Church Street Ghaut, George Town, Penang

Church Street Ghaut, George Town

Church Street Ghaut, within George Town's UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a seaward extension of Church Street. It continues from the eastern end of Church Street, linking Beach Street to the west with Weld Quay to the east.

The street was created in the late 19th. century, when the area was reclaimed from the sea. It used to be part of George Town's bustling seafront, where warehouses and a distillery operated. At the time, the Church Street Pier at the seafront end of Church Street Ghaut was also lined with vessels of varying sizes, as well as ferry steamers that transported passengers and cars between George Town and the mainland.

Church Street Ghaut sign, George Town, Penang

A bilingual Church Street Ghaut sign

Today, Church Street Ghaut comes alive every Sunday, when the Occupy Beach Street event is held.


Similar to the adjoining Church Street, Church Street Ghaut was named after the Catholic church built by Father Arnaud-Antoine Garnault upon his arrival in George Town in the late 18th. century. At the time, the church was also known as the Portuguese church, due to its Portuguese Eurasian congregation.

All streets that were extended towards the sea have the word 'ghaut', which means a flight of steps leading down into the sea. A common feature along India's rivers, ghauts were constructed to allow the offloading of a ship's cargo.

A distillery used to exist along the street, giving it its Hokkien nickname - Chiu1 long33 Lor33 thau2 (meaning the beginning of the distillery). In addition, the street was also known as Ghee Hin Kay Lor Thau in and Yi Hin Kai Lo Thau in Penang Hokkien and Cantonese respectively, both meaning 'the start of Ghee Hin Street'. At the time, Ghee Hin, a major Chinese secret society, had its headquarters at the adjoining Church Street.


Old map of George Town, Penang

Church Street appeared in this 1798 map of George Town.

The adjoining Church Street, created in the 1790s, was one of the earlier streets to be laid out in George Town. At the time, Beach Street served as the coastal road, with its eastern side stretching along George Town's eastern seafront.

It was only in the 1870s that the area around Church Street Ghaut was created through land reclamation. Land off the eastern shores of Beach Street was reclaimed so as to have a deep-water port for steamships. In addition, the reclaimed land could be used for warehouses, as by then, most of George Town had already been developed, leaving little land to spare.

Church Street Pier, George Town, Penang (1930)

Church Street Pier, off Church Street Ghaut, in the 1930s

Indeed, Church Street Ghaut was where warehouses were then situated, with direct access to Weld Quay where sampans, steamships and other vessels of various sizes were docked. Church Street Pier at the eastern end of Church Street Ghaut was also used for ferry services which transported people and goods between George Town and the mainland Malay Peninsula.

Church Street Pier, George Town, Penang

Church Street Pier today, as part of the now disused Tanjong City Marina, which has been abandoned since 2011 due to its sinking berths.

With the decline of the Port of Penang in recent decades, the warehouses have been left abandoned and Church Street Ghaut has turned into a quieter shadow of its bustling past. Even Church Street Pier, which was renovated by the Malaysian federal government as part of the new Tanjong City Marina in the 2000s, has become somewhat silent, exacerbated by the marina's eventual failure in 2011 that led to its sinking.

Occupy Beach Street

Occupy Beach Street, George Town, Penang-0

Kids' activities at Church Street Ghaut during the Occupy Beach Street event.

Occupy Beach Street is a weekly event in which a stretch of Beach Street between Church Street and Downing Street, along with Church Street Ghaut, Church Street and Bishop Street, are closed to cars and lined with various recreational activities for pedestrians. This initiative by the Penang state government is in conjunction with the car-free day every Sunday.

During the weekly event, Church Street Ghaut, as the games section, caters more to children.

Political Representation

Penang State Government

N.26 Padang Kota State Assemblyman : Chow Kon Yeow (Democratic Action Party)

Malaysian Federal Parliament

P.049 Tanjong Member of Parliament : Ng Wei Aik (Democratic Action Party)


  1. Khoo S.N., 2007. Streets of George Town, Penang. Areca Books, Penang.

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