Archaeologists discover foundation of 19th Century police station at Sia Boey


Archaeologists working at the Sia Boey site have discovered the remnants of an old police barracks or station near the old entrance to the Prangin Canal from the sea.

The station is believed to have been in existence in the 1880s.

The foundation of the building made of red bricks was unearthed at one of two sites at Sia Boey that a team of USM archaeologists were focusing on.

They have also found hundreds of Chinese and European ceramic sherds, olds coins resembling those used by the British North Borneo Company, earthenware, animal remains and a wooden bollard.

Archeological findings at Sia Boey.

The site is proving to be a rich archaeological and historical site. The discovery of the police station comes on the heels of an unexpected discovery of an old canal built by the British colonial administrators of George Town during a Prangin Canal improvement project undertaken by PDC.

Archeological findings at Sia Boey.

This is what the area looked like in the old days:

Prangin Canal Sia Boey 1830

Don’t forget the pillars from that old bridge are still there:

Sia Boey historical discoveries

Check out this row of derelict yet somehow regal-looking shophouses that stand with dignity despite bearing the scars of time:

More Sia Boey historical discoveries.

Unfortunately, the state government wants to put a massive transport hub in this area. I hear Unesco has been alerted about this development and they are not amused by this plan, and now the National Heritage Department (Jabatan Warisan Negara) is stepping in to assess the situation.

It was only last year that the state government had earmarked the area for a heritage and arts district and entrusted the project to the Penang Development Corporation to undertake. With these discoveries, Sia Boey has become all the more significant from a historical perspective and should be preserved as earlier planned.

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A transport hub at Sia Boey would not be necessary under the Better, Cheaper, Faster framework put forward by Penang Forum. For instance, the cast iron structure of the old Sia Boey market could be used as a tram station.

And one of the old buildings, with a tree growing atop the building, its air roots, dangling inside the building, could be used as a unique and enchanting museum.

Archeological findings at Sia Boey.

Save Sia Boey! More photos can be found here.

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  1. But swollen-headed Guan Eng, glaringly displaying his “tokong” side, thundered:

    “Who gave you the authority to open to the public when you haven’t got all the findings done?”

    to express his unhappiness over the “unauthorised” public briefing on extraordinary new archaeological discoveries made at the historic Sia Boey enclave in the Prangin area.

    I would have expected him to be happy that there was another treasure throve of Penang’s once-lost historical artifects which adds richly to the heritage of the state. I hope his point about “Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) conducting the archaeological research under the authority of Penang Development Corporation” is not to cover up his disappointment that his “wonderful” plans to plunk a transport hub on top of Sia Boey may now be sunk.

    CM: Archaeological find in George Town still ‘closed to public’

    • LGE tweeted: Pg heritage NGOs shld not fall into trap of The Star n BN media 2b used 2unfairly malign me when even reporters confirm I never scolded ngos

  2. anil you mean to welcome thousands to walk over the site, touch, dig and taking a chunk of brick like berlin wall? this include dogs, cats, cows, goats to roam? even public places have certain opening hours and close down for cleaning.

  3. Penang may soon be ruled by decree. CAT decree to be precise.
    It may be a simple matter of a public visit to an archaeological site, but the manner of rebuking such a visit (for the benefits of Penangites) by the public is totally uncalled for. More so if compared to who should be in the first-know of things such as what has been discovered at Sia Boey. So to say, “I should be informed first” . What an Absolute Vodka Arrogance of the 1st Class!
    Anil, keep up your good works (one of a kind) for the public benefits. We are behind you. Absolute Vodka Arrogance has no place of decent respect in Penang. More so for those in a tenure of 4-short years, not 9-lives term!

      • Looting?
        I think it is more of a concern of what UNESCO heritage committee will learn about our recent discoveries & may extend more zones to cover Sia Boey. Bye bye to Cosmopolitan Frenzies of Developer Association of Penang.
        Do expect emotional cries of compensation (to developers) from high up in Komtar Tower of Bogieman Compensations!!!

  4. Future revelations via public visits & media disclosures of Penang heritage sites sitting on gomen lands must get CAT permission? Are there state secrets to protect or is it something to do with the kind of ‘new’ development not to be questioned by the public?
    Now, who exactly owns Penang? Penangites or Venerable (Still) Arrogant Niao Kong?
    Is the state gomen getting more & more info phobic? Kia Su is one bad thing, ‘kedekut’ of public access to heritage assets is another.
    Is this a precedence to ‘barricade’ future state development esp. those on state goemn lands?
    Q: Anil, has this to do (retaliation) with your ‘watch dog’ role in the Pg Transport Council? Just asking, nothing ulterior.

