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Downing Street, George Town, Penang

Downing Street, George Town. The Standard Chartered Bank Building at Beach Street can be seen in the background.

Downing Street, within George Town's UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located off Beach Street within the city's commercial centre. It runs from west to east, between Beach Street (north of the HSBC Building) and Weld Quay. The street was named after the real Downing Street in London where the British Prime Minister resides.

The land on which Downing Street is located was reclaimed in the late 19th. century. Downing Street was then turned into part of the civic precint of George Town, known as the Government Quadrangle.

Downing Street, George Town, Penang-0

A bilingual Downing Street sign

Unfortunately, the aerial bombardments of George Town during World War 2 wiped out almost all of the colonial administrative buildings along the street. The land on which some of the government offices once stood is now a car park, while more modern buildings, including the Penang General Post Office, were erected along the southern side of the street.

Etymology

10 Downing Street, London

The British Prime Minister lives at 10 Downing Street, London.

Downing Street in George Town was named after the real Downing Street in London. The British Prime Minister has his official residence at 10 Downing Street.

History

Originally, Beach Street served as the eastern coastal road of George Town; on the western side stood commercial buildings, whilst across the street was the eastern shores of the George Town promontory.

Downing Street, George Town, Penang (old)

The colonial administrative buildings along Downing Street created an atmosphere similar to the civic streets of London.

The land on which Downing Street is situated was reclaimed between 1883 and 1889. The reclaimed area bounded by Downing Street, Beach Street, King Edward's Place and Weld Quay was then developed in stages.

Downing Street, George Town, Penang (old 3)

The old Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) Building at the junction between Beach Street and Downing Street. Destroyed by the Japanese during World War 2, it was replaced after the war with the current HSBC Building.

Downing Street formed part of the civic precint of George Town, also known as the Government Quadrangle. The U-shaped Government Offices was built in stages along the northern side of Downing Street between 1889 and 1907, housing the Penang offices of the British East India Company. The western wing of the Government Offices hosted the Land Office, while the eastern wing housed the Penang General Post Office.

Downing Street, George Town, Penang (old 2)

A trolleybus at Downing Street

Also, at the junction between Downing Street and Beach Street, stood the offices of the Chinese Protectorate and the Indian Immigration Depot. Both were in charge of the affairs of Chinese and Indian immigrants respectively.

Downing Street, George Town, Penang (old 4)

The eastern wing of the Government Offices at Downing Street housed the Penang General Post Office. It, too, was destroyed during World War 2.

In addition, several other colonial administrative buildings once stood along Downing Street, such as the Education Department and the Treasury Office.

In 1906, the original Neo-Classical HSBC Building, which featured a domed tower, was completed at the junction between Downing Street and Beach Street. The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) had established its first branch in British Malaya at nearby Beach Street in 1884; the completion of the building enabled HSBC to move into its present premises.

However, almost all of these impressive colonial architecture were destroyed during World War 2. In December 1941, before the Imperial Japanese Army invaded Penang, Japanese warplanes bombed the heart of George Town. Between 1944 and 1945, Allied bombers also bombed the administrative buildings along the street. Consequently, most of the Government Offices was in ruins by war's end.

Penang Islamic Council Building, George Town, Penang

The Penang Islamic Council Building at Beach Street was formerly the western wing of the Government Offices.

The only colonial building still standing around Downing Street is the western wing of the Government Offices. The former Land Office at the junction between Downing Street and Beach Street now serves as the Penang Islamic Council Building.

HSBC Building, George Town, Penang

The current Art-Deco-styled HSBC Building was opened in 1951 by the then British High Commissioner of Malaya, Sir Henry Lovell Goldsworthy Gurney.

The destroyed HSBC Building was replaced with the current HSBC Building. Completed in 1951, it was one of the first buildings to be built in post-war George Town.

Penang General Post Office, Downing Street, George Town, Penang-0

The International-style Bangunan Tuanku Syed Putra was completed in 1962. It now houses the Penang General Post Office.

In 1962, the relatively modern Tuanku Syed Putra Building, which now houses the Penang General Post Office, was completed at the southern side of Downing Street. Meanwhile, the site on which the eastern wing of the Government Offices once stood now serves as a car park.

Notable Landmarks

From west to east :

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)

References

  1. Khoo S.N., 2007. Streets of George Town, Penang. Areca Books, Penang.
  2. http://www.penang-traveltips.com/downing-street.htm

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