Kellie's Castle is
located in Batu Gajah. It was built by a Scottish planter called
William Kellie Smith as a castle of love for his wife. Smith himself
was from a small town in Scotland known as Kellas. In 1890, at the
age of 20, he arrived in the then undeveloped Malaysia. It was intended to be the hub of social life for the area's wealthy colonial
planters and administrators. A grand mansion with a six-storey tower, wine
cellar, stately columns. Moorish arches and walls embellished with Greco-Roman
designs. There was to be a rooftop courtyard for parties and even an elevator,
the first of this kind in the country.
William Kellie Smith made his fortune in tin and rubber and then he returned home to
marry his Scottish sweetheart, Agnes. He brought her over to
Malaysia in 1903. The following year, the couple was blessed with a
daughter named Helen.
His first house was called "Kellas House". It was built in 1905 and
he lived there with his family. This house was partially destroyed
during the 2nd World War.
For many years after the birth of Helen, Agnes tried to conceive, but to no avail.
William Smith desperately wanted a son and heir to take over his
empire in the Malay Isles. After many years, Agnes finally gave
birth to a son called Anthony in 1915. The birth of his child was
the start of even greater success for William Smith.
Kellie's first home, named:
Kellas House (at the back of the Castle).
Anthony's birth, William Smith decided to expand on his mansion.
Smith started planning for a huge castle which he planned to call Kellas House, after his hometown in Scotland.
his fascination with the Hindu religion and the Indian culture,
Smith's plans was for this house to share similar architecture to
those of Madras, with all its bricks and tiles imported from India.
He even employed a big group of Indian labourers to build his dream
house, to keep the Kellas House authentically Indian. The mansion is
accessible from the main road through a bridge running across a
But it was not only the cost of importing material and labourers from
abroad that made the house so fascinating to fascinate locals and
travellers alike. Among the many amazing things about Kellie's Castle
include an elevator (unheard of in Malaysia in those days, the one
built in Kellie's Castle is the first in Malaysia) which connects
right up to the top floor and the existence of two tunnels that run
under the river nearby. One of these tunnels connects to the Hindu
temple some distance away to the main house. On the second floor,
Smith planned to build an indoor tennis court -- an ambitious
project even by today's standards. On the highest floor, there is a
rooftop courtyard for parties. This castle was to be the hub for
entertaining wealthy colonial planters who have settled in Malaysia.
His house was so unique that it was even mentioned in the London
Financier newspaper on 15 September 1911.
Unfortunately for Smith,
tragedies struck soon after the construction of the Kellas House
begin. A virulent strain of the "Spanish flu" spread from
Europe to Asia soon after World War I ended in Europe, killing many
of the workers in Kellas Estate. Another seventy workers
constructing Smith's dream castle also became victims of the flu.
Smith, who has already spent a fortune on his house, lost a lot of
money because of this.
In the end, Kellas House was never completed. William Kellie Smith
himself died of pneumonia during a short trip to Portugal in 1926.
His heartbroken wife decided to pack up and return home to Scotland
selling the estate and Kellie's Castle to a British company called
Harrisons and Crosfield.
For some reason or other, Kellas Home, later known as Kellie's
Castle or even Kellie's Folly to some, was never completed.
despite more than eighty years of vandalism and neglect until the
government refurbished the house in 2000, the building remained a
tourist attraction for many years prior to that.
Today, visitors can still
"meet" William Kellie Smith and his two children at
Kellie's Castle. Sculptures of them are still standing on the
exterior wall, but the one of his beloved wife fell off some years
For safety reasons however, the tunnels have been sealed off.
Apparently, one of Kellie's car is parked somewhere in one of the
tunnels! Despite the ravages of time and neglect, the entire estate
oozes with romanticism of the colonial era in Malaysia.
After visiting Kellie's Castle, do not forget to take a short walk
to the Hindu temple constructed by Smith to appease the Gods after
his workers died of the Spanish flu.
The architecture of the temple
is a curious mix of Moorish, Greco-Roman and Indian design.
Encapsulated forever in a moment in time is the odd, misplaced
figurine of Kellie in his planter's suit and topee among the sixty
deities on the temple roof.
Few temples around the country actually owe their existence to a
colonial expatriate like this insignificant temple in the outskirts
of Batu Gajah. And obviously the Hindu temple held enough
fascination for William Smith to build a secret tunnel connecting
the temple and his house.