Not by Hubback: Istana Mahkota Puri, Klang
Sultan Abdul Samad may have declined the 'Istana' offered to him on Bukit Nanas in preference for Jugra, but apparently some time in 1892, he had expressed his wish to have an Istana at Kuala Lumpur's Petaling Hill. Plans had actually been drawn up between 1892-1893 but for some reason the project did not follow through - it was called off in 1894. The proposal was briefly picked up again when Raja Bot bin Raja Jumaat wrote to the British administrators about it in December 1897. It was however unfortunate that the 93-year-old Sultan held his last breath not long after, on 6 February 1898. One would have thought that his predecessor, Raja Suleiman, would have pushed through the Petaling Hill Istana project. However, taking the reign as Sultan Alaeddin Suleiman Shah, the grandson of Sultan Abdul Samad informed the State Council that he preferred for his seat to be in Klang instead of Jugra or Kuala Lumpur.
The Istana site that could have been. This 1893 map shows the boundary of the +/-25-acre Istana reserve on Petaling Hill. Sultan Abdul Samad selected the site himself after a recce visit with Raja Laut, Raja Muda, Raja Bot and Capitan China Yap Kwan Seng (exact date to be determined). Note that the Istana built for him on Bukit Nanas in 1889 had been occupied by Selangor Museum since 1891. Lot 32 was taken up by Yap Hon Chin for his mansion, completed in 1897 (today the site of Chin Woo Stadium).
I hardly think that Raja Bot is the right person to raise this question. He is a little too much inclined to put himself forward.
2. What are your views? I think there should be an Astana Raja of a moderate size so that the Sultan will make it his home. I should be in favour of a house of Malay style, furnished in Malay style where Malays and not Europeans can be suitably entertained.
11.5.1898 s/o FAS (Swettenham)
2. I was not aware of the existence of this paper but since my return to Selangor I have had two interviews with the Sultan and incidentally have discussed the question of his future abode with him.
3. He is at present living in Tengku Dia udin’s house at Klang & has expressed the wish - with which I concur – to make Klang his headquarters, as about the most central point in the State from a Malay point of view. I have not yet discussed the kind of Astana he wld prefer, but, if you will return this paper, in the course of next week.
13.5.98 s/o JR (Rodger)
Siting the New Istana
Sultan Alaeddin found Klang’s fort too cramped for a palace site and the existing Malay graves there wasn’t much of a pull to him either. A 25-acre area along Langat Road was deemed suitable. With that site in mind, plans for Klang's new palace was announced in the papers in October 1898. However, as you know, land matters are not always straight forward and so a new location had to be agreed upon. It was only by March 1899 that a final site was selected on a hill overlooking Klang’s recreation ground. The whole hill bounded by Club Road and Jalan Rajah were to be grounds of the new Istana Selangor.
Klang in 1928. Istana Mahkota Puri highlighted in yellow. Source: University of Leiden
...H.H informs me that he only wants a house for himself & family & that he is willing to accept any house that the Govt. are willing to erect for him... 28.7.1898, District Officer of Klang (v).
Selangor PWD’s Project Team
With the site selection finalised, State Engineer Charles Edward Spooner took upon the task to conceive the new Istana. His former Chief Draughtsman cum Assistant Architect, AB Hubback, was no longer in the picture, having resigned in December 1897. In his place was Thomas Plowman Hangling King, assisted by the very competent Draughtsman B. Ramakristna Row. Row was reportedly much more present compared to King (refer to our earlier entry), so we imagine him working closely with Spooner on the Istana proposal, developing the design details and estimates. AC Norman was also part of the project team, presumably involved in the civil/structural works as he was attached to the Engineering Department as the District Engineer of KL by then. Initial design proposals and estimates were ready by July 1899.
Proof of B. Ramakristna Row's involvement in the Klang Istana project. The 19 July 1899 estimates reached $60 000. [Astana without buildings, total $30000: Stables $20000; Furniture & fittings $5000; Site clearance and approach road $5000]. Source: ANM 19560085265.
