)

2.2.5.3 BUILDING SIGNIFICANT AND ELEMENT OF IMPORTANT


a) Significant Historical Values
The first significant event to take place at the St George's Church was the marriage of
Janet, daughter of Governor Bannerman, to William Edward Philips, in 1818. Incidentally,
Philips was acting Governor of Penang in 1817, when the construction of the church building
was started, and completed in 1818, burring Bannerman's term. Other people like to compare St
George’s Church with St Andrew’s Cathedral in Singapore due to their similarities of historical
and significant architectural. This calls for graceful Grecian columns along the front of the
building.

Memorial for Francis Light became a significant for this Church because of its historical
value. Francis Light is the person who first established this island as an English settlement and
was many years governor born in the country of Suffolk in England and died 21st October 1794.
In his capacity as governor, the settlers and natives were greatly attached to him and by his
death had deplore the loss of one who watches over their interests and cares as a father.

Figure 2.41: Memorial of Francis Light located in front of the St George's Church.
Source: Field study (2008)
Figure2.42: Engraver from the memorial of Francis Light.
Sources: Field study (2008)

b) Significant Political Values

From the political value, during the Japanese occupation of WWII, services were
somewhat interrupted until church leaders temporarily transferred them first to the Mission
House and then to the Wesley Church in Burmah Road. After the fall of the Japanese Empire,
church services at the St George church were resumed, much to the relief of everyone. This
event brought about the emancipation of the church – an act of Parliament in 1971 which
created a new and independent Diocese of West Malaysia, and the formation of the Province of
Churches in South East Asia in 1996 by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Since then, the church
has been run by local clergymen. This is the reason for this building becomes so significant due
to its political value.

c) Significant Social and Cultural Values


Under the guidance of Rev. Hutchings, the church grew in popularity first among the
members of the British colonialists, and then slowly among the locals. Rev. Hutchings
contributions towards the development of Penang from an educational perspective are
significant. It becomes the social value as it’s significant to heritage site. He founded the
Penang Free School and compiled and wrote what were considered the first books on Malay
grammar, in addition to several elementary text-books and a dictionary mainly for school use.
He founded Auxiliary Bible Society and translated the New Testament into Malay.

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