Kellie's Castle in Batu Gajah
Kellies Castle, (or Kelly's Castle as it is sometimes wrongly spelled) some kilometers out of Batu Gajah, Ipoh is a great tourist attraction. And the story about the castle is as impressive as the castle itself.
First of all there is the location, originally build in the plantations. Today it's nicely restored and easy to reach from Ipoh.
Kellie's Castle is located in Batuh Gajah. It was build as a symbol of love, very much like it's Indian counterpart: the Taj Mahal. There are even similarities in architecture!
A symbol of love
Kellie's Castle was built by a Scottish planter: William Kellie Smith. He built the castle for his wife. Smith himself was from a little town in Scotland: Kellas. He built the castle for the same reason as Shah Jahan a few centuries earlier the Taj Mahal: Love
Shah Jahan built the Taj as a monument for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. The original idea was to build a black and a white Taj on both sites of the river. Shah Jahan didn't come further then the known white Taj. Smith however, never had the idea of building two castles.
But Smiths' reasons were no different. He loved his wife, adored her. At the age of 20, it was in 1890, he arrived in Malaya (as Malaysia was known at the time).
He made connections with many other British people in the overseas kingdom including with an estate owner Alma Baker who owned land in Perak.
Smith made some substantial profits with his business with Baker. This resulted in Smith planting rubber trees. Later he was also involved in the tin mining industry, which at that time was at it's highpoint in Perak. In time, he became the owner of Kinta Kellas Estate and the Kinta Kellas Tin Dredging Company, near Ipoh.
Now he had made his fortune. It was time to return to Scotland and marry his Scottish girl Agnes. He brought her to Malaya in 1903. In 1904 they had a daughter: Helen.
Smith wanted a son too, but Agnes failed to conceive. Smith wanted his heir to take over his empire in Malaya. It was not until 1915 before Agnes became pregnant again. She gave birth to a son: Anthony. The birth of his son was the start of an even greater success.
Anthony's birth was the start of the expansion of the mansion. Smith started planning to build a castle which he wanted to call Kellas House, after his hometown in Scotland.
Smith was fascinated by the Hindu culture. His plans were to build his house with similar architecture features as in south India, Madras. For the building he imported bricks and tiles from India. He even employed even Indian workers to keep his house Indian.
The costs of material, brought from India and the Indian workers made the house fascinating for locals and foreigners. But there were other intriguing things on the house. Smith wanted to have an elevator. And he build an elevator in the castle, the first one in Malaya.
The elevator connects the very top roof of the house with two underground tunnels that run under the river just outside the house. One of these tunnels connects to the Hindu temple nearby.
On the second floor, Smith planned to build a indoor tennis court. Even by today's standards it was an ambitious project. The rooftop was reserved for a courtyard for parties. It was to become to the hub for colonial planters who have settled in Malaya. His house was so unique, that the London Financier Newspaper mentioned it in it's issue of 15 September 1911.
No good fortune
Soon after Smith started the construction of the house, some tragedies started to happen. First it was the "Spanish flu" which killed many workers in the Kellas Estate. The flu had easily spread from Europe to Asia. Soon another 70 workers became victim of the flu.
Smith had spend already a fortune in his new house but now he lost now even more money because of this. The First World War slowed the process of building. The result was that Kellas House was never completed.
Smith went for a short trip to Portugal in 1926. He died there of pneumonia. His wife was still in Malaya, heartbroken. She decided to pack and return to Scotland. She sold Kellie's Castle to a British company called Harrisons and Crossfield.
Kellies Castle was never to be finished. It became a ruin with many legends. Legend of the ghost of Smith wandering through the ruins. Other legends were off secret underground tunnels. But apart of the two known tunnels, none were ever found.
However, after over eighty years, the Malaysian government refurbished the house in 2000. It had been a tourist attraction but now it became an even bigger attraction and easy accessible
The restoration of Kellies Castle
At arrival at Kellie's Castle you can "meet" William Kellie Smith and his two children. Their sculptures are standing on the exterior wall. The one of his beloved wife fell off some years back.
The tunnels have been sealed off for safety reasons. The rumour is that Smith's car is parked in one of the tunnels. True or not, I can't tell.
Traveling to Kellies Castle from Ipoh, take a taxi. It's about 15 km out of the center of Ipoh. For information on transport to Ipoh, check our bus page. Alternatively, take a taxi from Lumut.