Remembering Treacher's Hill (Bukit Kutu)
Remembering Treacher's Hill (Bukit Kutu)
little write-up focuses only on the British Hill
Station remnants since the colonial era, the sole purpose of which is
'relive' the old days via archived documents. Perhaps another minor
might be that this document can help others who want to conduct a more
extensive study about Treacher's Hill or for those who wish to delve
into knowing Bukit Kutu, historically.
There are existing blogs that enumerate the historical facts of this interesting hill but there are contradicting points further exacerbated by the difficulty of validation owing to lack of references to original sources. As a result, it is not certain exactly how many building structures were once on that hill, and how they were positioned, and more importantly, how the history was accounted for. However, this blog is not itself free from flaws and if one does stumble upon them, feel free to correct me. With limited resources at hand, not a lot about Bukit Kutu can be written up in long form but only attempting to tie in the sparse bits and pieces. This is merely a personal findings/interpretations from a distance.
As to outdoor activities, they are already available on countless, various blogs, so nothing of that sort will be included in this one.
who had been up the hill (including Yours Truly) would
without second thoughts take Bukit Kutu to be more of a mountain than a
basing on the terrains that apparently fulfil the characteristics of a
rather than a hill. In fact, the Selangor Gazette in Straits Times
(1893) labeled it as Gunong Kutu (new spelling being
‘gunung’) before it adopted
also the hill label (The Straits Times 1896) a few years later. Hence,
not incorrect for anyone to call the hill Gunung
Kutu if they so wish—just quote the Selangor Gazette! The official
however, is Bukit Kutu.
Bukit Kutu is also known as Treacher's Hill when William Hood Treacher discovered the place in 1893 (New Straits Times 2003). Sir WH Treacher, K.C.M.G. served as the British Resident of Selangor from 1892 till 1896 . The British Resident went for an inspection tour of Kuala Kubu District from the 2nd February until the 8th evening; during that period, his tour included Rawang, Serendah, Tanjong Malim, intervening villages and the Menangkabau agricultural settlement at Ulu Yam, and also spent one night at Gunong Kutu and had identified the latter as a possible site for a sanatorium (The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942) 1893). The Selangor Gazette was quoted in Straits Times Weekly Issue (1893) to have an official report on Gunong Kutu that lists the advantages of this hill as a sanatorium which includes fair accessibility via the construction of a bridle road, good spring nearby the peak, and the cool temperature.
There were a few instances where the hill was also once known as Bukit Sekutu by the indigenous people. While the indigenous people vis-à-vis Bukit Kutu refers to the Temuan tribe (Antares 2006) and which can be verified easily, this is not the case with Bukit Sekutu. However, this is not intended to discount the possibility that the name does not exist—it may well be located deep inside the crevices of archives somewhere.
Bukit Kutu history is not complete without acknowledging the closest town with a past of its own, so is worth a brief mention on two accounts: (1) The town is surrounded and bordered by a few mountains included Bukit Kutu (Malaysian Townplan 2006) and (2) A strong history that affected this town, before the time of Bukit Kutu and Sir WH Treacher.
So just where and how far is Bukit Kutu away from Kuala Kubu Baru (based on those days)? New Straits Times (2003) quotes: “The hill located at the western offshoot of the main range above the old Kuala Kubu town.” The main range mentioned therein refers to the mountainous range called the Titiwangsa Range (or Banjaran Titiwangsa in Malay). Distance-wise, the route from Kuala Kubu Rest House to Bukit Kutu peak where the two bungalows were located took 8½ miles via the well graded path up the hill (The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942) (1923)).
Kubu was the town before the flood devastation that
took place in 1883. The dam burst on the evening of the 29th
at Ulu Selangor brought with it a wave of water 10 feet high and wiped
village with resistless force and destroyed all but six houses and
unknown number. Mr. Cecil Ranking, the Magistrate and Collector with
Kubu, was among the drowned (The Straits Times 1883). The site of this
after redevelopment is now known as Ampang Pecah (Broken Dam in
spelling Ampang Pechah) to commemorate the dam burst (Scrutineer 1933);
whereas a new township Kuala Kubu Baru was built nearby, following the
preparation of the new layout in 1924 (Department of Town and Planning:
Peninsular Malaysia n.d.)
With a number of outdoor adventure blogs that mentions “sanatorium”, at this juncture, there is a need to clarify the term sanatorium. As Wikipedia sufficiently explains it, sanatorium can be spelled as sanitorium or sanitarium, which implies they can be used interchangeably. The discerned writer will want to distinguish among them, taking sanitarium to mean a kind of health resort and sanatorium as a hospital (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanatorium). Sanatorium can also be taken to mean “place with an agreeable climate (e.g. hill-station in a hot country) to which invalids and others can resort, i.e. a health-station” (Oxford Dictionary of Architecture & Landscaping, cited in http://www.answers.com/topic/sanatorium). While most of the archived documents used the term sanatorium, there were instances where different spellings were used -- sanitorium (Stevenson 1990) and sanitarium (The Straits Times 1896). In a nutshell, they bear subtle differences.
