Fort Margherita is widely known as one of the historical buildings in Kuching. The fort, which can be seen from Kuching Waterfront, was completed in September 1879 at a cost of 8,100 Sarawak dollars. It was named after Charles Brooke’s wife Margaret Alice Lili de Windt.
Although many can see it from across the river, some had trouble going to the fort for a closer look because of the recently built Sarawak Legislative Building few hundred metres from it. Until recently, the number of visitors had declined rapidly.
In 1971, Fort Margherita was converted into a Police Museum, displaying items collected from the early days of the police force in Sarawak, but in 2000, the fort was handed back to the state government.
With the newly-opened Brooke Gallery at Fort Margherita, the state tourism will expect an increase of tourists. The fort had also been restored to its former glory by the National Heritage Department for the development of Brooke Gallery.
The gallery is collaboration between the Brooke Trust, Sarawak Museum Department and the state Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry. The gallery will be a permanent exhibition telling the story of Sarawak under the White Rajahs, starting with James Brooke in 1841, to Charles Brooke and finally to Charles Vyner Brooke until the Japanese invaded Sarawak during the Second World War in 1941.
The gallery was opened for public on 27 Sept 2016, which coincides with the 175th anniversary of the state founding by James Brooke. The idea of the gallery occurred during Jason Brooke’s visit to Sarawak a few years ago. Jason is the great-great-grandson of Charles Brooke and also Brooke Trust director.
Beside Fort Margherita, Ipoi Datan (State Museum Director) stated that there were series of forts built all over Sarawak which include Alice in Sri Aman, Lili in Betong, Sylvia in Kapit, Emma in Kanowit, Hose in Marudi, Brooke in Meluan, Arrundel in Batang Ai, Old Fort in Limbang, Vyner in Belaga and Florence in Trusan. Most of these forts are still standing with the exception of the last two.
Upon entrance, the visitors can start the gallery tour with “The Allure of Borneo” on the ground floor. It explained in detail of what had attracted explorers and traders to the island over the centuries which eventually attracted James Brooke to Sarawak in 1839.
Then, via the fort’s original spiral staircase, the visitors can go to the first floor to see the exhibition on how James Brooke became the Rajah of Sarawak, the birth of an independent state and the building of Sarawak by Charles Brooke.
On the second floor, the exhibition continues with the life of Sarawakians during Brooke-era Sarawak and also a glimpse of the royal family life of the White Rajahs. On this floor, there is also a section which exhibits the end of Brooke rule and also Sarawak’s role in founding the Federation of Malaysia.
The gallery is open daily and admission is free.
There are 2 ways to go to the fort, by sampan and by car. To get to the fort by sampan, you need to board it from Waterfront. Once you cross the river, climb through the village to the fort, though the path is not very path like, but it was marked quite clearly for people to se.
If you opt to go there by car, you need to cross Tun Datuk Patinggi Haji Abdul Rahman Yakub Bridge or commonly known as Satok Bridge or cross Tun Salahuddin Bridge or commonly known as the Toll Bridge to get to the roundabout near Wisma Bapa Malaysia. From the roundabout, take the exit to Wisma Bapa Malaysia then drive straight until you passed the building on your right. There will be a T-junction and take right. A few metres straight then turn left on the junction. Drive straight ahead for about 800 metres until you see a right junction, and then turn right. Fort Margherita is just a few metres ahead.