The Leaning Tower is a well known landmark in Teluk Intan, and is commonly referred to as the Leaning Clock Tower of Teluk Intan for time immemorial. Visitors would liken the leaning tower to the one in Pisa to say the least. Originally built in 1885 with a height of only 85 feet, the tower has 110 steps in total from ground level to the top. While it is now past 100 years old, it is still standing solidly albeit at an angle that exaggerates to a lean.

            Built with the intention as a water tower well before the completion of the Changkot Jong water treatment plant, the building is actually only 3 storeys tall and houses a clock at the top level of the tower. Adorning the tower are flower pots, marbled flooring as well as benches for visitors to rest while visiting the tower.

            The tower is undoubtedly the most popular tourist attraction in Teluk Intan, and located in the town square bordered by Jalan Pasar, Jalan Ah Cheong, Jalan Selat and Jalan Bandar. Designed by a local Chinese architect by the name of Leong Choon Cheong and assisted by the resident engineer with the rank of Assistant Engineer of the Telok Anson Public Works Department, Mr. S. Sabapathy, the tower functioned as a water reservoir for those living in the town, while also providing a clock for convenience of telling time.

While in the present day, it no longer holds any water and thus, does not function as a reservoir, it still tells the time and belts out a chime every quarter of the hour. Interestingly, the clock was only built into the tower after funds were raised for that purpose amongst the townsfolk. The largest contributor being Leong Choon Cheong himself, who at that time made the purchase of the clock personally from the 19th century clockmaker, James Wilson Benson of Ludgate Hill, London.

The clock still requires manual winding, once every month, a feature of tower clocks of that period, in order to maintain its accuracy as well as to ensure the mechanical movement of the clock remains effective.

While the original tower was built upright and straight, it was not meant to lean at all. Leong Choon Cheong or Ah Cheong, as he was more commonly known had taken elements of the Chinese Pagoda and gave it some prominence in the design. In recognition of his contribution one of the streets bordering the square was named Jalan Ah Cheong.  The town square itself consists of interlocking bricks and is commonly used for official as well as non official events and commemorative celebrations by the city council.

Although a few theories exists as to how the tower began to lean, the most pandered is that which tells of the great flood Telok Anson had to endure in 1895, causing parts of the town to be flooded for days on end, resulting in the tower leaning at an angle. While scientific factors point to the soil structure and high water table, the South West lean of the tower can be put down to the immense weight it carried in its early days of being a water reservoir.

            Although Leong Choon Cheong was the contractor who completed the building of the tower, the rightful owners of the tower remained the British lead government and administrators of the town. After independence in 1957, the tower was then placed under the control and ownership of the Perak state government. During the outbreak of World War II and the Japanese Occupation of Malaya The Lower Perak Sanitary Board, which had the full control of the tower at that time, had in June of 1941 discussed the possibility of demolishing the tower for fear that it would become an easy target for aerial bombardment and hence become a danger to the residents. Some resistance appeared from the local residents, and the decision was then rescinded in a board meeting held in September of the same year, 1941.

During the Japanese occupation, the tower doubled up as a watchtower of the Japanese Imperial soldiers. The original structure which was mainly built using wood, suffered damages during the war although the damage itself was limited only to the top half of the tower. While it is commonly mistaken as only one of two leaning towers of the world (after Pisa Tower), the Leaning Tower of Teluk Intan was declared a Malaysian National Heritage in September of 2015.

While research shows that the tower was built with these functions in mind;

  • To store water and provide relief in times of draught
  • Improve on existing water management system of the British (then)
  • To also function as a water supply in event of fire
  • To function as a clock tower
  • To commemorate the British Administration
  • To function as a landmark for ships traversing the Perak river

With its Pagoda like features, the tower itself reflects the Chinese influence it carries, eventhough it was completed during the British administration of the Malay Federated States. Such features exemplify the cultural influence of the Chinese, as it was through the community that funds were raised for the erection of the tower. It is therefore not strange to see the facade, verendah, rooftiles and floortiles which exerts heavy Chinese influence, showcasing the design and capability of the Chinese architect.  The copper water reservoir housed on the third floor of the tower is 16 feet high, and in its height carried 680 cu ft of water.

Back in 1955, the immediate grounds facing the tower had housed a children’s playground, named after Sir Henry Gurney. The playground itself was officially opened by the then Perak Menteri Besar En. Osman bin Talib on 20 June 1955. The Sir Henry Gurney Memorial Fund Committee, set up upon his assassination, had collected a total of $19, 213.00 within the state of Perak alone, and from this a total of $4,825.00 was spent on the playground fronting the tower. The remainder of the fund was used to build sporting facilities as well as libraries in honour of the British High Commissioner to Malaya.

The tower had also served as the headquarters of the Scouts Association of Teluk Anson in 1940, and between 1977 and 1992 was used as the branch office of the National Family Planning Board.

References

  1. Menara Condong Teluk Intan, Portal Rasmi Majlis Perbandaran Teluk Intan
  2. Menara Condong, Portal Rasmi Arkib Negara Malaysia, Kementerian Pelancongan, Seni Dan Budaya Malaysia
  3. Fungsi Sebenar Dan Sejarah Menara Jam Condong Teluk Intan, laman sesawang Orang Perak.com
  4. Merungkai Rahsia Jam Besar Menara Condong Teluk Intan, laman sesawang Orang Perak.com
  5. Malaya’s Leaning Tower Doomed (Malaya Tribune), 12 Ogos 1941, m/s 2
  6. ‘Leaning Tower’ Gets Reprieve (Malaya Tribune), 24 September 1941, m/s 5
  7. New playground opened (The Straits Times) 20 Jun 1955, m/s 5
  8. SCOUT VISITOR AT T. ANSON (The Straits Times) 28 Disember 1950, m/s 4

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