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03/12 Sunday 08:48AM

a slice of 19th century england

My trip to Cornwall and Devon refreshed not only my spirit but my love for history. It is not just ordinary history found in our textbooks but a special part of Sarawak and Brunei history (1842-1942).
My journey to this unique part of England started in Kuala Lumpur on board the Qatar Airlines to London. It was a long haul flight of 19 hours with 4 hours stopover in Doha. I arrived early in the morning in London. After spending a few days in North London and the Isle of Wight I took the midnight coach to Plymouth. I arrived in the wee hours but I had a great friend waiting for me. He told me that it was not really "safe" to be there so early. The Plymouth Station being quite a rough place would not be a good place for my hostess (a former nurse who served in Sarawak) who is now in her 80's!


Many people in Brunei would not know the connection between James Brooke and the Sultanate of Brunei. James Brooke was an English Adventurer who owned a ship called The Royalist and his fate took him to Kuching in 1842. Because he was able to calm the unrest for the Sultan of Brunei then he was awarded sovereignty over the small part of the then Sarawak or Kuching in particular. In the next 100 years or so the Brookes garnered more land from the Sultan of Brunei and Sarawak as a state was thus born. The Brookes expanded Sarawak from a small village called Kuching to the new state of Sarawak with an area of 4800 sq.miles which is bigger than the whole Malay Peninsular!
The most important place to visit in Devon is the Masouleum of the Brooke Rajahs which is found in the church yard of St. Leonard built circa 1240 AD.  I have visited the cemeteries of the Brooke family several times before when I was a student in Devon. But this time round it was really special because I went there with my own 6th Form history teacher who is now in his 80's and other friends. This was indeed a special honour to meet up with them and to accompany them in this pilgrimage to the Brooke cemetery and other Methodist Wesleyan historical places. It was indeed an unusual albeit memorable "reunion" excursion. The preacher who gave us a briefing on the history of the Brookes and their connection with Sheepstor (population 51) was very articulate and fervent. History has never been more alive!

the beautiful 12th century Church of St. Leonard's at Sheepstor where the Brookes' graves are located.
The cold October wind blowing at my face only reminded me of how difficult it must have been for James Brooke to brave the rough seas to arrive in Sarawak in the 19th century. And with his English determination he went on to create a small kingdom ruled according to his grand ideas of justice and administrative fairness and effectiveness. Amongst his ideals was "Divide and Rule" whereby the natives were protected and allowed to live within their culture and rainforests; the Malays given their administrative roles; and the Chinese their business freedom in Sarawak. His regime lasted a hundred years in Sarawak when the Second World War made it impossible for a family like the Brookes to continue their rule. Rajah Charles Vyner Brooke the last Rajah ceded his kingdom to the British Government  in 1946.

The Brooke cemetery in the little St. Leonard's Church  is maintained by the family as well as the Sarawak Association. Indeed the church itself is well worth a visit because it is one of those rare churches built with granite which had been mined in the surrounding areas block by block! It is an unthinkable and extremely daunting task by today's standards. One can't imagine how engineering works could be done without the help of computerized cranes and even helicopters in building this church.
Sheepstor is near the Burrator Reservoir which is a very famous reservoir. The scenery around this lake is beautiful and nature lovers go for walks around the lake almost throughout the year. This is a remarkable place for nature lovers and those holiday makers who would like historical and meaningful tours.
I was able to visit another lovely place called St. Dominick (which is in Cornwall ) where one can climb up Kit's Hill from where you can have a 360 degrees view of Cornwall and Devon. It is one of the most highly regarded strategic points in the whole of the UK - and a dream vantage point for any king in the olden days for olde ye good battles.

A short trip of 5 to 8 days would be just nice for a group of friends who can rent a tour van or an SUV to drive around Cornwall and Devon. The miles and miles of roads you cover and the landscape you will encounter will give you a truly memorable and lasting satisfaction of a holiday well spent.
So somewhere in Devon in a little place called Sheepstor a piece of Sarawak history is imprinted in stone! Indeed after a visit to the tree-lined roads and countryside you will come home enlightened and with lifted spirits!

Beautiful view from the window in St Dominic looking up at Kit's Hill. A normal scenic view of Cornwall

A beautiful view of Kit's Hill in Cornwall from my window.


Hill view of part of St. Dominick..you can go for walks the whole day long and don't feel tired. Everything is see is fresh and exciting. It is truly a retreat from the busy city life. No wonder even the Prime Minister of England (David Cameron) loves Cornwall when it comes to a quiet holiday.

The Sarawak Window

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