Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Charles Edwin Spooner - Arthur Hubback's Boss?

Charles Edwin Spooner C.M.G., or better known as C. E. Spooner was the third son of Charles Easton Spooner (1818-1889) who was the Secretary and Engineer of the Festiniog Railway Company from 1856 until 1886.  According to an obituary obtained from ICE (Institute of Civil Engineers, United Kingdom), CHARLES EDWIN SPOONER, C.M.G., General Manger of the Federated Malay States Railways, died at Kuala Lumpur on the 14th May, 1909. Born in 1853, he graduated in Engineering at Trinity College, Dublin, and entered the Survey Department, Ceylon, in 1876. Subsequently he was transferred to the Public Works Department, in which he served 14 years. He then joined the same service in the Straits Settlements, and after acting its State Engineer of Selangor from 1892 to 1901, was appointed in the latter year to the management of the State Railways. He received the C.M.G. in 1904. Mr. Spooner was elected an Associate Member of The Institution on the 23rd May, 1882, and was transferred to the class of Members on the 12th May, 1896.

Obituary from ICE Virtual Library

Now, this solves 2 things to me. One, why the photo of C. E. Spooner from states the year 1901 - 1909; was because Spooner had been elected to the management of the F.M.S. Railways in 1901. Secondly, this may solve the question on why buildings around Kuala Lumpur were built in Mogul fashion, I believe, must have been C. E. Spooner's idea together with R. A. J. Bidwell as Spooner was trained in Ceylon Sri Lanka. According to Ms. Yvonne Barbor (nee Hubback), her father A.B. Hubback has never been to or anywhere near India!


The other road named after the memory of Charles Edwin Spooner - By The Long & Winding Road

Just as Spooner Road in Singapore is a world apart from the rest of Singapore in many ways, I recently discovered that the other road that was named after Charles Edwin Spooner that still exists is a world apart in many ways from the rest of the city it is set in. This Spooner Road, or Jalan Spooner as it is now known as, together with the Spooner Road in Singapore, were two out of three Spooner Roads that were named after Spooner who was the first General Manager of the FMS Railways (FMSR) who began his career in the Public Works Department in Selangor before his appointment to the FMSR in 1901 (the third on Federal Hill in Kuala Lumpur I discovered had been renamed as Jalan Cenderawasih). It was during his time at the PWD in Selangor that he oversaw and influenced some of the Moorish styled architectural masterpieces of Kuala Lumpur, swaying the style from the Neo Classical Renaissance style that was a standard of British government architecture in the colonies towards one that was influence by Islamic elements for the Malaysian capital. To read more please click here.

Kampung Spooner, Jalan Spooner, 30100 Ipoh Perak. There is also a Spooner Road in Singapore. 
Images by Jerome Lim [The Long and Winding Road]

 Images by Jerome Lim [The Long and Winding Road]

I would like to thank Mr. Jerome Lim author and webmaster of the blog "The Long and Winding Road" for providing us permission to use the images and to reprint his articles on his travels. Please be informed that Mr. Jerome Lim has an extensive site on Malayan History viewed through his eyes during his travels. I was indeed impressed with the depth of his articles. If you would like to read more, please click here.

C. E. Spooner played an integral part in our Malayan History, but not much is known about him currently. It is good to note what he has done for Malaya, as the next few articles may have some relationship to him!


Anonymous said...

I am writing about ships built at Porthmadog. One of them was the C.E.Spooner, built 1878. This was named after Charles Easton Spooner who ran the Festiniog Railway for c 30 years. The family were wealthy and lived in a large Victorian stone house in its own grounds overlooking Porthmadog and the estuary of the rivers Dwyryd and Glaslyn.The ship set the record for an Atlantic crossing, west to east, in 13 days.

Charles Edwin was a son of Charles Easton and went to Malaya. He appeared to have gone to Ceylon in 1876 and then to Malaya, where he is asociated wih Kuala Lumpur and buildings as well as railways.

He came from a railway engineering family. His brother Percival went to India in the 1870s and was working on railways in East Bengal.

Curiously, a ship built at Borthygest, Porthmadog called the Pride of Wales worked in the Indian Ocean as a charter mail ship for the Indian government, and made visits to Indonesia and Malaya. She also visited Ceylon.

Any further information would be welcome at

John Idris Jones
Ruthin, North Wales

dr.gwynn said...

I came across C.E.Spooner's signature on the bottom of the drawings for George Town's FMS railway station - on Penang Island. The building began in 1902 but sufferd problems with its piling as the land was reclaimed land - it was finally finished in 1907 I think. Other's tell me it was designed by A B Hubback - any thoughts on this?
And thank you for a great blog!

The Lab Ratz said...

Hello Dr. Gywnn .... Hurm, a rather interesting piece of information you have there. In fact, according to A.B. submission to the A.R.I.B.A., it does state Offices FMS Railways in Penang circa 1904. We have yet to identify the building but could it have been Wisma Kastam? Everytime I get off the jetty in Penang I begin to ponder ... could the building be actually on Beach Street or was it in Butterworth?

As to why C.E. Spooners signature maybe on the document, you can look up our Facebook Page where Mr. Omar Ibrahim has shared some ideas on the possible 'political' & 'organizational' climate of that period at The Hubbacks 'Facebook' Page .......

Anonymous said...

Based on what Dr Gwynn explained it must be Wisma Kastam located on Beach Street in Penang. The building was originally occupied by Malayan Railway Service Northern HQ which also acted as Penang Railway Station.

Passengers bought their tickets at the Penang Railway Station, walked to the Railway Jetty at the end of the China Street Ghaut and boarded the Railway Ferry Streamers to Butterworth to catch the train. Fares to and from Penang were inclusive of the ferry ride.

Built a century ago, the Malayan Railway Building marked the completion of the Federated Malay States (FMS) Railway which was mainly used to transport tin and crops.

It was the railway’s northern region headquarters. In the late 60s, the state Customs Office occupied the building.

Wisma Kastam now-->

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