Fort Cornwallis Lighthouse, George Town, Penang (2)

The Fort Cornwallis Lighthouse, one of the oldest lighthouses in Malaysia and the only one made of steel.

The Fort Cornwallis Lighthouse is a 21-metre tall steel lighthouse at the northeastern corner of Fort Cornwallis within George Town's UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built in 1882 by the British, it is also Malaysia's second oldest lighthouse.

With a visual distance of 16 nautical miles (29.6 kilometres), the lighthouse was used to signal the arrival of mail ships and the descent of the Governor or other dignitaries from the top of Penang Hill, as well as to signal incoming ships.


Fort Cornwallis, George Town, Penang (old)

An old picture of Fort Cornwallis, with the lighthouse visible to the right.

The lighthouse was erected by British authorities in 1882 and was then named the Fort Point Lighthouse. It cost £10,,224 (British pound sterling) to construct.

Fort Cornwallis Lighthouse, George Town, Penang (1940s)

A 1940s picture of the Fort Cornwallis Lighthouse.

The lighthouse was the fourth to be constructed in British Malaya, after the Cape Rachado Lighthouse in Malacca, and both the Raffles Lighthouse and Horsburgh Lighthouse off Singapore. Unlike other lighthouses in Malaysia, the 21-metre tall lighthouse within Fort Cornwallis was made of steel.

During British colonial rule, an adjacent flagstaff was used to announce the arrival of mail ships, or the descent of the Governor or other dignitaries from the peak of Penang Hill. The Union Jack would be raised for these occasions.

Meanwhile, the harbour light was also utilised to signal incoming ships.

The lighthouse was renovated twice - in 1914 and in 1928. After its renovation in 1914, the lighthouse was renamed the Penang Harbour Lighthouse.


  2. Alexander, J, 2006. Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore. New Holland Publishers, London.