Records reveal that two design concepts were proposed by the team, one in a Mughal-Eclectic style reflecting the design of the New Government Office that Hubback and Row had worked on earlier. The other was in European style. Sultan Alaeddin selected the former, but his choice was met with slight resistance from the Secretary General, Henry Conway Belfield, as it was twice the allocated budget, sending Spooner's team back to the drawing board to revise their design and estimates. Design progress was reported as follows:
I will as subsequently arranged meet the Resident at 11am today.
2. I now submit my design and estimate for consideration.
3. The Arabesque designed estimated to cost $47,000 and including kitchen, servant quarters, water supply and approach road $51,500-
4. W/ followers quarter latrines bathrooms (outside) & wall will cost $11,300 making a grand total of $62,800.
5. I have made many designs with the intention to reduce the cost but cannot bring it lower without sacrificing space and appearance.
6. The Resident General submitted the plan to the Sultan when he chose the Arabesque design and signed the drawing.
7. I also submit a skeleton plan of an European house estimated to cost $22,000 and including road & water supply $23,800 – including kitchen, bath & stable $25,730. W/ followers qtrs will cost addition $7270 making a grand total of $36,000.
22.7.1899 CES (Charles Edwin Spooner)
I have looked over these plans with H.H. the Sultan.
2. The Arabesque design is quite out of the question, and I don’t understand what was the use of preparing a plan of a palace to cost over $60,000, when the money provided is only half the amount. This plan is definitely abandoned.
3. As to the other plan, H.H. says that doesn’t want a house in which the space is split up into many rooms, and the partitions are permanent. He wants a large hall down stairs, in which he can entertain after his own custom with any other rooms opening off it, and upstairs he wants the plan to be also rather skeleton, and would like the partitions to be moveable.
4. Ask Mr. Spooner if he can fit out a rough sketch of this and send to the D.O. Klang to show to the Sultan. He must not go beyond $35,000 on the outside, or say $40,000 including the furniture. I will if necessary, ask for an additional sum up to $40.000 altogether.
5. Mr. Spearing tells me that he made a plan of the site & building the Sultan wants, and that it came within the money. He sent it to the S.E.
He says the Sultan seemed to like it. Cannot the S.E work on that? 3.8.99 HCB (Belfield)
I return this paper as it is overdue. Revised plans are in course of preparation and will probably not be ready for some weeks.
21.8.1899 ACN (A Charles Norman) For S.E.
I have spoken to Mr. Spooner twice
I note ? my last minute.
I do not want this paper again until the new plans are ready.
Revised sketch for the Istana at Klang. Submits.
Sir, I now submit with reference to 3581/99, a revised sketch design for the Istana at Klang to cost, with road, water, furniture and quarters, $40,000.
2. The main building, kitchen & c: will cost $33,000
3. I have allowed $1,400 for followers' quarters to be built of temporary material, and $2,000 for furniture only, as I presume very little furniture is required.
4. I have submitted the skeleton design in pencil in order to save delay. If it is approved, I shall immediately proceed with the 8' scale drawings.
I have the honour to be Sir, Your Obedient Servant
C.E Spooner, State Engineer
I have seen H.H this morning with the D.E - He says that he is satisfied with the plans but that would like a wall put up, extending from the kitchen house, enclosing the kitchen & pantry & forming a courtyard. The house for the retainers can be erected outside the wall.
19.9.99 WJLW (Waller?)
Spooner's preferred proposal estimated at $47,570 (including steel girders, stables and followers' quarters) was eventually sanctioned and added to the 1901 Annual Estimates. The contract went to Towkay Ang Seng who was to complete the building by 6 September 1901. He was awarded an extension of time up to 6 March 1902 but was only able to fulfil his contract by 17 September 1902. The 192 days of delay caused him a fine of $980 ($5 per diem overtime). Ang Seng cited difficulty in obtaining material/skilled labour in Klang and extra requested work but apparently part of the delay was also due to construction mistakes such as the one described below:
...I have to explain that when making a personal inspection of the main staircase under construction I found the brick arching supporting the steps, built nearly flat, without being let into the main wall and for the purpose of making a very much stronger job and obviating all risks of accidents of any kind I had no option to order the removal of the brick work and have it replaced by concrete and iron rails, the concrete being let into a check cut in the main wall....
circa Aug 1902 State Engineer
Sir John Anderson's visit to the Istana in Klang, July 1904.