The first sanatorium was set up at Maxwell’s Hill (now Maxwell Hill or Bukit Larut) in 1889 (Kathirithamby-Wells 2005) although it is not the first Hill Station in the then Malaya. More about hill stations at the next section. Whereas, the first hill station i.e. the oldest hill station is Penang Hill in the Penang Island. A documented ascent on the hill was in 1805 (Aiken 1987). Originally, Penang Hill was never planned as a site for treating the ills but to serve as a recuperative center or sanatorium (Aiken 1987). However, it never took off although the Government Surveyor had recommended Penang Hill as a possible site for a Government sanatorium (Central Coast Regional Development Corporation n.d.).
When the hill stations were initially founded, they took the format of “last name hill” with the apostrophe for example Treacher’s Hill. So the same style were applied to Fraser and Maxwell with the latter having its “’s” dropped in the later years, and except for Cameron Highlands which do not follow the same fashion. In the early records, the following names were used: Cameron’s Highlands (The Straits Time 1924) for Cameron Highlands, and Maxwell’s Hill (The Straits Times 1919) for Maxwell Hill. The “’s” after “Fraser” remains to date. One can speculate that the evolution of names has somewhat to do with the convenience of pronunciation.
What is a hill station, by the way? While Wikipedia gives some form of introduction on it, the description provided by Aiken (1994) is by far more enriching. It quotes, “Hill stations owed their origin, early development, and widespread distribution to colonialism. Sometimes called "change-of-air stations" or "sanatoria," they were specialized highland outposts of colonial settlement that initially served as health and recreation centers for civil servants, planters, miners, and other expatriate Europeans, or as strategic bases and cantonments. Generally small and isolated, always defiantly out of place, they were insular little worlds that symbolized European power and exclusiveness.” Aiken (1987) stated that the principal functions of hill stations were refuge and resort.
Sandwith (The Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 1907, p. 362) had stated “In some tropical dependencies of the British Empire there is as yet no definite health resort, and it is very much to be desired that Government should establish in every British Colony a hill station (as in India) or a seaside resort to which officials and others could go for a short change after illness or exhausting work, when it is impossible for them to proceed to Europe.”
Treacher’s Hill Sanatorium & Use
sanatorium in Treacher’s Hill was built and opened (The
Selangor Journal: Jottings Past and Present 1897) sometime in early
1896. The Selangor Notes section dated 19th May
in Singapore Free
Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942) (1896, p. 3), whilst
sounded more like an announcement) that Selangor has a sanatorium and
hardly anyone knows about it with only some two dozen of visitors. It
to remind the readers that at the top of Bukit Kutu is a pleasant
stay and “when so many Europeans in this State are requiring a change
climate.” William Thomas Cherry (1923, p. 48) in his book stated Bukit
a sanatorium. Later, Kathirithamby-Wells (2005, p. 156) also listed
Hill as one of the other modest hill retreats that were developed by
governments for the benefit of civil servants.
Evidences of Visits/Events/Discoveries/Dealings
Many may want to know what had transpired whilst the sanatorium’s existence.
In chronological order:
1896: A.R.V. (Venning) wrote a column “In Praise of Treacher’s Hill” to thank W.H. Treacher who instituted the sanitarium (The Straits Times 1896a).
1896: “Mr. and Mrs. J. B. M. Leach, who returned from a lengthy trip through Pahang a fornight ago, leave today for the Sanatorium at Bukit Kutu, and will entertain a small party of friends there (The Straits Times 1896b).”
1899: “Re the occupation of Sanatorium by Mrs. Fryer free of charge.” (Arkib Negara Malaysia 2012a).
1901: “As to the number of nights in 1900 the Bukit Kutu Hill Station was occupied.” (Arkib Negara Malaysia 2012b)
1903: “New species of mosquito found at Treacher’s Hill by Dr. Daniels”. The species was named A. (for Anopheles) Treacheri, after the founder (The Straits Times 1903).
1905: “Burn-Halkett, Warden of Mines of a protected Malay state, had returned from a day’s excursion in the jungle.” (The Straits Times 1905).
1913: “The bungalow at Bukit Kutu, not far from Kuala Kubu, is almost invariably always occupied” (The Straits Times 1913).
1926: “Neither of the bungalows at BK is at present booked for the month of June” (The Straits Times 1926).
1927: “This was in 1927, when Mr. Mackenzie, riding the same make of machine, completed the journey.” (The Straits Times 1930).
1930: “Neither of the bungalows at BK is at present booked for the month of June” (The Straits Times 1930).
