historical truths about dutch melaka christ church fountain square

8 Historical Truths About Dutch Melaka (Malacca)

While A’Famosa Fort in Melaka (Malacca) was the symbol of what was left behind by the Portuguese, the historical structures representing Dutch rule that still stand today in the heart of the city are Stadthuys and Christ Church.

I had wondered as to why the legacies of Dutch rule in Malacca were not as conspicuous compared to Portuguese rule even though the Dutch were in Malacca for 184 years compared to the Portuguese of 130 years.

There were reasons why this was so – firstly, Malacca was already declining as the Portuguese did not successfully maintain the glory and prosperity that the city was renowned for due to restrictive trade policies, competitions and wars. Secondly, the Dutch, namely, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) had already established their economic and administrative centre in Batavia (Jakarta), thus they had no political and economic motivations to develop Malacca at the expense of Batavia. They only viewed Malacca as a potential conquest mainly to protect the Spice Route and to eliminate competitors.

historical truths about dutch melaka dutch east india company voc plague

By the time, the VOC conquered Malacca in 1641, Malacca ceased to be an important trading port. Furthermore, the Dutch allied with the Sultan of Johor who took advantage of Malacca’s decline in developing his seaport of Riau (an Indonesian island close to Singapore) and opening routes for all ships and marine commerce.

*Also Read: Portuguese Connection to Melaka (Malacca)


The area in which the Stadthuys and Christ Church buildings are located is known by a few names: Dutch Square, Red Square or The Clock Tower Area. Malaccans simply call it “Clock Tower” 😊

historical truths about dutch melaka stadthuys clock tower square
Clock Tower Square in Melaka. Image source: Marcin Konsek/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

Because Stadthuys and Christ Church are widely promoted as symbols of Dutch rule in Malacca, and the fact that they are painted red, many people assume that any red building in that area is Dutch-made. Not true.

Many tourists also assume that the only Dutch buildings left in Melaka are just Stadthuys and Christ Church. Not true as well.

I’m not sure why or how the red colour became the trademark of Dutch Malacca history but during the course of my readings on Malacca history, I stumbled upon more interesting facts:

Stadthuys (meaning “town hall”) was the administrative centre for the Dutch and residence of the Governor of Dutch Malacca. It’s pronounced as “staad-huis” and Stadthuys of Malacca was originally designed after the Old Stadhuis of Hoorn in Netherlands. However, the Old Stadhuis of Hoorn no longer exists, as such, the only place in the world to see what it once looked like is in Melaka.

The Stadthuys building is now the History and Ethnography Museum.

historical truths about dutch melaka stadthuys
Stadthuys. Image source: Chongkian/Wikimedia Commons

2) Christ Church was built by the Dutch in 1741 to commemorate 100 years of the capture of Malacca from the Portuguese. Originally named as Bovenkerk by the Dutch, Christ Church became the replacement church after the ageing St. Paul’s Church on St Paul’s Hill could not accommodate the Dutch parish community.

historical truths about dutch melaka christ church

The British renamed the church to Christ Church when Malacca was transferred to them under the Anglo-Dutch Treaty in 1824. Christ Church was then consecrated with the rites of Church of England, and is now the oldest functioning Protestant church in Malaysia.

3) The Stadthuys and Christ Church were originally painted white by the Dutch but the British painted the buildings terracotta red in 1911 for practical reason – a red exterior is easier to maintain compared to white exterior – very practical indeed.

4) More Dutch administrative buildings located adjacent to Christ Church on a narrow road formerly known as Riverside Road as it runs parallel to Melaka River. I remember making frequent trips to the General Post Office situated on the right side of Christ Church to send letters to pen pals overseas but now that building is converted into a Youth Museum and Art Gallery.

5) The Clock Tower is not Dutch but it was built in 1886 by a fourth-generation Chinese millionaire, Tan Jiak Kim to fulfil the desires of his father Tan Beng Swee to gift the clock tower to the people of Malacca.

The original clock was ordered from Smith & Sons Clockmakers of London but the clock was changed to Seiko in 1982 and that caused an uproar among the senior citizens of Melaka who still recalled the harsh treatment that they suffered during the Japanese Occupation in Second World War.

6) The Fountain – Queen Victoria Fountain – is definitely not Dutch-made. The Queen Victoria Fountain was built in 1901 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of her reign over the British Empire.

*Also Read: Harmony Street and Melaka River Cruise

historical truths about dutch melaka clock tower and queen victoria fountain

7) There are other buildings located behind the Stadthuys that were originally built by the Dutch but not painted red. A short distance from A’Famosa Fort on Jalan Kota is the Department of Museums building which was formerly used by the senior VOC officers in the 1700s, and the Stamp Museum which was said to be occupied by a Dutch family (Westerhout) for nearly 300 years until Second World War. Both buildings were designed similar to Dutch colonial buildings in the tropics.

8) While much have been said about the administrative buildings of the Dutch but there is very little mention about the Dutch Village where their community used to live during colonial rule.

