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Historical Fort Hose now a museum

Story and pictures by
T S Chen


ATOP a hill overlooking the Baram River in the town of Marudi Sarawak stands an old fort -- Fort Hose -- reminiscent of the British occupation in the past.

Now, Fort Hose stands proud as the Baram District Museum. Fort Hose was built in the 1800s by an Englishman who later became the Resident of Baram. It was named in honour of Charles Hose and was first built in 1898 before the Baram Peacemaking Ceremony took place.

Antiques - one of the cannons used to guard the fort from rebels.  Seen is the background is an old chimney used as a heater.Strategically constructed using belian hardwood on top of a hill overlooking the Baram River, it has two large cannons in its frontage for protection against invaders. The fort was completed in 1901 and served as the Resident's house as well. Born in 1863, Charles Hose was appointed the Resident of Baram in 1891 because of his dedication to his job when he was a cadet officer in the Sarawak Civil Service. He built the fort as a measure to control rebellions and to defend his seat of administration over the district.

Hose is also known as the person who came up with the idea of the famous Baram Regatta. The regatta was held for the first time in 1899 when war canoes were raced along the river by different tribes from the surrounding areas. The objective of the event, as seen by Hose, was to substitute for the old bloody feuds and to persuade the tribes to aid the government in keeping peace and harmony. After the race, Hose took the opportunity to hold the Peacemaking Ceremony for the tribes. He gave a guarantee of peace and prosperity to all tribes of the district and this was accepted unanimously. In order to suppress fights and head hunting activities, Hose made the Baram Regatta an annual event for all including those from Tinjar, the central highland and the Ibans. Through the event, the worst of enemies became the best of friends!

Fort Hose was officially declared as a historical building by the Sarawak State Government on April 16, 1971. Until 1994, the building has been used by various government departments and was last used as a Kemas (Community Development) office and Penan Handicraft Exhibition centre. On Aug 24, 1994, tragedy struck when the building caught fire and was almost razed to the ground. The damage was great but with the assistance of the different communities in Baram, Fort Hose was restored. Each race contributed one belian pole as pillar for the reconstruction of this historical building.

The building was officially turned into the Baram District Museum on May 25, 1997 and is also known as Fort Hose Museum. It was officially opened by Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Alfred Jabu. Visitors to the museum will find on display artifacts from the past as well as photographs taken by Charles Hose himself. Among many photographs are salt processing by the Kelabits, other forts in Sarawak such as Lio Matu Fort at Long Akah; the Kelabits megaliths as well as portraits of the tribes back in the 1900s. Even though the museum is small, it provides a lot of information on the Baram District which currently has nearly 90,000 people of different races and tribes.

Standing atop the Fort Hose hill, visitors will be taken aback by the beautiful river view. The Marudi jetty and express boat wharf can be seen with people busy loading and unloading items brought in from Kuala Baram, Miri. A visit to Marudi is incomplete if Fort Hose is left out of the itinerary, so make a trip to this, small town to capture some history of the upper Land of the Hornbill!

Reprinted from the New Straits Times,
Tuesday, May 2, 2000

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