Penang to show off restored 200-year-old cannons at Fort Cornwallis

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow (fifth from left) takes a look at one of two 200-year-old cannons dug up from Fort Cornwallis at Universiti Sains Malaysia May 10, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow (fifth from left) takes a look at one of two 200-year-old cannons dug up from Fort Cornwallis at Universiti Sains Malaysia May 10, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, May 10 — A pair of 200-year-old cannons dug up from Fort Cornwallis here will be returned to the outpost for public display now that they are fully restored.

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow also proposed opening up sections of the excavation site for public viewing.

“This is an opportunity to open up for the people to see the restored cannons while also being able to observe the excavation and other works done onsite,” he a press conference to announce the completed conservation of the two cannons today.

He said the matter will be handled by the Chief Minister Incorporated as the site owner, and the concession company managing the fort.

The state government, through George Town World Heritage Incorporated, had allocated a total RM32,100 for the conservation of the two cannons.

Universiti Sains Malaysia’s (USM) Centre for Global Archaeological Research (CGAR) director and archaeologist Datuk Mokhtar Saidin said a third cannon and a mortar were also found during excavation works at the fort.

“Conservation for the cannon and mortar will start next month and it will take about a year to complete, depending on the conditions,” he said.

He said the cannons and mortar dated back to about 200 years ago during the King George III era.

He said the restored cannons were best displayed where they were found, at the fort.

“We have officially handed over the cannons back to the state government so they can take it there anytime from today,” he said.

The third cannon and one mortar were still at the excavation site, but Mokhtar said those will be taken to USM for conservation soon.

Chow said Chief Minister Incorporated will be funding the conservation of the third cannon and mortar.

Mokhtar said historical records showed that there were about 140 cannons and mortars at Fort Cornwallis but only 24 were accounted for.

A total 17 cannons were already on display around the grounds of the fort, three were placed at the entrance of the E&O Hotel and four were the cannons and mortar found during excavation works.

Mokhtar said the excavation and archaeological works at the fort, especially at the moat, proved that the fort was used as an actual fort historically.

He said there were theories that the Fort Cornwallis was not “an actual fort” as it was too small to be one but the discovery of used and live ammunition during excavation works at the site proved otherwise.

“We found ammunition casing so this proved that the fort was an actual fort used by the British,” he said.

He said the excavation works for the moat also revealed an interesting stratigraphy where there was a “British layer”, a “Japanese layer” and a “modern layer”.

“These are the historical layers of the fort and its uses from the British era to the Japanese Occupation to modern times so I hope the state will consider displaying these different layers of history of the fort,” he said.

USM’s CAGR has been a consultant in the excavation and archaeological works at the fort since 2017.

Mokhtar said the moat structure was discovered during excavation works and that a trolley track used by the Japanese was also discovered at the fort.

Fort Cornwallis is now undergoing conservation works as part of the North Seafront project undertaken by George Town Conservation and Development Corporation.