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Friday, April 04, 2008

The Forts the Brookes Built

the Fort of Limbang











Fort Sylvia, Kapit




Fort Alice (Photo by Fredy)





















(In case you are confused, I am using the historical and original "Divisions" to categorise the various forts , I hope I can be pardoned for this considerable misinterpretation of the present day official divisions. I hope I can resolve this personal problem of historical "reckoning" in the future.)

1842 - For quelling a revolt for the Sultan of Brunei and a rent of 500 pounds Sterling, James Brooke was able to establish a white kingdom in Borneo. No "soldier of fortune" in world history was more successful than him. His family ruled Sarawak for three generations. Brooke rule officially ended in 1946. It can be said that Sarawak had the most unique rulers ,for a period of 105 years, in the world.

An interesting legacy left by the Brookes are the small, to a certain degree, white forts which dot the length of Sarawak in every division they established. On record, the Brookes built 15 forts altogether. Today, they are but dimunitive remnants, when compared to the gigantic buildings of the new era, of the Brooke rule. But nevertheless,they are interesting and a sort of heritage which beckon both the local and foreign tourists.

Very much the feudal lord, Brooke's idea of protection was the contruction of forts and the establishment of a small army manned by local people and some Sepoys (Indians).

(Although my b.l.o.g covers only Sibu in general and the Foochow people specifically, this article needs to include all the forts in Sarawak.)

First Division

Fort Margherita, named after Ranee Margaret, the wife of Charles, the second Rajah, was built about a mile downriver from the Istana. The fort started its contruction in 1878 and was completed in 1879, by which time the Brookes had consolidated their rule to the extent that defenses were no longer necessary around Kuching.

In olden days, sentries were stationed at the triple storey watchtowers to keep watch over long stretches of the river and discouraged hostile approaches via the river.

The fort was well constructed with narrow windows and a courtyard surrounded by a high wall inlaid with sharp glass shards.

According to various history books, executions were carried out in the fort courtyard. The Brooke rule then encouraged local executions with keris, inserted through the right shoulder and then driven diagonally towards the heart. But in
1889, six men were convicted of murder and sentenced to death. This number proved too much for the executioner to handle and thus the sentence was carried out for the first time by the Sarawak Rangers firing squad. Hanging became the method of choice after the Japanese Occupation. In the late 60's, the fort was converted into a Police Museum.

Second Division

Betong 's Fort Lily was built in 1858.

Sri Aman's Fort Alice was complted in 1864. After defeating the most famous Iban chieftain, Rentap, in 1861, Rajah Charles Brooke built the fort as a defensive structure controlling the Lupar River. It was built entirely of ‘belian’ (ironwood) timber with thick walls to withstand attacks. All of the original structure remains mostly intact. According to a recent report, it will soon be restored,after which this fort can become an extremely attractive place for foreign and local tourists alike.

Fort Alice has a unique design. It is square, with a small tower at each corner. It has an open centre courtyard, a drawbridge (this is very Anglo-saxon indeed) and a spiked iron perimeter fence.

Built to prevent the Skrang Dayaks going down river to join the Saribas Dayaks in their attacks on the coastal shipping trade,it was also to prevent them undertaking head-hunting expeditions.

Over the years, the Fort served as a police station, community welfare department, prison department, and other government departments.

Until 1964, a cannon was fired every day at 8pm sharp, signalling that the fort was about to close and the day’s business with the Government was over.

A policeman would call out in Iban:

Oh Ha! Oh Ha! Oh Ha!
Jam diatu pukol lapan,
Tangga udah di-tarit,
Orang ari ulu,
Orang ari ili,
Nadai tahu niki kubu agi.

(Oh Ha! Oh Ha! Oh Ha!
The time is now eight o’clock,
The steps have been drawn up,
People from up-river,
People from down-river,
Are not allowed into the fort.)

The fort was gazetted as a Historical Monument in 1971, and is now under the care of the Sarawak Museum.


Engkili's Fort is called Fort Dayang Leonora.

Nanga Skrang also has a Fort Nanga Skrang which was built in 1849. This is situated at the confluence of Batang Lupar and Skrang River.

