The former capital of Perak, Taiping is home to many heritage buildings. Ewe Paik Leong visits some of them
1 Taiping Prison, Jalan Taming Sari, Taiping
Originally called Taiping Goal, the prison was built in 1879 by Captain Tristram Charles Sawyer Speedy. He had earlier been promoted from Perak Chief of Police to Assistant British Resident of Perak in 1874.
The original structure consisted of a 2.7m-high wall which surrounded five buildings made of timbers and bricks.
In 1895, when the Federated Malay States (FMS) was established, the prison was expanded to house the Government Printing Office, a bakery and a laundry. All convicts from the FMS serving long sentences were sent here.
2 Taiping Hokkien Association, Jalan Kota, Taiping
The association was set up in 1859 to serve as a clan house for immigrants from Fujien province in south China.
The present structure stands on a land donated by the association’s first president, Ng Boo Bee, in 1918. The building was later completed in 1928 by Lim San Kip, the second president.
The use of art deco architectural style for the building has resulted in roof pediments and spindle-shaped balusters on the first floor corridor. The floor still sports the original maroon tiles with geometrical designs.
3 Indian Mosque, Jalan Kota, Taiping
When early Tamil Muslims came to Taiping to trade grains, textiles and cattle, they settled in the southern end of the town called Kota.
In 1906, the then acting British Resident of Perak, Edward Lewis Brockman, signed an agreement transferring the present site for the construction of a mosque to fulfill the religious needs of the Tamil Muslim community.
Two years later, a wooden mosque dedicated to the wali of Nagore was completed and it was called Mohammedan Hanafi Nagore Mosque.
In 1969, the old structure was replaced by the present one and renamed India Mosque.
4 Old Kota Mosque, Jalan Kota, Taiping
The oldest mosque in Taiping, it was built in 1893 by Ngah Ibrahim’s family to replace an original wooden madrasah.
Ngah Ibrahim was a Malay chieftain who fought in the Larut Wars (1861-1873) against Raja Abdullah.
Its layout plan is hexagonal and the front roofline is adorned with a modified entrecoupe pediment having corble steps. This feature is a hallmark of Dutch colonial revival architecture.
The compound of the mosque houses a cemetery which contains the graves of several historical personalities including Sheikh Makhbuli, a famous Islamic scholar.
5 Taiping War Cemetery, Jalan Bukit Larut, Taiping
Designed by Major J. H. Ingram, this cemetery was established in 1946 by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to commemorate Allied soldiers and pilots who were killed during the Japanese invasion.
It is divided into two sections: Christian graves and non-Christian graves.
They are separated by Jalan Bukit Larut. A Cross of Sacrifice stands in the Christian section and a Stone of Remembrance in the non-Christian section.
There are 867 headstones standing in rows arranged in a serrated pattern on the two plots. Each of the 331 headstones bears the name of the deceased, age and regimental insignia but the rest are unidentified burials. A gardener comes here daily to tend to the lawn and plants in the cemetery.
6 King Edward VII National School, Jalan Muzium Hulu, Taiping
This school was founded in 1883 as Central School on the present site of the annexe building of the General Hospital in Jalan Taming Sari.
In 1906, the school moved to a new Victorian-style building at the then Upper Museum Road.
The building has a central porch and its ground and first-floor corridors sport lancet and round arches respectively.
In conjunction with the move, the school was re-named King Edward VII School.
During the Japanese Occupation, the school functioned as a Kempetai centre and the sports field was used to grow vegetables.
When the Japanese surrendered in 1945, the students returned to the school.
7 St. George’s Institution, Jalan Stesen, Taiping
In 1914, Brother James Joseph Byrne proposed to the then Perak British Resident Sir Reginald George Watson to set up the St George’s Institution for boys. Watson agreed and in 1916, the three-story school building was completed.
The second and third stories of the building’s right wing were used as accommodation quarters for the Brothers. The first classes commenced with seven teachers and 49 students.
During the Japanese Occupation, all the missionary teachers were detained and the school closed down. It re-opened in 1945.
8 Clock Tower, Jalan Kota, Taiping
The clock tower was originally a wooden structure built in 1881. In 1890, it was replaced by a square brick structure with a 20m-high tower. The tower is capped by a pyramid hip roof which, in turn, is crowned by a weathervane in the shape of a rooster.
From 1908 to 1950, the clock tower also served as a police station and a fire station. The first fire brigade was made up of members of the Malay States Guide and the Perak Armed Police.
Later, the clock tower was abandoned and new adjacent development resulted in the demolition of part of the building.
What remains today has been turned into a tourist information centre.
9 Larut, Matang and Selama District Land Office, Jalan Kota, Taiping
Built in 1897, this building was designed by Francis Caulfield of the Public Works Department to serve as the offices of the British Government.
Among its distinguishing architectural elements are the central porch with round arches and three pediments of different designs at the roofline.
Glass casement windows have replaced the original wooden louvred windows.
In 2012, this building was declared a national heritage.
10 Public Library, Jalan Taming Sari, Taiping
The original building standing on the site of the public library was constructed in 1882. It functioned as a “reading and recreation room” for British government officers.
In 1912, a new building showcasing Victorian architecture was built and was leased to the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China.
Today, the building houses the town’s public library which is officially named Independence Memorial Library.
Since 1986, the library has been managed by the Perak State Library Corporation.