Category Archives: Conservation

Old Town Heritage Trivia

St Michael's Institution, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
St Michael's Institution, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
St Michael's Institution, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
The beginning

St Michael’s Institution (SMI), (icon 7) of the Ipoh Heritage Trail Map 1 will be celebrating its centennial (100 years) this year.

The school is the second mission school in Ipoh and started with just 37 students in a large double storey half-brick, half-wooden bungalow house in a coconut plantation.

Interestingly, due to a shortage of Christian brothers, its first Headmaster was a Sikh convert, Mr P.J. Morsingh a teacher from St Xavier’s Institution Penang.

St Michael's Institution, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
The Chapel

The design of the building is described as Neo-Gothic architecture and its facade of the present day building is 177 feet wide.

On the third floor of the building is its chapel, recently restored in 2011, whose design was inspired by the celebrated Sainte Chapelle on the Ile de la Cite in Paris. In preparation for the centennial year the school converted a classroom into a Heritage Gallery to to showcase the Lasallian and Michaelian heritage as well as capturing the rich and invaluable history of the 100-year old school.

View of Church of St John the Divine, Ipoh

Heritage Preservation: A Fine Example


By James Gough

Restoration work on the Church of St John the Divine or more commonly referred to as St John’s Anglican Church, one of the oldest Anglican churches in Malaysia, has brought it back to its former glory. Eponymously located on St John’s Road, it is one of the buildings listed in the Heritage Trail map of Ipoh Old Town.

View of Church of St John the Divine, Ipoh
Church of St John the Divine, St John's Road, Ipoh

100 Years On, Divine Heritage Endures

Upon entering the gate of the church, one is presented with a red brick building that looks so English in design, it feels like one has stepped out of Malaysia for a minute and into a “Parish Church in the English countryside” to quote Rev. Anthony Dumper, the Vicar of South Perak, 1949.

Before St John’s was built, the Anglicans held their services at the ‘old Court House’ located close to the Birch clock tower. In the year 1905, only four services were recorded.

When St John’s Church was consecrated by Bishop Ferguson Davie on April 30, 1912, it was described as an “architecture of English design but suited to the local equatorial climate.”

Gothic Splendour

Church of St John the Divine – chancel screen and sanctuary
Chancel screen and sanctuary

The church, which has six bays, has Gothic architectural features of pointed arches and buttresses. Its outer walls are of fair-faced brickwork, that is, selected bricks used without plaster. Above its porte-cochère or porch is a bell-tower on the apex of the front gable. The bell was presented to the Church by Mr and Mrs A.C.J. Towers in 1935 which was the Silver Jubilee year of King George V.

Walking down the nave of the church, one passes the baptism font and teak pews. The nave is separated from the chancel by a chancel screen of finely carved trefoil arches.

Behind the altar, a trio of stained-glass windows, which together with the arcade of pointed arches above the clerestory, bathe the entire church in incandescent hues.

This splendour did not happen by chance.

Divine Restoration

Rev. Tom Cherian in Church of St John the Divine
2011: Rev. Tom Cherian in the restored church

According to the Church’s pastor, Rev. Tom Cherian, sometime before 2009, it was noted that the church was in dire need of repairs. The wooden ceiling was in danger of falling, due to wood rot caused by water seepage and termite infestation.

It took a small calamity in July 2009, when one of the porch trusses in front of the church fell, that they closed the church. “We were lucky that no one was hurt”, said Rev. Cherian.

Then the dilemma arose as to whether to do a quick fix or go for a proper restoration. Fortunately, proper restoration won the day.

Expert Advice

Rev. Cherian sought advice from the Perak Heritage Society (PHS) and its vice president Law Siak Hong on how to go about the restoration of the church. During that time too, an Ipoh-born architect, Ken Yeh, now practising in Australia, was home on holiday. Yeh, who admires good work and “did not want to see good work be desecrated in the name of expediency”, lent a hand.

Together, Yeh and Law advised Rev. Cherian and his committee on the steps required for restoration.

Heritage Walk visitors in the Church of St John the Divine
2010: Work in progress. Devadason with Heritage Walk visitors beside the Baptism Font

The repair work involved replacing the rafters and all the roof battens with Nyatoh wood, a time-consuming process as the wood had to be treated for a month before it could be installed. In a similar way, the trusses in the front porch were replaced. The entire ceiling, originally of Meranti, was replaced with a naturally golden dammar minyak (Malaysian kauri) wood.