Fort Lingga was built in 1849

Kalaka Fort was also established.

Fort Charles in Kabong was built in 1878 but was swept away by a flood in 1893.

Third Division (THEN)

Fort Brooke established at Sibu in 1862. A few historical incidents were associated with it. First,it was attacked by Lintong and Kanowits with more than 3000 followers. A troop of Indian Sepoys in the employ of the Brooke family fired the cannons to disperse Lintong and his group within minutes. The Fort was said to have only two doors. And it could have been easily surrounded and defeated by the simple cannons did their job. The Ibans had only their homemade firearms, parangs,bows and arrows and perhaps blowpipes.

It seemed that once Charles Brooke brought his newly wedded bride to the fort and some one sounded the alarm. She hid behind the grand piano in the fort, and the cannon was fired twice. Later it was found that the two canoe looking dark figures were actually two huge logs!!

The next attack was by Penghulu Asun in 1931 By then the Fort had 4 gates, and was slightly bigger. The uprising was quelled by peaceful negotiation in Sibu's government office.

Harriette McDougall, in Sketches of Our Life at Sarawak,pg.92 wrote : "After two days' paddling from the mouth of the Rejang, the boat arrived at Sibu where there is a ...manufacturing (outlet) for nipah salt.


 


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In the book, "Sibu of Yesterday", Sarawak Chinese Cultural Association,2002, I found this:

In 1862 The Rajah of Sarawak constructed Fort Brooke and established an administrive centre on the island situated at the point where the Igan branches off the mighty Rejang River. Thus began the history of Sibu becoming the most important trading port on the Rejang River.

Sarawak Gazette, 24th January 1871, No 16,

Sibu is the principal place on the banks. It is built on an island where the Igan leaves the Rajang to carry its water to the neighbourhood of Oya...and consist of a strong wooden fort, a Chinese bazaar and a considerable Malay Kampong...

A very old picture of the wooden Brooke Fort can be found on Page 3 of "Sibu of Yesterday" by Sarawak Chinese Cultural Association. From this book, we learn that the fort was demolished in 1936. Why was it demolished?

It is possible that the Brooke Fort was built on the same site as the offices of the Rejang Port Authority. This would be the place where the Rejang parts with the Igan.

Kanowit's Fort Emma was built in 1859. (Note: it was built earlier than Fort Brooke).Built out of timber and bamboo,it was named after Emma Brooke, sister of Rajah Charles Brooke. The fort remains impressive, despite years of neglect. It is currently closed to the public.

Fort Emma was also the site of the last serious challenge to Brooke rule in Sarawak. In 1859, a number of Malay chiefs, led by Sharif Masahor of Mukah and supported by the Sultan of Brunei planned a series of attacks to kill all the Europeans in Sarawak and Dutch Borneo. In June 1859, Brooke government officials Charles Fox and Henry Steele were murdered at Kanowit as the first step of this plan. The Tuan Muda Charles Brooke led a force of Iban from Saribas to revenge the attack and to recover the heads of the unfortunate victims. As a result, Mukah was annexed to Sarawak, Sharif Masahor fled to Johore and the "Malay Plot" was the last time the Malays and the Iban joined forces against the White Rajah.



Kapit's Fort Sylvia was built in 1880

To prevent further Iban migration upriver in the Rajang River basin, which was creating conflicts with theOrang Ulu, Rajah Charles Brooke built Baleh Fort at Nanga Balleh, the confluence of the Rejang and Baleh rivers between Kanowit and Song in late 1874. Rajah Charles Brooke nearly drowned here in 1877 when his boat capsized in the dangerous currents. He abandoned the fort in 1878, and replaced it with a new fort located lower down the river in 1880. The new Kapit Fort was built entirely of ‘belian’ (ironwood) timber with thick walls to withstand attacks.

On November 16 1924, a peacekeeping ceremony between the  Iban, Kayan, Kenyah and Kajang  was held here in the presence of Rajah Charles Brooke. In 1925, Kapit Fort was renamed Fort Sylvia after Rani Sylvia Brooke. During the 1960s, the fort housed the District Office and the District Court House, and later the Resident’s Office when Kapit Division was formed in 1973.