Many people are not aware that the Dutch Village area is on Heeren Street (Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock) and Jonker Street (Jonker Walk). Heeren Street or Heerenstraat means ‘First Class Gentleman Street’ in Dutch, so obviously the rich stayed on this street whereas Jonker Street or Jonkerstraat means ‘Nobleman Street’ where many traders and merchants’ townhouses were located.

By the late 19th century and early 20th century, the Dutch homes on Heeren Street were taken over the wealthy Straits-Chinese (Babas and Nyonyas), a community of mixed Chinese and Malay/Indonesian heritage, and presently, those townhouses are converted into boutique hotels, private museums, galleries, shops, restaurants and cafes for tourism.

historical truths about dutch melaka heeren street townhouses
The Dutch Heeren Street townhouses were taken over by the Straits-Chinese by late 19th century and early 20th century. Architecture and design changed accordingly.

Similarly, for Jonker Street (originally pronounced as Yonker in Dutch), the merchants’ townhouses have also been converted into antique shops, restaurants, cafes and galleries. Many tourists are familiar with Jonker Walk, a bustling shopping market street on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.

historical truths about dutch melaka jonker walk
Jonker Walk – night market


This article is also available as a GPS-guided article for your convenience when you travel to Melaka. For more information, click here.


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  1. Hi Kat.. very nostalgic.. i am Malaccan boy, born in 1980 and had the privilege to lepak – lepak at the red square and St. Paul Hills area as it was my backyard. Back then it was not bustling area like present.. Nowadays rasa macam dah tak larat nak pergi… hihihi… thanks for this beautiful article..

    1. Hi Rahim, thank you so much for your comment and I’m happy to know that you enjoyed the post 🙂 I agree, Melaka back then was such a great place to be. I remember the seaside close to the padang when I was in primary school but when I moved to secondary school, they reclaimed the land and the sea was pushed further out 🙁 Nowadays, I don’t even go to the town centre especially during festive season and school holidays because of the traffic jam and crowds!

  2. Hi there Kat…..Interesting write-up about Malacca’s colourful and rich history. I go an assignment for you and a good possibility you got this information I like to know 🙂
    After the fall of Portuguese Malacca to the Dutch, what happened to the Portuguese soldiers and Portuguese community in Malacca?
    During the Portuguese conquest of Malacca, the Portuguese did have Indian and Sri Langkian soldiers and sailors, what happened to these soldiers when the Dutch took over Malacca?
    Thank you and love to hear from you. Have a nice day 🙂

    1. Hi Cliff, thanks for your comment. It’s certainly a good topic to research into but I’m quite busy right now working on other stuff. Hence, extensive research like this for a blogpost may take a backseat for now. Thanks for the suggestion though. Cheers!

  3. I’ve never heard about Malaka even about the long history and the architecture. I would never say it is the city in Malaysia when seeing these pictures. Thanks for sharing Ill visit it on my next trip to Malaysia. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    1. If you go to Belem in Lisbon, in front of the Padrao dos Descobrimentos, there is a mosaic map of places around the world which were ruled by Portugal. One of those places is Melaka 🙂 Melaka was ruled by the Portuguese for 130 years before the Dutch came.

  4. Very interesting. I really didn’t know anything about the history of Melaka before reading your post. It’s interesting to see the impact it had on the architecture. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

  5. This is really interesting Kat. We visited Melaka about 4 years ago, it was an overnight stop on the way up to KL and to be honest we could have stayed a little longer, for a small place it packs quite a lot of history and culture. I like the bit about the Stadthuys being a copy of the one in Holland that no longer exists.

    1. Hi Charlotte, the Portuguese were the early navigators in Asia – Melaka (Malacca), Macau and parts of India as well. Goa in India was a Portuguese colony until early 1960s 🙂

  6. Thank you so much for your interesting post! As a Dutchie (and history freak) I have learned and read loads about the East Indie past of The Netherlands, which is still a very important part of our national history. There are still a lot of Indonesian influences to find in modern Dutch culture. I always figures that after the independence of Indonesia in 1948 Dutch traces were considered not very popular anymore, which is understandable. I am surprised to see these traces in Melaka.

    1. Hi Esther, glad that you enjoyed the post! To be honest, not much is known or mentioned about Dutch influences in Melaka except for the red Stadthuys building. I did the research myself, thus shared in this post about what I had discovered. Malaysians, in general, would not have known much about the Dutch in detail. Hopefully some of them come across this post and learn something more about the history of Melaka 🙂

  7. So interesting Kat. Colonialism brought many troubles to countries around the world but also a lot of fascinating stories and some cool architecture. Thanks for sharing the stories of Malacca on #FarawayFiles

  8. Wow, this is a super interesting post! I’m glad I clicked on it from the citytripping link up, because I don’t think I’ve visited your blog before. I’ve never been to Malaysia, but I’m dying to get back to SE Asia soon–I’ll add it to the itinerary!

  9. Great to some background about Malacca – a really informative list. Thanks Kat. I must say some of these building remind me of Galle in Sri Lanka. It was also conquered by the Dutch, Portuguese and British – so makes sense. Thanks for linking #citytripping

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