Tenders were called for and RM250,000 was determined to be the cost of the repairs. This deliberation on what was to be done and the large sum quoted hindered the actual restoration work which only commenced in April of 2010 and completed in December that year.

Understandably, the congregation complained that “it had taken too long to do the repairs” but nevertheless they pulled together in their fundraising efforts and even approached the state government for assistance but none was forthcoming till this day. But ultimately the church managed to raise the funds to complete the job.

For Rev. Cherian, the repair work done on the church will see it in great shape for another 100 years. But he is also aware that regular maintenance and early detection is essential to ensuring a healthy building, indicating a cost of RM6,000 for maintenance every 2 years.

Preserving A Community

Stained-glass windows of the Church of St John the Divine
Stained-glass windows

The Rev. John Cuffe, Vicar of the Parish in 1985, in his foreword for the Church’s 75th year after the laying of the foundation stone, said that “a church building is not only bricks and mortar but over the years absorbs the prayers of the parishioners which builds up as the generations pass.”

Back then, the congregation was 90% British, with the balance made up of Ceylon Burgers and a smattering of locals. Also in the early days the first four pews from the front were ‘reserved’ for the British community which was “an unwritten rule”.

Parishioner and former choirmaster, James Nicholas Devadason, recalled his Aunt Sarah relating an incident pre-war when she arrived early for service and sat on a ‘reserved’ pew. Upon sitting down she was reminded by the warden of the ‘unwritten rule’ to which she responded by quoting St Paul’s epistle to the Colossians, chapter 3 verse 11: “here there is no Greek or Jew, slave or free but Christ is all and in all”, and didn’t shift her seat.

Rich History

Another active pre-war Parishoner, William A Sankey, 85, recalled that during the Second World War, the church was turned into a noodle factory, its pews burned for firewood, its vestry used for making soy sauce and its piped organ was looted. Miraculously the panelling and chancel screen survived the desecration.

At the end of the war soldiers from the Royal Berkshire Regiment collected the chairs from the then Majestic Hotel to be used at its first service. By 1949, with the exception of the organ, the church was fully restored.

During the time of the Emergency numerous British Regiments worshipped at the Church and during Christmas, a military parade would be held in the Church grounds before the start of service.

St John’s Church, being among the oldest Anglican Church in the country, has helped propagate the daughter churches of Church of the Holy Spirit in Buntong and St Peter’s Church in Fair Park. It is also one of 25 gazetted heritage buildings identified by Ipoh City Council and listed on the Heritage Trail Map.

By restoring the church to its original splendour the entire Ipoh community will have a reference of how the Anglican community has grown and proliferated in the state. That is heritage value by itself.

Pictures of Church of St John the Divine

Panglima Lane is Falling Down


Updated 14 September 2011

Last December, Ipoh Echo reported that the front upper floor and roof tiles of No. 5 Panglima (Concubine) Lane, fell to the lane below. No one was hurt although the incident occurred at 9.30 a.m. Earlier in June the back portion of an unoccupied unit collapsed.

On September 7 at 10.45 p.m., the upper walls of another two units, Nos. 25 and 27, fell to the lane below. As luck would have it again no one was hurt although No. 27 is just a unit away from Yoon Wah Restaurant which serves the popular “snow beer” every evening.

Nos. 25 & 27 Panglima Lane which collapsed. On the right is Yoon Wah Restaurant
Debris and a 'wood rot' wooden beam litter the lane.The falling debris damaged the building opposite











The falling debris from No. 27 also damaged the building immediately opposite it and the column of the adjacent building, Yoon Wah Restaurant, damaging a total of four buildings.

Senior Exco for Local Government Dato’ Dr. Mah Hang Soon chaired a meeting the next day with owners and residents of Panglima Lane. Later on the same day he announced that JKR, the State Works Department, had in its preliminary report carried out on the same day, declared “7 of 24 units” on Panglima Lane are “deemed dangerous”.

Under the Street, Drainage and Building Act, owners of the units, upon being issued a notice by Ipoh City Council, will have 14 days to repair or demolish their units, otherwise legal action will be taken on them. A detailed report is also being carried out and will be available in a month’s time.

