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THE TRAIL OF THE WHITE RAJAHS (1841-1941)

Discover the kingdom of the White Rajahs, right here in Kuching!

The evils of piracy and head-hunting were to a large extent stamped out with the arrival of James Brooke, the first of the White Rajahs. Brooke arrived at the mouth of the Sarawak River in his ship, ‘The Royalist’ in 1839 and helped the Sultan quell a local rebellion. In return, the grateful Sultan conferred on him the title Rajah of Sarawak. The institution – backed in the early years by the armed might of the British Royal Navy – lasted until 1941, finally coming to an end with the Japanese invasion.

There were three White Rajahs who ruled for 100 years; James, Charles and Vyner Brooke. James laid much of the groundwork for the expansion of Sarawak. Charles was the great builder both in terms of public buildings such as forts and also in extending the borders of the state. Vyner instituted significant political reforms including ending the absolute rule of the Rajah in 1941 ahead of the Japanese invasion by granting new powers to the Council Negri (the Parliament)

Kuching offers an intriguing hotchpotch of architectural styles. Against the backdrop of the city’s modern skyline, one will find a fusion of distinctive buildings of British colonial style architectures, archaic Chinese temples, perfectly preserved traditional Chinese shop houses and a fascinating selection of Malay style architecture.

A fantastic way to experience the heritage and culture of the place and its people is to navigate the city on foot. One can relive the Brooke era and delve into the nostalgic past by just simply soaking up the fabulous charms of historic buildings which are all within walking distance of each other.

Notable buildings during James Brooke’s reign
- Bishop’s House (1849)
- old State Mosque (1847)
- the Government House (1857)
- the St Thomas Cathedral (1857)
- the Tua Pek Kong temple (pre 1839)

Impressive buildings during Charles Brooke’s reign
- The Astana (1870)
- old Kuching Courthouse (1874)
- Indian Mosque (1876)
- Fort Margherita (1879), named after Ranee Margaret
- Square Tower (1879)
- Kuek Seng Ong Temple (1895)
- The Pavilion (1909)
- old Chinese Court (1912)
- thoroughfares like Carpenter Street, India Street and Rock Road
   emerged by 1870s with similar pathways joining them to Main Bazaar

Significant buildings during Vyner Brooke’s Reign
- General Post Office (1931)
- first cinema named after Ranee Sylvia (1934, demolished in 1966)

Sir James Brooke, the first White Rajah of Sarawak from Sir Charles Brooke, the second White Rajah of Sarawak from 1868-1917
Sir James Brooke, the first White Rajah of Sarawak from 1841-1868
Sir Charles Brooke, the second White Rajah of Sarawak from 1868-1917
Sir Charles Brooke, the second White Rajah of Sarawak from 1868-1917
Sir Charles Vyner Brooke, the third White Rajah of Sarawak from 1917-1946
Sir Charles Vyner Brooke, the third White Rajah of Sarawak from 1917-1946

Where to begin
A good place to kick start exploring the Brooke legacy is the old Kuching Courthouse which was the government administrative centre during the Brooke rule. At a leisurely pace, each trail will take about two hours to complete or longer if one stops to check out sites or catch short rests along the way.

The trail covers the eastern part and the western end of old Kuching town.

Eastern Trail
Buildings featured along this trail are:

  1. old Kuching Courthouse (1868-1900s)
  2. Brooke Memorial (1924)
  3. The Japanese Building (1941 – 1945)
  4. The old Government Treasury and Audit Department (1927) which has been demolished
  5. The Round Tower (1886)
  6. The Pavilion (1909)
  7. Central Post Office (1932)
  8. Guan Thian Siang Ti temple (1889)
  9. Kueh Seng Onn temple (1895)
  10. Tua Pek Kong temple (pre 1839)
  11. Old Chinese Court (1912)
  12. Fort Margherita (1879)
  13. The Astana (1870)
  14. Old Sarawak Steamship Building (c. 1930)
  15. Square Tower (1879)

Western Trail
Buildings featured along this trail are:

  1. Old Markets (1924-1959)
  2. First Sarawak Museum Exhibition Building (c.1889)
  3. Banka Building (1929)
  4. Indian Mosque (1876)
  5. Old Fire Brigade Station (c.1917)
  6. Brooke Dockyard (1912)
  7. Old State Mosque (1965-1967)
  8. Old Railway Station and Maintenance Depot (c.1907)
  9. Old Government Printing Office (1908)
  10. Central Police Station (1930)

- A copy of each trail is available only upon request [click here]

Tips on what to bring when planning to explore the precinct
Light comfortable attire and comfy footwear is strongly recommended. Hats, sunglasses, umbrellas and drinking water are useful items to bring along. During the hot season, sun block is ideal to prevent sun burn.

 


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