The Klang Istana was officially named as Istana Mahkota. Sultan Alaeddin was formally installed as the 5th Sultan of Selangor at the Istana in November 1903. Construction works at the palace however did not stop then. He had earlier in May 1903 insisted for a building extension, for which an additional $10,000 budget was approved. A new tender for the extension was called for in July 1904, which went to Towkay Ang Chew on 3 September 1904. The reputed Klang contractor however was also not able to complete the building within the stipulated time (8 months) and had to pay a fine for a 101-day delay. The extension was finally completed in August 1905.
Ang Chew's tender bid for $8100: a new kitchen house, covered walkway, boundary wall, four new stalls and stables and a roof extension over existing stables. Source: ANM 19570117389
TPH King's contract was terminated on 7 July 1900. C.E Spooner became the General Manager of Federated Malay Railways in May 1901 (Patrick Blackstock McGlashan took his place as State Engineer of Selangor) while A.C. Norman retired from Selangor PWD on 25 June 1903. B. Ramakritsna Row was the only one from the design team who stayed on and saw the completion of the main building in 1902. He left Selangor PWD to join the Federal Office two years later. The palace was known as Istana Mahkota Puri from 1930s onwards and was demolished in 1957 to build the current palace, Istana Alam Shah.
Istana Mahkota Puri in Klang. Certain design detailing are similar to the Sultan Abdul Samad building in KL. Source: ANM No. Negatif B1337(ii)
Building: Istana Mahkota Puri
Project Team: Selangor Public Works Department
Designers: Charles Edwin Spooner, B. Ramakristna Row, TPH King
Contractor: Ang Seng of Kuala Lumpur
Mason Supervisor: V. Veerapan
Year designed: 1899
Construction period for Main Building: 1900-1902
Initial Cost: $35,000
Completion of Building Extension:1905
Cost for 1905 Extension: $8100
Contractor for 1905 Extension: Ang Chew, Main Street, Klang
Building Use: 1903 Residence (Palace) of the Sultan of Selangor; 1945, Male Boarding House.
i. ANM 1957003597; Instructions to Ag. Chief Surveyor & C.L.R regarding the hill above Sultan St: which has been selected by H.H. the Sultan as the site for an Istana (28.11.1892).
ii. ANM 19570040712; Reports that HH the Sultan wishes that an Istana should be erected at Kuala Lumpur (30.11.1892)
iii. ANM 19570080659; Astana for H.H the Sultan (1897)
iv. ANM 19570074827; Repairs to Sultan's Istana (1897)
v. ANM 19570082906; Site for the New Istana at Klang (1899)
vi. ANM 19560085265; Istana at Klang for H.H the Sultan of Selangor. Arrangements as to bathrooms.
vii. ANM 19670085928; Design for the Istana at Klang (1.9.1899)
viii. ANM 19570089312; Istana at Klang Notice inviting tenders for the construction of (3.1.1900)
ix. ANM 19570090097; Tenders. Istana at Klang (1902)
x. ANM 19570095946; Boundary walls & steps to Istana, Klang. Authority to enter into contract with Ang Sing for construction of (1900)
xi. ANM 19570104214; Istana of Klang. Acquisition of Site (1902)
xii. ANM 19570110171; New Astana - Additions & Alternations to: (1903)
xiii. ANM 19570117389; Alterations to Istana Klang. Notice inviting tenders - (15.7.1904)
xiv. Berita Harian, 27 September 1957, Istana Mahkota di Klang akan dirobohkan tidak beberapa lama lagi.
xv. The Straits Times, 24 October 1898, p3, Selangor News
xvi. Muhamad Adha ABd Jalil, Sultan 'Ala'uddin suleiman Shah Payung Kesentosaan Negeri Selangor, Akademi Jawi Malaysia, 2021