Modes of Transport
One wonders the form of transport that can lead to the peak for the bungalows. Albeit a number of shortcuts made thru the jungle which reduced the distance by a mile and a half, the trails are still very rough and have to be traversed on foot. In one hike, the ladies were brought up in chairs but failed; in fact ponies were the best means to go up and down the hill (The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942) (1896)). During those days, coolies can be hired to carry one’s belongings.
A.R.V. (The Straits Times, 1896, p. 3) wrote, “A horse, going at a walk, will take you there in from 2½ to 3 hours; while ladies can procure chairs in Kuala Kubu.”
In The Straits Time (1914), contributor G. DE S. wrote, “It is indeed a pity that a better road could not be made, since the hill is such a favourite resort.”
In 1930, Messrs. Rex Duncan and J.L. Ross reached the topmost bungalow by riding on their 248 cc Matchless bikes on the bridle trail. In the same update, MacKenzie accomplished the feat on the same machine in 1927. Duncan and Ross took four hours and ten minutes to reach the peak (The Straits Times 1930).
The Bungalows, Location, Notable Experiences & Photos
As the term sanatorium loosely implies its use as a bungalow, given that the sanatorium was treated mostly as a resort and although it was also intended to be used to house invalids, some documents especially the later ones refer to the buildings atop Bukit Kutu as bungalows. The aim to deploy the sanatorium for invalids was stated early as 1907 when Sandwith in his article contribution “Hill Stations and other Health Resorts in the British Tropics” where he quoted, “Invalids whom it is not necessary to transport to Europe are sent to… Bukit Kutu (Treacher’s Hill…, at most of which there are bungalows for Government officials” (The Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 1907, p. 366). Sandwith later concluded that it is very much desired that there should be a hill station established in every British Colony so that officials and others can go there for a short change after illness or exhausting work, when going to Europe is so challenging and rather impossible. Kathirithamby-Wells (2005, p. 156) noted that “Other modest hill retreats (including Bukit Kutu) were developed by the State governments for the benefit of civil servants” lends gravity to the place being used as a resort.
The earliest description on the ambience of one of the bungalows since its opening was: “The house is very comfortable, and there are good fire places in both the sitting rooms” (The Straits Times 1896, p. 3).
Undoubtedly the best-described article on the bungalows, with interiors mentioned, was noted in The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942) (1923, p. 5) titled “BUKIT KUTU”, as follows:
“There are two bungalows on the top.”; “There is a well graded path up the hill, one bungalow being 8½ and the other 8¾ miles from the Kuala Kubu Rest House.”; “The two bungalows are very well built buildings with four roomy bed rooms, dressing rooms and bath rooms apiece as well as good sized living rooms. Each bedroom has 2 beds. A telephone connected with the Kuala Kubu Exchange, is fixed in each bungalow and there is no lack of store rooms etc. The Bungalows have recently been thoroughly overhauled and present a very trim appearance.”; “After 6 o’clock at night, a fire is very necessary in the sitting room and occasionally earlier on misty days.”; “There are very good walks and quite a fair tennis court although the upper court known as The Croquet Ground might be wirenetted in and used for Stump Cricket”; “A party of 8 at either bungalow can have a most glorious time, varying the time during day by Tennis, stump-cricket or walks and by bridge, chess etc. at night.”
At this point, one will surely pay attention to the hugeness of the sanatorium that had courts for English games!
This next article gives a better pinpoint on the bungalow locations. Again, as mentioned earlier, the words bungalow and sanatorium were used interchangeably. The article contributed by G. DE S. in The Straits Times (1914, p. 9) had the following quoted, “The bungalows are well situated, one overlooking the town of Kuala Kubu, the other a valley bounded on one side by hills innumerable, the Pahang ranges meeting those of Selangor at one end, and Perak at the other.”
Hiking and outdoor enthusiasts who had been to both sites at Bukit Kutu can easily tell that the old chimney is located just below the highest point at the peak where the rock boulders are. Using very basic navigational skills, one can view, either from the top of the boulder or from the left side by the larger boulder below, the North side is where the less-visited and harder-terrained Gunung Semangkok is located and whose sight crosses the Sungai Selangor Dam, and a little bit of Kuala Kubu Baru town slightly towards North-West. This site housed the bungalow with chimney that has the view of “hills innumerable, the Pahang ranges”—the East or mountains view. See Figure 1 of the East-side bungalow.
From the deductions derived from the bridle paths and ability of traverse by bikes, the trail is certainly not one entered from Kg Pertak (as there were parts of the trail that are steep and which can only be hiked on foot) but from Ampang Pecah, a less-known and traversed trail. That said, applying the directions, the “8½ mile” is the sanatorium and further up another quarter mile past the peak and immediately down is the “8¾ mile” bungalow with chimney.
