Penang Hill is well known as a popular retreat from the stifling humidity of Georgetown. As such, it was a common place for the British to build summer homes during the colonial era. There are several abandoned houses from this period in Malaysia’s history still scattered across the hill. Even the famous derelict Crag Hotel, formerly the Uplands School and abandoned in 1977, still stands. Now largely forgotten, these buildings are slowly decaying and returning to nature.
Location: George Town, Penang
Distance: 4.5km Penang hill to Botanical garden
Difficulty: 1/5 (downhill)
Guidebook: The Rough Guide to Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei (Rough Guides)(2018)
Accommodation: George Town
The particular abandoned house is beside the road running down Penang Hill towards the botanic gardens. Despite being literally next to the road it blends in well with the undergrowth and could easily be missed. A small name plate beside the house says ‘Edgecumbe’. Unfortunately I’ve been able to find no real information about it online.
The two storey house is built above the road, with stone stairs leading up to it. There is a large semi circular garden area at the front facing the road, with a door leading out to it. The main door is around the back of the house. Inside the ground floor the interior walls have been destroyed, but it was possible to make out the outline of several rooms.
Inside, floor tiles were still intact under layers of dirt. Although there is very little in the house, it seems to have largely escaped vandalism. However, when I visited there was evidence of somebody sleeping rough – so caution would be advised when visiting. This is a fairly remote place where you wouldn’t want to run into a confrontational situation.
The stairs to the second level looked pretty solid so I decided to venture up.
The upper floor contains one large room and a large, enclosed balcony. I was actually surprised by how small the house was – I imagined colonial houses to be somewhat larger! The view through the balcony windows – some of which still retained their glass – was spectacular. It was easy to see why this location was picked. It was even possible to pick out the coast of mainland Malaysia.
The structure seems somewhat more intact than other abandoned houses in the area. There is still glass in some windows and the wooden window frames have not yet rotted in the jungle heat and humidity. This makes me think the house may have been abandoned fairly recently. Comparatively, the Crag Hotel (abandoned in 1977) is seriously decaying, with outbuildings partially collapsing.
There are several other abandoned bungalows on Penang Hill, including Convalesence, Fernhill, Woodside and Hillside. Penang Travel Tips has information on two of them. Back in 2014 (before I visited Edgecumbe) these structures were apparently earmarked for ‘upgrades’, and again in 2016. I don’t know whether or not this has happened.
I’d love to find out more information about this house. Who lived here? When was it abandoned? And why? If you know anything about it, please do leave a comment below.