Dato’ Hamidah talking to residents. On the right in blue shirt is Residents Committee Chairman Dr Mike Gurmil

In the meantime, the Chairman of the just-formed Panglima Lane Residents Committee, Dr ‘Mike’ Gurmil said that he would be calling a meeting with the owners and residents to determine their next course of action.


Batu Gajah Heritage Trail


Batu Gajah (BG) now also has a Heritage Map. It is called “Batu Gajah Heritage Driving Trail”.

The map was produced by the Kinta Heritage Group in collaboration with Perak Tourism and Batu Gajah District Office. It was recently launched by State Exco for Tourism Dato’ Hamidah Osman. The map starts from the Sri Subramaniyar Temple on Jalan Pusing and onwards to Kuan Tay Temple on Jalan Besar before heading up to Changkat Road government offices and terminating at St Joseph’s Church.

The entire trail stretches approximately 10km, just nice for a Sunday morning outing on a bicycle. Just strap your bike to the back of your boot and check out the fresh air at BG.

The maps are free and available at the Batu Gajah District Office. Tel. No.:


MBI acts on reader’s highlight



On 3 August Ipoh Echo received a call from a reader that a “dangerous looking building renovation” was ongoing at the junction Jalan Tawhil Azhar and Jalan Mustapha al-Bakri.

3 August. Ongoing renovation without netting or scaffolding

A drive to the location revealed that the building had its inner sections removed but left the “original walls” intact. The walls were tied with cables and secured to the inside of the buildings.

A “Temporary Work Permit” issued by MBI was displayed onsite. However there was no scaffolding or netting erected alongside the perimeter of the worksite. Additionally the notice board indicting the project details was not yet on display.

Ipoh Echo took photos of the worksite and presented them to officials of the MBI’s Building department to get their views on 5 August. No comments were forthcoming other than saying they would “look into it.”

8 August. Scaffolding, netting and fencing being erected

On Monday 8 August workmen at the worksite were seen erecting the fencing, scaffolding and netting. A call to MBI’s Buidling office revealed that a stop-work order had been issued until all safety measures were in place.

11 August.All safety requirements erected. Project notice board is displayed.

Another drive-by on Thursday 11 August revealed that all safety features were in place while the project notice board too was on display.



Ipoh Echo would like to thank “anonymous” for highlighting her concern.


New Lifestyle Property Development


Ipoh SOHO or Small Office Home Office, a new lifestyle property development was introduced in Ipoh on 29 July 2011 with a ground breaking ceremony.

Breaking ground. Zambry in control.

The project, IPOH SOHO, was launched by established property developer Kinta Saujana Sdn Bhd and is located at Jalan Sultan Idris Shah (Hugh Low Street) immediately after the Sultan Yussuf Circle water fountain. The ceremony was officiated by Menteri Besar Dato Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir together with Mr Chen Heng Kong, the Managing Director of Kinta Saujana

pic 1:(l-r) 2nd from left is MD for Kinta Saujana Chen Heng Kong followed by Dato Seri Zambry. Pic 2: Zambry signing the plaque.

The development consists of 24 units of 3 ½ storey contemporary lots with rooftop garden. The concept of the development is to appeal to proprietors who would like to operate their businesses without leaving the comfort of their home. It is scheduled for completion by the end of 2012.

Zambry in his address thanked the company for adding another landmark to the Ipoh property scene and for bringing back activity to the town central.

During the ceremony Kinta Saujana also presented donations to the nearby schools of SMK Sam Tet and SRJK ( C ) Yuk Choy.

Pic 1:Breaking ground.Pic 2:Kinta Saujana Director Loh AhKow presenting a donation to Puan Sri Leong representing SRJKC Yuk Choy.


Ipoh’s “Old Town” To Lure Tourists


By Jerry Francis

The proposal by the Perak Government to turn the “Old Town” sector of Ipoh into a heritage attraction to draw domestic and foreign tourists is perhaps the right “tonic” to rejuvenate the ailing business sector.

It is likely to inspire owners of old buildings in the sector to restore their premises to their original state and carry on with their trading. Thus, the heritage buildings will be preserved.

Since the collapse of the tin mining industry in the mid 80s, this part of the city centre has been severely affected as business activities tapered down, causing many premises to close.