In May 1997, the fort was declared as historical monument, and is now managed by the Tun Jugah Foundation as a museum. It exhibits a collection of ethnic arts and handicrafts and documents relating to the history of Kapit, heirloom jars, brass cannons, brass plaques and photographs of past community leaders.


To prevent further Iban migration upriver in the Rajang River basin, which was creating conflicts with theOrang Ulu, Rajah Charles Brooke built Baleh Fort at Nanga Balleh, the confluence of the Rejang and Baleh rivers between Kanowit and Song in late 1874. Rajah Charles Brooke nearly drowned here in 1877 when his boat capsized in the dangerous currents. He abandoned the fort in 1878, and replaced it with a new fort located lower down the river in 1880. The new Kapit Fort was built entirely of ‘belian’ (ironwood) timber with thick walls to withstand attacks.

On November 16 1924, a peacekeeping ceremony between the  Iban, Kayan, Kenyah and Kajang  was held here in the presence of Rajah Charles Brooke. In 1925, Kapit Fort was renamed Fort Sylvia after Rani Sylvia Brooke. During the 1960s, the fort housed the District Office and the District Court House, and later the Resident’s Office when Kapit Division was formed in 1973.

In May 1997, the fort was declared an historical monument, and is now managed by the Tun Jugah Foundation as a museum. It exhibits a collection of ethnic arts and handicrafts and documents relating to the history of Kapit, heirloom jars, brass cannons, brass plaques and photographs of past community leaders.





Sarikei Fort was built in 1859.

Mukah Fort was puilt in 1861 but was known to have been captured by prisoners, in 1868 in our history.

1862 Fort Keppel built at Bintulu. This fort was formidable and was instrumental in quelling the attacks of the Illanuns in 1869.

13. 1.1884 Belaga Fort completed.

Fourth Division

Fort Hose was built in Marudi in 1883. Kayan Expeditions and Peace Making Ceremonies were initiated at Fort Hose.

Fifth Division

The original old Fort of Limbang built in 1869 was burnt down in 1989. Today after its rebuilding and renovation it is the Limbang Regional Museum since 1994

Sited on a very strategic hill overlooking the Limbang river, the Fort of Limbang is a two-storeyed wooden building which served first served as a fort against native insurgents and later on used for administrative purposes. The posts, shingles, walls and upper floor of the building are made of belian timber while the ground floor is of concrete.

During the Brooke’s days, half of the ground floor was used as jail while the other half was for storage purposes. The upper floor housed the offices of the Resident and the District Officer and their staff. It was occupied later by Majlis Islam before being converted into a museum.

This Museum displays the history and culture of the people in this region such as bamboo band, salt making, beadwork, bark cloth, brassware, basketry and much more.

1887 Fort Florence established at Trusan.

24 memories:

AlisonBuda said...

Your article on forts in Sarawak is interesting. During the Rajah Brooke's days, it was necessary to fortify a turbulent Sarawak from headhunters, pirates, rebellions, etc. In fact, the forts becomes the nucleus of the major towns now in existence. The fort provides protection and thus Chinese shophouses, Malay Kampungs started to be built around the fort. I have herad of Fort Brooke in Sibu which is no longer in existence. I wonder if anyone knows where the location of the Fort Brooke is. I suspect it must be somewhere along the bank of the Rejang and maybe the present river front (esplanade) or wharves areas. Except for Fort margherita in Kuching, the rest of the fort were built with timber (especially belian) and some of the fort were actually burned down in recent years and rebuilt.

sarawakiana said...

I remember reading an article that it was sited along Race Course Road, but as I have no proper reference, I would not write it as such. And how did it disappear? When? Lots of questions.

AlisonBuda said...

Sarawakiana,

You could be right. Fort Brooke could be at Race Course Road. Judging from your posting on Rev James Hoover, it could be somewhere at the present government offices (where the land and survey and court house is). I will ask older people about it.

sarawakiana said...

