Restoration work at old English cemetery stopped

  • Nation
  • Saturday, 22 Dec 2012

GEORGE TOWN: Restoration of tombstones in one of the country's oldest English cemeteries has stopped pending expert advice.

George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI) acting general manager Lim Chooi Ping said restoration work at the Protestant cemetery, which is in its second phase, was stopped after heritage conservationists called for a more detailed study.

“The group wants to conduct tests on the tombstones to ensure proper conservation of the historic cemetery in Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah, and since it's classified as a Category 1 heritage site, we agreed,” she said.

Lim said the tests would include identifying the materials used in making the tombstones and an expert consultant would be engaged to advise on the correct restoration process.

Phase one of the cemetery restoration project, which started on May 9, was completed on July 17.

It involved the removal creepers as well as the cleaning of fungus and dirt on the tombs.

For phase two, GTWHI is collaborating with the Penang Municipal Council, Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) and the Penang Government.

Some 80 trees were cut down and others pruned during the second phase as they posed a danger to the tombstones.

Phase two, expected to be completed in December, included the restoration of all damaged tombstones and re-inking the inscriptions, the repair of the broken walls and the repainting of walls.

Lim said the PHT is preparing a Heritage Management Plan for the cemetery which is funded by Think City Sdn Bhd, which will include full documentation of all tombs and a maintenance schedule is expected to be ready by early next year.

Restoration of the cemetery where many of Penang's European pioneers are buried was undertaken by PHT in 1993, using its own funds, funding from the French plantation company Socfin, MPPP and the state.

Only 70% of the cemetery was restored when funds ran out in 1994.

The 1789 cemetery holds the remains of people of various nationalities including Scottish, French, Dutch and Portuguese.

There are more than 400 graves in the cemetery but only 380 headstone markings are legible.

The cemetery is the resting place of Captain Francis Light, settlement chaplain and Penang Free School founder Reverend Robert Sparke Hutchings, former Calcutta Swupreme Court Chief Justice Sir William O. Russel and Thomas Leonowens, the husband of Anna Leonowens who was famously portrayed in the musical The King and I.

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