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Marudi, when it was called Claudetown

Marudi is a quiet town in Sarawak famous for its kueytiaw noodles.

But did you know this town was once called Claudetown (sometimes spelled as Claude Town) not Marudi?

It was named Claudetown after Claude Champion de Crespigny who was the Resident of Baram district.

Marudi 7
Marudi is also famous for its Baram regatta.

Who was Claude Champion de Crespigny?

An initial Google search of Claude Champion de Crespigny will lead you to Wikipedia page describing a British soldier and polo player. (This de Crespigny, however, committed suicide in 1910 at the age of 37.)

Marudi’s de Crespigny was born in 1829 to Reverend Heaton Champion de Crespigny and his wife Caroline.

He joined the Royal Navy in 1844 and became a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of Great Britain.

Charles Brooke, the second White Rajah appointed him as the Resident of the Fourth Division (Baram and Trusan) in 1883.

Before that, he was the Resident of the Third Division (Rejang, Oya, Mukah, Matu and Bintulu).

His administration was made up of two junior officers, 30 rangers and a few native police officers.

In 1882, de Crespigny recorded in his diary that there were 18 hand-dug oil wells at the mouth of Miri river.

He noticed that the locals mixed the oil with resin to caulk their boats.

The Brooke government didn’t put more thought to this observation until de Crespigny’s successor Charles Hose came along.

de Crespigny died on Dec 28, 1884.

The town is also home to the famous kueytiaw Marudi.

Claudetown in the 1880s

The first foundation of Claudetown was laid on July 19, 1882.

In 1885, Charles Brooke visited Claudetown and it already had 45 attap shophouses.

The population throughout the whole of Baram area back then was mainly made up of the Kayan, Kenyah, Kelabit, Penan, Berawan, Kiput, Sebop, and Seping.

The first group of Chinese immigrants who arrived in town were the Hokkien.

They came down from Kuching in 1882 to trade.

By 1888, there were 300 Hokkiens and Teochews living in Claudetown.

Then in 1905, a Malay named Dato Sharif Hamid from Simanggang (known today as Sri Aman) introduced rubber planting in the area. Now, there is a primary school SK Dato Sharif Hamid named after him.

From Claudetown to Marudi

So why did Claudetown change its name to Marudi?

According to Miri’s official government website, it was later renamed to Marudi after a small river flowing through the town.

But local historian Chang Pat Foh had a more amusing story behind the name Marudi.

After the discovery of oil in Miri, the administrative centre of the Fourth Division was relocated from Claudetown to Miri.

Miri people back then used to tease those from Claudetown in the Iban language, “Malu dek, Kubu Claudetown udah pindah ngagai Miri.” (How embarassing for you, your fort has been moved to Miri).

Then, slowly people started to call the town “Malu dek” which eventually became Marudi.

Charles Hose and his love affair with Sarawak

Fort Hose Marudi 1
A plaque at Fort Hose marking the date it was opened in Marudi.

Fort Hose in Marudi was named after Charles Hose, the then Resident of Baram.

Born in 1863 in Hertfordshire, he was the son of clergyman Thomas Charles Hose.

As a young man, he continued his study at Cambridge University but never completed his degree.

With the help of his uncle, George Frederick Hose, the bishop of Singapore, Sarawak and Labuan, Hose landed a job in the Sarawak civil service.

The fort – now officially renamed and repurposed as the Baram Regional Museum –  is a significant remnant of the Brooke era in Sarawak which ended about 80 years ago.

Apart from his work as a British administrator, Hose contributed a great deal to Sarawak as a zoologist and ethnologist.

Hose and his love for nature

Hose lived in Sarawak for 24 years and spent his free time researching natural history and ethnography.

He enjoyed exploring the rainforest and became an avid collector of plants and animals.

His collection can be found in the British Museum and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge.

An amateur photographer, Hose also captured photos showcasing people and scenery of Sarawak.

To commemorate his work as a zoologist, several species were named after him including Hose’s frog (Odorrana hosii), Hose’s tree frog (Philautus hosii), Hose’s palm civet (Diplogale hosei) and many more.

Fort Hose Marudi 2
Some of the photographs taken by Charles Hose himself displayed at Baram Regional Museum.

Hose and the birth of Baram Regatta

During the Brooke administration, fights among tribes were rampant in the Baram region.

Hose decided to hold a peace conferenceat his fort in April 1899 which led to the birth of the first Baram Regatta.

The regatta, a longboat competition among the tribes, is still continued to this day. Only now it includes other activities such as cultural performances, beauty pageants and so much more.

After his 18-year service in Marudi, he was promoted to serve the supreme council of Sibu.

There, he also helped in peace negotiations between Iban rebels in 1904 and warring Ibans from the Rajang and Batang Lupar in 1907.

Hose and the Kelabit people

According to former headmaster and author Sagau Batubala, the name Kelabit was a misnomer Hose had given to the people living in the highlands south of Mount Murud.

As Resident, part of his responsibilities included listing down all the races living in Baram.

When a group of villagers paid a courtesy call to the newly appointed Resident in his office at Fort Hose in 1901, Hose asked them where they were from, which leader of the group answered “Pa’ Labid”, the name of their village.

Dutifully, he then asked them what their races were, to which the leader answered “Orang Pa’ Labid.”