Perak Hydro building

Being the sector on which the city was founded, it has the largest concentration of impressive heritage buildings of Colonial, Islamic and Chinese architecture built at the turn of the last century. It is also a commercial hub of the city where most of the leading banks and old trading companies are located.

Among other heritage buildings are the Railway Station, Town Hall, High Court, mansions of old local chieftains and businessmen as well as the well-known Lorong Panglima or Concubine Lane – homes of mistresses of some of the rich miners at the height of Perak’s tin-producing days.

Describing the Old Town sector as “unique and historical”, State chairman for tourism, Dato’ Hamidah Osman, said the state government would undertake a study with various agencies, including the Ipoh City Council.

“We want to revive Old Town which was the heart of Ipoh at one time. We will look into the installation of street lights and arches and upgrading of facilities, such as the Heritage Trail which has been in place,” she said.

Chung Thye Phin building

The State government would also set up a tourist information centre at the railway station, which will be manned by multi-lingual experienced tour guides, as a value-added feature of the Old Town project.

The move is a clear indication that the state tourism committee has come up with a viable proposal to promote tourism in the city through history. It will also ultimately result in the beautification of the city.

The plan is to spruce up this sector, including revitalising the once beautiful garden in front of the railway station, which has become an important entry point of the city.

Such a project should get the full backing of the city council, business community and residents to ensure that it would be successfully implemented and sustained through proper maintenance.

This was why in May, last year, I posed the question – “Are We Ashamed of Ipoh’s Glorious Past?” My intention, then and now, is to promote our city for its history and heritage.


I suggested the four-word slogan “City That Tin Built” to be effectively used to promote the city as it sums up its history and heritage, reflecting the glorious past of an important centre of the tin mining industry, which had been so significant in the economic development of the country and as the centre of the once world’s largest alluvial tin deposit area.

The slogan, which is unique, could also be easily and aggressively marketed to capture the imagination of the tourists and lure them to Ipoh and the Kinta Valley. Why this slogan has not been endorsed is beyond my comprehension.

How do we expect a slogan “Bersih, Hijau Dan Membangun” (Green, Clean and Developing) to attract tourists to the city? Perhaps we could learn from the success of Malacca, which has developed tourism around its slogan “Historical City”. Among its projects is “Jonker Street” that has transformed the old Chinatown into a successful heritage tourist spot with art galleries, souvenir shops, and eateries of various popular local cuisines and cakes.

I feel Ipoh too can successfully promote its history and its well-known delicious hawker food and iconic products. It can be one big living monument to the tin-mining industry, which would be educational as well as a tourist attraction. The theme of the city’s tourism projects should be a showcase of the tin-mining industry, the life of the pioneering tin-mining community, various mining methods and its heritage.

These should be supported by the establishment of a tin-mining museum, and preservation of its heritage such as the last dredge, mining towns such as Papan, and a gallery of leading pioneers of the tin-mining industry in the Kinta Valley – a history of which we should be proud. Only then can we expect the “Old Town” sector to recover from its present situation, where many of the business establishments are moving to new growth areas due to lack of activities and business opportunities.

Old Does Not Equal Heritage


By Jerry Francis

Recently, when I wrote about condemned and dilapidated buildings in the city centre being left to rot as “eyesores”, I drew some flak from readers. It shows there are a lot of people here who are enthusiastic about preserving heritage buildings and thought I was advocating that such buildings be demolished.


Condemned building at the junction of Jalan Sultan Idris Shah and Jalan Raja Musa Aziz



I had highlighted those “eyesores” with an intention to draw the attention of the city council to get the owners to do something as the buildings, which have been left abandoned and condemned for years, are posing a danger to motorists and pedestrians. If they could be restored well and good, but if not what do we do? Do we allow the buildings to rot and collapse on their own?

Many readers appear to be very emotional where heritage buildings are concerned and prefer that such buildings be left alone with the hope that they would be eventually restored. They do not seem to be concerned that those ruins along main streets are dangerous to motorists and passers-by.

An example was the building at the junction of Jalan Sultan Idris Shah and Jalan Raja Musa Aziz, which was left in a dilapidated condition after a fire damaged it some years ago. The building has since been demolished after I highlighted it a couple of times.