However, if the Hoovers lived in Hoover House (now gone), Rev Hoover would walk to the "fort" which could be the "Residency" where Mr. Angking used to live, and it was next to Lau King Howe Hospital. Opposite the Residency was the Nurses' Hostel. Diagonally opposite the Residency was the Rest House. further down the Bridge Road was the Rumah Sakai and then came the Old Mosque and the Muslim Cemetery...this was the beginning of the then
Queensway and Race Course Road. That is where the Government Building and (New) Court House are.

the two cannons pointing towards the confluence of the Igan and Rejang, were in front of the Resident's Office and there was a wharf for Aline, Zahora, and other ships like Soon Bee, Bruas, Rajah Mas, and Pulau Kidjang.

I remember I liked watching the Police lowering the State Flag and blowing the Bugles at sunset. It made me feel very patriotic.

AlisonBuda said...

How about writing about the great fire of Sibu? Every place have such incidents. Remember the great fire of Kuching or even London.

AlisonBuda said...

i dont exactly where fort Brooke is. I was just guessin. very dangerous. Anyway, the best thing to do will be to ask older people.

AlisonBuda said...

If your do a google search, older maps refer to sibu as Fort Brooke. The fort was still in existence before the war, around 1935. Perhaps very old people would know about it.

sarawakiana said...

Hi,
Just read that it was demolished in 1936.

Now I want to know why? Who did it? and what has taken its place...

Lau King Howe Hospital?

Daniel Yiek said...

Nice post. I will be blogging on Sarikei's fort (now gone) in future. I have notes from several sources including some from readers.

sarawakiana said...

Dear Daniel,
How wonderful!! Can I cut and paste your posting ? That would make my posting quite complete. I am interviewing my Kenyah and Kayan colleagues about the fort in Lio Mato. Heard there was one there. My Fort Hose research is getting to be quite lengthy too.
all the best. You really have a great blog. Very energetic and energizing.

Gaharuman said...

http://www.sibu.gov.my/?ruid=1&wpid=30

buschfrank said...

The fort in Belaga had the name off Fort Vyner
Amongbubbenick

sarawakiana said...

thanks for the info.

thanks for visiting my blog.

God bless.

estherlim said...

it's a pity full sight to see that
Fort Alice in Sri Aman is so run down. Visited the fort on 29th May, 2010.
Alison keep up the good work regarding our Sarawak History..

leong said...

I have been following you excellent blog.
I just want to let your readers know I have published a book: The White Rajahs...Myths Retold; the Massacre of the Bau Hakkas.
My aim is to debunk the many Sarawak History fables on the Internet.
For example, James Brooke was "rewarded" the country for putting down a rebellion. History says the Brunei capital was razed to the ground before the Sultan ceded the country to him.
There were many massacres in Sarawak. At Bau, 3,500 men, women and children were decimated for the killing of 4 White souls.
Thousands of natives died defending the country in 200 war expeditions taken against them.
They did not provide any school, road, hospital, electricity, telephone, radio for the Dayaks. In Sarawak time stool still.
That is the reason we do not see any memorials erected by the locals for them. It would only stir up bitter memories. -Desmond Leong

Stenographer said...

Desmond,
sorry it took me so long to reply your comment. Thanks for dropping by. I have migrated to a new blog - Sarawakiana@2.
I hope to be able to buy a copy of your book when I come to Kuching in the near future.

Stenographer said...

Esther,

Thanks for dropping by...

c seligi said...

Did you forget Fort Lubok Antu built in 1868, now renamed Fort Arundell?

c seligi said...

What is the fort at Nanga Meluan called? Is it not Fort Brooke?

c seligi said...

Can you list down all the 200 punitive expeditions by Brooke with their respective dates and brief descriptions?

nordiana talip said...

i have a question about Lily Fort. Are u sure lily fort built in 1858 because in my research, Lily Fort built in 1885. How can i meet many information about Lily Fort n historical background studies about this monument. Thank You

charlie said...

Do you have the information what year fort house in Lio Mato, Baram was build?

charlie said...

Do you have the information what year fort house in Lio Mato, Baram was build?

tonyhii said...

It thr a group or maybe a facebook fanpage that we all can keep in touch and shared our story regarding the fortress all around Sarawak Kingdom here. If yes do invite and if no maybe we start from now. Cheers ��

 

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