    • The discoveries have basically scuttled the state government’s plan to turn Sia Boey into a massive transport hub. So that explains their fury.

      But Sia Boey is public property now. It does not belong to any one individual or group. So barricading it is a self-defeating exercise.

      • One good thing is USM researchers are not paid by Komtar regime.
        Antiquities & archaeological finds are priceless national treasures, not properties of state gomen or anybody with a fury.
        Since these treasures surface at this time, it may have a purpose – to remind us not to treat cultural & historical assets with disdain i.e. to be sold or swapped for quickie money-making dealings. We don’t need to go down the slippery path of the SingLanders frantically buying genuine Asian treasures from others to put them in their spiky-clean museums & later quietly endorse them as theirs!!! What a national shame!

      • USM thinks the place is own by their father anddo as what they like. Of course while doing their work, rakyat has their right to trample the site. You do yours and rakyat do theirs.

      • Anil better learn from HK mrt. In sha tin to central mrt line,the contractors found relics dated back to song dynasty. They preserve the main site and relocate the items as hk Gomen thinks it uneconomical. In an existing station to China border they have preserved a historical digging with glass floor but such historical items become stale and taken for granted after trying to sensation the headlines.

        The site apart from old bricks and walls, any historical events? Go and tell the englanders how historical is the place. they will just laughters as UK has many beautiful and well preserved buildings dated 1800s. further pudu jail has more historical events and unique structure. What happen how? It is in a waste land. Totally dead but many stories to tell like botak chin singing the national anthem before he died.

      • Zoro,
        If you go to Quangzhou famous pedestrian cum shopping street they preserve and showcase the street condition from as far back to Song Dynasty, with glass panel over it.

        Likewise, with creativity the LRT or Tram station can still be built at this Sia Boey site with visitors still able to witness the past while taking escalator up to the elevated platform.

    • Instead of transport hub, the place could be turned into Sia Boey historical Museum, that can attract British pilgrims (tourist dollars/£) seeking their forefathers’ colonial past in Penang.

    • This is just a small plot of land. I suggest bigger area in the surrounding land be excavated. Possibly Japan WW2 Yamashita Gold could be lying somewhere!

  5. pic drawn with many boats lying on the bank. prangin must be very big. who is the person reclaim and now made it into a big longang. this guy is worst than present day gomen. reclam so much land and make the river like a longkang. why we condemn his greedy act to develop the village and turn into city of penang?

  6. anil what did national heritage going to do? assess only? means look and see only like everyone wants to have a look and go home to sleep?
    what is the history like why it was demolished and life thereatfer?

    • National Heritage Dept unlikely to be interested in relics not related to nusantara history. Sejarah syllabus is already playing down the significance of colonial presence.

      • It is a former British police post, not Bukit Kepong police station. So Arkib Negara has no interest.

  7. Alicia Wikander is the next Lara Croft of Tomb Raider. A uprising movie star. Tourism chief of Penang Danny Law should get her (no need via JhoLow) to spend just 2 days and snap a photo drinking Penang KopiO at SiaBoey ruins. Alicia has tonnes of followers on Twitter, instagram, facebook and the impact would be great like what Angelina Jolie the ex Lara Croft has done to Cambodia Angkor Thom.
    Think out of box!

  8. Alicia Wikander is the next Lara Croft of Tomb Raider. A uprising movie star. Tourism chief of Penang Danny Law should get her (no need via I go Low) to spend just 2 days and snap a photo drinking Penang KopiO at SiaBoey ruins. Alicia has tonnes of followers on Twitter, instagram, facebook and the impact would be great like what Angelina Jolie the ex Lara Croft has done to Cambodia Angkor Thom.
    Think out of box!

  9. Sia Boey holds a historical venue of conflict during the race riots of the 60s.
    It was curfew time & everyone stayed indoor except for the cats & dogs. Staying next to Craven A Cafe near the round about (Goh Pha Teng), I witnessed from my shophouse window, shots of tear gas & columns of white smokes rising from the Sia Boey round about filled with election flags of political parties. Then Gladstone Road (now buried under Komtar) was a straight line of sight from Macalister Road to Sia Boey & I was able to witness the fierce clash between the Ang Thau Peng (FRU) & people at the Sia Boey roundabout.
    Want to know in details what actually happened on that day at the Sia Boey round about?
    Go conjuring the wandering ghosts of the past & especially so on the 15th day of 7th Lunar Month!