Hose was believed to have misheard the word ‘Pa’ Labid’, writing it down in his record book as ‘Kalabit’.

From that moment on, Kalabit became the race name for the ethnic community we now know as Kelabit.

A side view of Fort Hose.
After being razed to the ground, Fort Hose was rebuilt according its original dimensions. The fortress as it stands today.

Hose and the discovery of oil in Miri

Hose is cited by Rasoul Sorkhabi in GEOExpro, a petroleum geoscience magazine, to have played a significant role in the discovery of oil in Miri.

After his appointment as the Resident of Baram, Hose started mapping oil seeps in and around Miri.

He reportedly gave his findings to the Brooke government, but an English consultant geologist said an oil exploration in Sarawak was a no-go because of its poor logistical conditions.

Hose then retired and returned to England where he whosed his map of oil seeps to Charles Brooke.

The late Rajah gave his permission to continue the exploration, so Hose went to discuss the idea with Anglo-Saxon Petroleum, a part of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group.

The meeting was a success and Charles later signed the first Sarawak Oil Mining Lease in 1909.

Eventually due to the rapid oil discovery activity, the Resident’s Office was moved from Marudi to Miri in 1912.

A portrait sketch of Charles Hose. Credit: Public Domain.
A sketch portrait of Charles Hose. Credit: Public Domain.

Hose and his many publications

Hose spent his retirement in Norfolk writing about Sarawak and its people.

Some of his significant publications are ‘The Pagan Tribes of Borneo’ (1912), ‘Natural Man’ (1926), and his memoir ‘Fifty Years of Romance and Research, or, a Jungle-Wallah at Large’ (1927).

He died at the Hutton Nursing Home in 1929.

A visit to Fort Hose, Marudi, Sarawak

A visit to Marudi, a quiet riverine town in northern Sarawak, would be incomplete without a visit to Fort Hose.

Located about 100km upriver from Kuala Baram, Marudi used to be the administrative centre of this area before Miri was founded.

Today it is the largest town in Baram district.

Fort Hose 1
Fort Hose, now known as Baram Regional Museum.

It all started in 1883 when the then-Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Abdul Momin ceded the Baram region to Charles Brooke, the second White Rajah.

The Baram region became the fourth division of Sarawak with Mamerto George Gueritz installed as its first Resident.

Whenever the Brooke administration attained an area to govern, the first thing it would do is build a fort.

Fort Hose 2
A detailed wooden carving decorating one of the wooden poles of Fort Hose’s gateway.
Fort Hose 3
The archway leading to the fort.
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Mannequins showing how it might look like to visit the resident at his office at Fort Hose during the Brooke administration.

Construction on the fort began in 1889 and were completed in 1901. The fort was named after Charles Hose, who was appointed as Resident of the Fourth Division in 1891.

The fort was built with durable belian hardwood on top of a hill overlooking the Baram river.

Two large cannons positioned at the front of the fort would protect the building against invaders.

Fort Hose was also used as an administration office and Resident’s house.

In 1899, the building became the site of a historical peacemaking ceremony that would end bloody ages-old wars among all the tribes in the Baram region.

Since then, various authorities have used Fort Hose over the years: the District Office, the Welfare Department, Immigration Department, Land and Survey Department and Information Department.

When the Japanese invaded Sarawak during World War II, they reportedly used it as a Kempeitai or Military Police Corps’ headquarters.

It was last used as a Community Development office of Penan Handicraft Exhibition centre.

On 24 Aug 1994, around midnight, Fort Hose was razed to the ground almost 100 years after it was built.

In 1995, the communities in and around the Baram area contributed Belian poles towards the fort’s reconstruction. It was then rebuilt according to its original dimensions and design.

It was officially renamed Baram Regional Museum on 25 May 1997 and declared open by former Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu Numpang.

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Traditional shields, wooden baskets used by the Orang Ulu communities.
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Some of the traditional music instruments used by the Orang Ulu communities on display inside the museum.
Fort Hose
A tribal mask usually used during an Orang Ulu ceremony.

Baram Regional Museum

Fort Hose
A view of the inside of the Baram Regional Museum.

At the museum, visitors can find a collection of photographs taken by Hose himself.

Most are portraits of the Orang Ulu taken in the early 20th century as well as aspects of their daily lives like salt processing.

Local textiles, beaded items, wood carvings and ceremonial items such as wooden masks used by the Orang Ulu communities of the region are also on display.

It also houses a 30-foot-long sape which made it to the Malaysian Guinness Book of Records for the being the biggest of its kind. Built in 2008, the lute-like musical instrument was made by sape makers Anyie Wan, Hillary Tawan Achai and Noel Along Anyie.

Although it is relatively smaller than other museums here in Sarawak, it offers a comprehensive guide to the history of Baram and its people.

It may be the only museum in Malaysia focusing mainly on the culture and history of Orang Ulu communities which include the Kayan, Kenyah, Penan and Kelabit.

Visitors can also take a walk in the park surrounding the fort as it offers an excellent view of the Baram River.

The museum is open Tuesdays to Fridays (9am-4.45pm), Saturdays and Sundays (10am-4pm). Admission is free.

Fort Hose
Fort Hose overlooks the mighty Baram river.
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There is a hanging bridge located right behind the fort.
Fort Hose 10
Take a walk at the park near the fort.