Friday, November 27, 2015

Traces of British Colonial Presence on Bengkulu Soil

Last updated: Sep 6th 2018

Bencoolen (now Bengkulu) was one of British colonies in Sumatra. The colonial history of Bengkulu covers the history of European settlements from the start of colonization of Bengkulu in 18th century until Bengkulu integration into Indonesia in 1945. Several British colonial era buildings remain in Bengkulu that will give you greater insight into the former British colonial presence in Bengkulu:

The Fort Marlborough - Breathtaking 18th Century Military Fort
Fort Marlborough is the oldest British surviving building in Bengkulu and now a museum. Located on the shore of Tapak Paderi beach in the city of Bengkulu - Indonesia, the Fort Marlborough is an impressive and well-maintained piece of the colonial history of Bengkulu. This star-shaped fort is definitely worth a visit if you are in Bengkulu.

The Fort Marlborough main gate
The construction of the Fort Marlborough began in 1714 after the abandonment of the Fort York. The fort's construction was conducted under the administration of the Governor of British Bencoolen Joseph Collet. Under British control the fort was used as an EIC trading post and a military base to protect British interests on the West Coast of Sumatra. From 1714 to 1945, possession of the fort had changed several times, amongst four different governments: the Kingdom of Great Britain (1714 – 1824), the Kingdom of France (1760), the Kingdom of the Netherlands (1824 – 1942), the Empire of Japan (1942 – 1945), and the Republic of Indonesia (1945 – present). After hundreds of years of continuous military possession, the fort was deactivated in the late 1980s.

Now, the fort serves as a tourist attraction, museum, and research center. The fort is open daily from 8 a.m - 6 p.m, visitor admission is Rp. 5,000 (about US$ 0.33) for adults and Rp 3,000 (about US$ 0.20) for children (Sep 2018). Click here for more information and photos of the Fort Marlborough!. Or click here to show you exact location of the fort on Google Maps!

The Thomas Parr Monument - In Memory of an Assassinated British Bencoolen Governor

The Thomas Parr monument
The city of Bengkulu has a number of British reminders, including the Thomas Parr Monument which locally known as Tugu Thomas Parr or Tugu Bulek (the Round Monument). The monument was established in 1808 by the British government as for the remembrance of the death of an assassinated British governor in Bencoolen, Thomas Parr. 

Thomas Parr was the son of Dublin-born Lieut-Col. John Parr, 20th regiment of foot, and Sarah Walmesley. The Parr administration of Bencoolen (now known as Bengkulu) was only from April 1805 to December 1807. He was assassinated at night by local fighters on December 23rd, 1807 in his home at Mount Felix. The assassination of Governor Parr was a testament to their refusal to accept colonialism and their defense of their land and rights. Governor Parr was buried within the Fort Marlborough at the Ravelin.

This octagon-shaped monument stands on an area of area of 70 square meters (753 sq ft) and it has a height of 13.5 meters (44 feet). The monument is composed of three arched doorways, a doom and six Corinthian columns in reference to ancient Rome and Greece. The monument is very close from Fort Marlborough, no entrance fee.

Location: at the meeting point of Jl. Ahmad Yani and Jl. Mazairi, in front of the Pasar Baru Koto - Bengkulu. Jl. is abbreviation of jalan which in English means street or road, sometimes written as Jln. Click here to find the location of the monument on Google Maps!

The British Cemetery - The Colonists Endured Hard Times and Great Strife in Bencoolen
The graves in the British Cemetery (Indonesian: Makam Inggris) in Bengkulu are pieces of history that will tell us about bitter conditions and experiences linked to the British East India Company and deaths of hundreds of British Bencoolen inhabitants who were affected by the Bencoolen resistance movements and fatal diseases during the British colonial rule in Bencoolen (now known as Bengkulu).

The remains of British residents who once lived and died in Bencoolen
This site, less than a kilometer east of the Fort Marlborough, was selected by British colonial government as a cemetery location not only to host the graves of British soldiers who fell in the vicinity of various Bencoolen battlefields but also to host the graves of British Bencoolen inhabitants who died from malaria and diarrheal diseases. During the 17th and 18th century, several diseases like malaria, cholera and dysentery were major problems in Bengkulu. These diseases killed more British Bencoolen inhabitants in the 18th century than those that died on the battlefields in Bencoolen.

Although hundreds of British inhabitants died and might be buried in the British cemetery, only a total of 53 graves (the BP3 Jambi report records 128 graves) with some of them unmarked can be found in the British cemetery to this day. When the Dutch controlled Bengkulu, after the Anglo-Dutch treaty signed in 1824, the British cemetery was reused by the Dutch colonial rule as a Dutch burial site. Click here for more detailed information and photos of the British Cemetery.

Location: the cemetery is located at Jl. Veteran or Jl. Rejamat, kelurahan Jitra, kecamatan Teluk Segara Bengkulu. Right behind the gereja HKBP (the Batak Protestant church), across from the Bencoolen coffee house. Show the British Cemetery location on Google Maps.

The Robert Hamilton Monument - Telling Stories of a Time Long Gone

About 2 km from the Fort Marlborough, there is another architectural reminder of former British colonial, the Robert Hamilton Monument (Indonesian: Tugu Robert Hamilton).  This monument is one of the oldest surviving buildings built by British colonial government in Bengkulu. The monument was erected to honor and in memory of Captain Robert Hamilton who died on the 15th of December 1793.

In memory of Captain Robert Hamilton
There is an inscription on the monument wall that says,
"Underneath this obelisk are interred 
the Remains of 
who died on the 15th of Dec' 1793 
at the Age of 38 Years 
in the Command of the Troops 
Second Member of the Government"

Location: at the meeting point of Jl. M. Hasan and Jl. Iskandar, near the Pasar Tebek cemetery, Pasar Melintang – Bengkulu. Jl. is abbreviation of jalan which in English means street or road, sometimes written as Jln. Show the monument location on Google Maps.

 This article to be continued...

Photos by Adriansyah Putera and Peter Kimball


  1. great blog, thank you for telling us the history

    1. Thanks for your visit and nice comment. I greatly appreciate it.