5 July 2015

Kellie's Castle

One of the good things about having visitors is that it inspires us to do more at the weekend.  Ipoh is home to some interesting places to see and things to do.  The other day we decided to explore the famous ‘Kellie’s Castle’. 
Kellie, the Scot

Kellie's Castle, the folly he built outside Ipoh
The ‘castle’ was built by a Scot, William Kellie Smith as a home for his family.  He had come to the British Colony of Malaya in 1890, after some early successes he started a rubber plantation and a tin mining industry.  In 1903 he married a young Scottish lady and brought her back to Malaya.  They lived, initially, in a wooden bungalow called Kellas House after his birthplace.  This was replaced with a new mansion in 1909.

Kellas House, the second mansion, built in 1909

Traces of marble from the bathrooms are still visible
William and his wife Agnes were part of the colonial social scene and wanted very much to be respected and seen as the leaders of local society.  William loved cars and had 4, a huge and expensive luxury at the time.  In 1915 his son was born and William wanted to build him a house that would cement his place in society. 

The 'castle' was built next to the old house (foundations for the original
bungalow can still be seen).
The castle was never lived in but would have been furnished somewhat like this
The house was something else, built next door to the Kellas House mansion it was to have boasted a 6 story tower, a wine cellar with storage for 3,000 bottles, escape tunnels, a family altar, an indoor tennis court  and the first ever lift in Malaya.  It was built in an eclectic fusion of styles combining Scottish and Indian architecture.  70 men were brought over from India to build the house, William allowed them to build a temple near to the house where they erected a statue of William on the roof of their temple as thanks.  William died on a trip back to Europe to buy the lift before the house could be completed and his wife and children left Malaya never to return. 

The rooms are unfinished, only bats, birds and plants live here
Kellas House started to decay, these days the roof has fallen in and the walls have to be propped up to prevent them from collapsing.  Vestiges of former comfort such as the tiles in the bathroom are still visible. The ‘castle’ is in much better condition but it was never completed.  Many of the rooms are no more than bare bricks while others have some plaster and finishing touches in place.  The lift was never installed.  The windows frame spectacular views over the local countryside and it is possible to see the foundations of the original wooden bungalow next to the remains of Kellas House. 

The windows frame beautiful views across the countryside
The whole site is incredibly melancholy and very sad.  It is said that William’s ghost walks the halls but of course he never lived in the house and did not die there.  If there are ghosts they are more likely to be of the poor souls who are rumoured to have been massacred in the tunnels under the property during the Japanese occupation in the Second World War.
The whole site is rather sombre 
Crowds of tourists enjoy the roof terrace designed to host elegant
society soirées 
All that aside the ‘castle’ is an interesting piece of local history and an enjoyable afternoon out and about.  

Click on the picture for more posts on life in Ipoh.

Ersatz Expat

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