In a city such as Ipoh, that was built over a century ago, many of its buildings are bound to be old. Is just being old of heritage value?

Whenever some of these old buildings are torn down, there is much hue and cry that heritage is not being preserved; for example, the demolishing of a block of double-storey residences along Jalan Chung On and more recently, five pre-war shophouses at the corner of Jalan Sultan Abdul Jalil and Jalan Lau Ek Ching for redevelopment. There also have been other old buildings in the city, which have faced the same fate.

We need to look from the point of view of the owners of such properties. What can they gain from preserving their buildings as heritage? Certainly they would prefer to redevelop their prime land for a greater economic return.

Of course, heritage needs to be preserved. In the case of our city, who is responsible for preserving heritage and to what extent are we willing to take it? There are not many owners of old buildings who can afford to restore their condemned and dilapidated buildings to their original forms.

Can they sustain, like the owner of the well-known FMS Bar & Restaurant, slowly restoring the building? Unless they have deep pockets, they will want to see their investments bear dividends quickly.

Therefore, if we are really serious about preserving heritage buildings in our city, we need to take stock of all the old buildings and decide which of them are of heritage value and gazette them as heritage sites, and what kind of enforcement will be in place before property owners are allowed to demolish their buildings. Also what financial incentives are there for the owners to restore the buildings to their original splendour?

The city council has taken the right step, though long overdue, by carrying out an extensive programme to identify old and heritage buildings around Ipoh and will ask the Heritage Department to gazette those heritage buildings. It has identified 120 buildings for the purpose.

Buildings which are of significant architecture and have stories to tell should be taken into consideration, not just because they are old. It is better to have a few heritage sites than not at all.

Otherwise, we can go on protesting and yet we will continue to see buildings which we consider as heritage being torn down periodically.

When even preserving a unique mining heritage – the only tin dredge, which I have been advocating for over two decades, has yet to be achieved, what chance do we have to preserve all the old buildings in the city?

And finally is the Heritage Department willing to put their money where their mouth is?

Heritage Walk and Health Talk with New Hope Children’s Home


Faces Youth Society, Lim Kopi and Tobacco-Free World (TFW) jointly organised a heritage trail walking tour of the old town of Ipoh with 20 orphans from New Hope Children’s Home recently.

More than 20 volunteers turned up and assumed the role of guide and nanny and covered prominent heritage sites such as the Railway station, War Memorial, Ipoh Tree, City Hall, Birch Memorial Clock Tower, High Court, Han Chin Pet Soo and ended at Panglima Lane or Concubine Lane.

Each child was given a Passport specially handmade by volunteers from Faces.

On arrival at each designated site, a sticker was pasted on a page of the passport relating the history of the site for them to learn about the glorious past of Ipoh and the importance of conservation for our future generations. (Maps courtesy of Kinta Heritage Group).

Despite the hot afternoon, the children had a great time explo-ring the old town while listening to interesting stories associated with the buildings.

Thereafter, an anti-smoking talk was conducted by Mr. Adrian Fu (TFW of Kinta Medical Centre) and the kids (aged 7 to 17) witnessed a smoking puppet which demonstrated the hazardous effects of smoking.

Refreshments were provided courtesy of Lim Ko Pi and the children were entertained with songs and music and four June babies cut a birthday cake, courtesy of TFW.

Adrian Fu

Kellie’s Castle to Be Upgraded


Kellie’s Castle located in Batu Gajah will be given a RM5 million upgrade under the 10th Malaysia Plan allocation. The upgrade plans include an integrated amphitheatre, an English tea garden and a maze.

“The whole upgrade will focus on the surrounding exterior and will not touch Kellie’s Castle”. The upgrade plan was announced by the Secretary General of the Ministry of Tourism Dato’ Dr. Ong Hong Peng when he visited Kellie’s Castle recently with officials from Batu Gajah District Office and the Economic Planning Unit.

Tenders will be called next month and work on the site is scheduled to start in August and expected to be completed between 15-18 months.

The number of visitors to Kellie’s Castle have reflected an increasing trend yearly of 48.4K (2008), 68.1K (2009) and 80K for 2010.

Ong also announced that his Ministry had allocated RM1.7 million for the Lata Kinjang Project and RM600K for Tasek Raban.