LAST_UPDATEMon, 18 Jun 2018 1pm

One Of Oldest English School In Southeast Asia Bestowed Heritage Status

Pic: BernamaPic: BernamaGEORGE TOWN: One of the oldest English medium schools in Southeast Asia, the 202-year-old Penang Free School (PFS), has been bestowed heritage status by the National Heritage Department.

PFS board of governors chairman Datuk Abdul Rafique Abdul Karim said he was informed of the development on Feb 2, when one of the Old Frees called him up to share the good news.

He said it was a great achievement for the school, which was also the alma mater of many key figures of the nation's history, to be accorded the heritage status.

"This is definitely a proud moment for us, the Old Frees, and everyone who made this a success. I was made to understand that the National Heritage Department will send an official letter on the matter to the school soon," he told Bernama.

He said any renovation or additional alteration needed to abide by the heritage guidelines.

On Feb 2, the National Heritage Department declared the school, built on an eight-hectare land located in Jalan Masjid Negeri here as a national heritage site, alongside Masjid Alwi in Kangar, Perlis.

The notice of designation of the site as heritage site was dated Jan 18 and undersigned by Heritage Commissioner Datuk Dr Zainah Ibrahim for ‘Lot 2738, Section 6, Penang Free School, George Town’, which is owned by the Federal Land Commissioner.

The notice states that the commissioner received no objection against the designation and the consent of the state authority under Section 30 of the National Heritage Act 2005 was also obtained.

Abdul Rafique expressed gratitude over the federal government’s approval of a RM4 million grant for the school to carry out maintenance works and preserve its old colonial building before its bicentennial celebration in 2016.

"The grant allows us to upgrade the school with new paint, piping and wiring and also to replace the rotten beam," he said.

The school was first founded by Rev Robert Sparke Hutchings at Love Lane on Oct 21, 1816, before it was moved to Farquhar Street and later to its current location in Jalan Masjid Negeri (formerly Green Lane).

Many luminaries had walked through the PFS aisles as children, namely the Raja Perlis and former Yang Di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin; first prime minister and the man who led the country to independence, Tunku Abdul Rahman; late actor, singer, director, composer, Tan Sri P. Ramlee; Penang's second chief minister Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu; the first chief justice of Singapore, Wee Chong Jin; and, former DRB Hicom Bhd managing director, Tan Sri Mohd Khamil Jamil.