  10. So how now? If I remember correctly the plan to turn the Wembley park area into a garden within the city has been scrapped and replaced by hotels. Every corner of Penang is turning into concrete jungle

      • Open lands = more swap deals!
        Blame the Feds for no more development money. No other options but to just blame to justify swap deals.
        Where is the thinking out of the CAT Box of Pandoras?

      • dap~ dumb action party. they cant think out of CAT.
        show dap how to think out of cat. otherwise birds of same feather

      • Already, CAT doesn’t want Penangites to access & know about historical Sia Boey Heritage even at this stage of archaeological discovery, which is exciting news. How to contribute meaningfully to their secretive CAT Box of Pandoras???

      • LGE not Penang born, so is Chow. May be they have no emotional link like true breed locals?
        Most developers children have the privileges to earn $ here, then send their children overseas, and if Penang is concrete decay then their next of kin got the $ to settle down elsewhere with greenest pasture?

        We can’t blame many locals, as they daily think of how to survive by day or by month as be-end regime has made majority poorer by day with high cost of living with depreciating ringgit and corrupting matters.

      • Possibly lots of artifacts underneath the present site of Komtar and Prangin Mall too?

      • dap is oredi dumb action party but there is more dumb when one suggest thinking out of cat but no answer to that and avoid the question

  11. Allow a little imagination:
    the cast iron structure of the old Sia Boey market could be used as tram station. An old world charm station that can attract not only commuters, tourists, photographers, but also film makers like Harry Porter’s.

    And one of the old buildings, with a tree growing on the building, its air roots, dangling inside the building, could be turned into a unique and enchanting museum. This is one way to turn George Town into a rainforest garden city which not only cools the air but also helps to absorb acidic CO2 from motorised vehicles. Nevermind if that old tree attracts kuntilanaks which could help deter midnight vandalism. (go look at the Hin Bus Station in Jalan Gurdwara)

    One more suggestion – refurbish that canal into a Koi pond complemented by aquaponics (growing of green vege using fish pond mineralised water). Families can enjoy looking at the Koi & also buy fresh vege without chem.

    Recreate that 19th century police station with authentic-attired policemen (beefy Bengali ones) as a tourist attraction. Wanna put in lock-up? Just pay a fee for an overnight stay completed with a morning breakfast of boiled egg, buttered bread & Kopi-O kau kau!

    Old world charm with new paradigm thinking of forest garden in urban planning.

    • Tunglang’s suggested masterplan could incorporate Kong Thai Lai kopitiam to enhance the old charm. Then old can sip Kopi and reminiscing the good old days!

      • How about sipping hot Kopi-O kau kau under the shade of Banyan tree (like the one in the pic) & sharing good oldie times in George Town? No stress, no worries, but serenity while watching the hurried traffic & people pass by.
        Talking about stress, if one doesn’t steal, no undue stress lah.
        Even if one secretly receives donation, some amount of stress is inevitable when others start questioning.
        Stress is a part of life, but the nature of stress is one’s doing.

  12. Should not have let them dig from the first place so that the beauty of the site could be preserved with giant trees hiding the history. So Netto please open your mind for the development of the state to turn into the Paradise of the Orient.

    • I don’t think any trees were felled during the digs, and the digs were confined to two spots.

    • China thru digging found many dynastic treasures. Likewise, probably can discover Francis Light memorabilia underneath SiaBoey. USM archaeology department being alerted by this posting?

      • How about digging Madame Pykett’s estate?
        Who knows what could be unearthed from the ruins (of a once majestic bungalow). Thai massage bed & aromatic oil in Paris parfume bottle? Or Madame’s mirror which stored the daily life history of that bungalow?

      • I believe regime Umno during Gerakan era did not like any historical references to colonial rule, thus USM has been quiet on this matter. Do not forget during BN era many roads in Penang bearing English names are renamed.

      • Very true. Do you know why the dragon boat’s huge dragon heads were modified to miniature version of the former? Streamlining the head for competitive edge is one thing which makes no great difference to achieve world records. The dragon head spoke too loudly of Chinese culture!
        Row, row, row your boats,
        Dragon heads too big.
        Reduce it, Reduce it, Reduce it, Reduce it,
        Now, that comforts me!

    • cost from thousand turn to million and million into billions. who is going to pay contractor who has now start work all over again. same with architect and engrs who spent months to prepare the drawings. no problem if tax payers foot the bill.


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