Another 10 minutes’ walk towards the West leads to the sanatorium, i.e. the “one overlooking the town of Kuala Kubu”. This sanatorium presents the city view, a wider view in fact, and without the aid of a telescope (provided at the sanatorium), Bukit Fraser, Pulau Pangkor, Port Swettenham and Morib are visible (The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942) (1923) on a clear sky.
A.R.V. concluded in his correspondence title “In Praise of Treacher’s Hill” (The Straits Times 1896, p. 3): “Altogether there are great capabilities in the site of this sanitarium, and given a fair provision for its upkeep and improvement, I feel sure that, in a year or two, it will be much in demand, and that the inhabitants of the State will bless Mr. Treacher for the benefit he conferred on them when he instituted it.”
This by a KL correspondent in a literature style: “To escape from Lotus Land we must go to the hills. I remember a storm on Bukit Kutu which was as wild as any winter’s night in England. The Valkyries were racing over the hills that night and we heard their shriekings as they swept past the little houses set on the summit of the mountain.” (The Straits Time 1933, p. 19).Even earlier, it was reported that “Burn-Halkett, Warden of Mines of a protected Malay state, had returned from a day’s excursion in the jungle…”, “clad only in Malay sarong and kabayah, on a long Penang chair in the verandah of his bungalow”, “while patiently awaiting the advent of the tea-tray, and idly watching the mists drifting around, and massing on, the summit of Bukit Kutu, a spur of the main Malayan range on the opposite side of the valley…” (The Straits Times 1905, p. 6). Given the viewpoint of Malayan range, this is the bungalow with the chimney at the flat ground before the boulder-peak from the Kg. Pertak route, with bungalow entrance facing South—see Figure 1.
While recent, coloured photos are aplenty, old photos of Bukit Kutu are not easily obtained or accessible. A documented photography effort by Frank Adam lists a total of 31 photos taken by him of Malay Peninsula (Adam 1907) with them indexed, whose purpose was to illustrate the country’s sceneries, and of which six relates to Bukit Kutu and surrounding mountains. A few of these archived photos can be viewed at the Royal Geographical Society website .
Despite the difficulties in locating any old photos, a blog writer cum hiker, Shiek Eng Meng , has had, during a recent hike, the privilege of meeting up with an Englishman whose grandparent once stayed at the East-side bungalow. A set of four black-and-white photos were received from Mr. Tony Wright. With express permission granted, the photos, including those by Mr. Shiek, are displayed here, in exactly the same order as per his blog to retain the story continuity.
Figure 1: Photo of the bungalow with Tony's grandfather sitting in front ... see the steps going into the bungalow and see below the same steps as they remain today at the peak of Bukit Kutu (Photo contributed by Mr Tony Wright). (Shiek 2011)
Figure 2: Remnants of the steps at the main entrance of the bungalow. (Shiek 2011)
Figure 3: This is the fireplace (chimney) of the bungalow as it was in the 1920s ... this is the iconic picture as today this chimney still remain standing at the peak of Bukit Kutu (Photo contributed by Mr Tony Wright). (Shiek 2011)
Figure 4: The chimney of the bungalow still standing as it is today. This structure has become the setting of many group photos of people visiting the peak of Bukit Kutu today. (Shiek 2011)
Figure 5: The chimney and the main entrance steps. (Shiek 2011)
Figure 6: Another old photo of the bungalow seen from behind of the big rock at the peak of the Bukit Kutu (Photo contributed by Mr Tony Wright). (Shiek 2011)
Online archival records on the demise of the bungalow and sanatorium were hard to come by. New Straits Times (2003) reported they were “destroyed by the British Army during the Japanese Occupation to prevent them from falling into the hands of the invading army.”
For many, the ruins seen today may not trigger a lot of memories or the slightest recall of possible history but opportunities for photography and overnight camping. For those who lived long enough to have known this place, they are features of reminiscence. Unfortunate for Treacher’s Hill, it never survived to see the modern times, unlike Maxwell Hill, Penang Hill, Fraser’s Hill and Cameron Highlands.
So, how about a sojourn to the past at Treacher’s Hill bungalow?
The Straits Times 1883, untitled, 5 November, p. 2, viewed 18 February 2012, NewspaperSG.
The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942) 1893, ‘SELANGOR NOTES’), 1 March, p. 2, viewed 18 February 2012, NewspaperSG.
Straits Times Weekly Issue 1893, ‘A Selangor Sanatorium’, 14 March, p. 2, viewed 18 February 2012, NewspaperSG.
The Selangor Journal: Jottings Past and Present 1895, ‘Notes and News’, vol. III, p. 346, viewed 12 February 2012,
The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942) 1896, ‘Selangor Notes’, 19 May, p. 3, viewed 18 February 2012, NewspaperSG.
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