A Grand Home for a Tin Mining Elephant
The photograph shows the view from the gate of the Matang Historical Complex which was originally Ngah Ibrahim’s fort built in 1865. It was initially simply a home for Ngah Ibrahim, who after his elephant went tin mining became a powerful and wealthy tin miner, but he fortified it to save himself from the Chinese triads of the Ghee Hin and Hai San who eventually went to war over tin mining rights and inadvertently brought the British to Perak.
Richer than the Sultan of Perak, he was appointed by the Sultan as Minister of Larut, but became involved in the plot against J W W Birch the British Resident, was charged with murder, found guilty and banished to the Seychelles. He was never permitted to return to Perak and died in Singapore in 1877. You may remember that his remains were found in a grave in Singapore in 2006, brought back to Perak and buried at his fort. Rightly or wrongly he had returned home.
The building has had many roles over the years: tax office and collection centre for the Larut tin trade; as a court to try Dato Maharaja Lela and Si Puntum for the murder of J W W Birch; the Matang primary school; and the first Malayan Teachers’ Training College, among others. Today the site is the Matang Historical Complex under the management of the Museum and Antiquities Department, proudly displaying that elephant.
Do visit the complex at some stage it really is very interesting and just next door is Captain Speedy’s house. Captain Speedy was of course the Perak Chief of Police in 1873 and appointed Assistant British Resident of Perak when the Pangkor Treaty was signed on the 20th January 1874.