The Origin of Kampung Sultan Lama

Teachers at Sekolah Melayu, Kampong Sultan Lama

Kampong Sultan Lama is the most packed village facing the main road

Kampong Sultan Lama facing Jalan Pretty

Major Function are often held at Jalan Pretty

A village inhabitant keeping a payau in the confined space of the kampong

Rozan Yunos
Bandar Seri Begawan
Sunday, January 3, 2016
(Published in The Brunei Times on Sunday)

BANDAR Seri Begawan, a historic city, has changed a lot in recent years. Just off the city centre, we can see a towering tower holding the cables to the cable stay bridge crossing over from Bandar Seri Begawan to the Sungai Kebun area, a journey which can take an hour before and slashed to minutes with the new bridge.

The historic houses of Kampong Ayer which used to straddle both sides of the Brunei River now only straddles the far side. The Kampong Ayer houses on the town side of Bandar Seri Begawan has completely disappeared now. In its places are small mangrove trees and sandbanks. The Bandar Seri Begawan beautification project is underway and means many changes to the old city centre of the nation’s capital.

Today’s article will focus on one of a number of Kampong Ayer villages which used to be part of Bandar Seri Begawan.

The focus will be on Kampung Sultan Lama or the Old Sultan’s Village. Many Bruneians fondly remember this village and actually feel nostalgic about the village. This is generally due to its location and many older Bruneians remember the many shop houses which used to used to be the front and aligned with Jalan Pretty.

Kampung Sultan Lama is the one and only village which used to hug one major road of Bandar Seri Begawan. Many of the houses actually opened up to Jalan Pretty. Even though, we have other villages such Kampong Sungai Kedayan hugging the same side of Bandar Seri Begawan, but the village only opens up direct to the lagoon’s road of the Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Mosque.

It was said that the name of the village Kampung Sultan Lama or the Old Sultan’s Village was named after Sultan Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqamadin, the 25th Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam who reigned from 1890 to 1906. He stayed at Istana Kota located at the village. It was not until 1922 that when Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam II who decided to build a brand new palace, Istana Majalis, a new palace on dry land, that a palace was built on dry land.

It was also believed that the name of the village before being called Kampung Sultan Lama was Kampung Yang Di-Pertuan Lama before 1892.

However when referring to the list of Kampong Ayer villages described by Sir Spenser Buckingham St John in his book entitled “Life in the Forests of the Far East” first published in 1862 in two volumes by Smith, Elder and Co in London, the names of the village as either Kampung Sultan Lama or Kampung Yang Di-Pertuan Lama were not in use. This could mean that the then Sultans did not stay in the same village then.

In ascending the river from the right, St John described the first village as ‘Terkoyong’ which was derived from the word koyong or shell. The villagers collected pearl oysters as well as collected the contents of the oyster for food.

The next village was the ‘Labuan Kapal’, or the ships’ anchorage. The water up to the wharves was deep so that ships could load without using boats.

The villagers themselves made kajangs or mats used to cover boats and walls of houses.

Other kampongs were known as ‘Jawatan Jeludin’ and ‘Khatib Bakir’ made up of traders and blacksmiths; ‘Peminiak’, from minyak or oil; ‘Pengiran Ajak’ and ‘Ujong Tajong’ were made up of general traders. Sungai Kedayan was the residence of the Temenggong and Pemancha and various other government officers and the villagers themselves cast brass guns, goldsmiths and the women made gold brocades (jong sarat). Two mosques were built here.

By the 1970s, Kampung Sultan Lama was bordered by a few villages such as Kampung Bendahara Lama, Kampung Pemancha Lama, Kampung Pengiran Kerma Indera Lama, Kampung Pengiran Tajudin Hitam, all of which are named after the Wazirs and Cheterias and other dignitaries who used to live in those villages.

By the 1970s too, the village was a relatively large village. It started from the current Royal Wharf and extended all the way to the boundary of Kampung Sungai Kedayan which is roughly at around the centre half point of the lagoon encircling the Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Mosque.

There was a small filling station just at the end of Jalan McArthur and the beginning of Jalan Roberts. This filling station was one of two filling stations built in the immediate city centre (the other one was next to the current fire and rescue station in front of Jalan Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien).

Uniquely at the entrance of Kampung Sultan Lama stood a concrete arch to commemorate the coronation of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam as the 29th Sultan on August 1, 1968.

The commemorative concrete arch was presented by Yang DiMuliakan Pehin Orang Kaya Di Gadong Dato Seri Setia Haji Mohd Yusuf. This arch played an important role to people who stayed at Kampung Sultan Lama especially to those before the 1990s. It always became the centre or the point of reference for sending or fetching children to and back to schools as well as for picking up passengers from outside the city. When the Yayasan Sultan Foundation building was built in 1993, the arch was finally moved to its current location.

In the village, Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien was born on September 23, 1914.

The village also hold the distinction of being able to supply musicians for the royal household Naubat Diraja. Other villages supplying musicians include Kampung Pemancha Lama and Kampung Sungai Kedayan. Even though, the village of Sultan Lama does not exist anymore, the descendants from Kampung Sultan Lama are still picked to be members of that music group.

On June 13, 1966, a Malay primary school was opened known as Sekolah Melayu Kampong Sultan Lama. It had 32 students in Primary 1 to Primary 3 Only. Its first principal was Cikgu Abd Rahman Haji Othman. In 1975, a new school building was built and the school was renamed Pengiran Digadong Haji Mohd Salleh Primary School.

In 2005, the primary school was converted to be a religious school and renamed the school as Pengiran DiGadong Haji Mohd Salleh Religious School. The number of students had dropped and the primary school students were transferred to Dato Godam Primary School.

Kampung Sultan Lama was engulfed in a huge fire in 1981 where it destroyed about three quarters of the village. A smaller second fire destroyed most of the remaining houses in the area. All of the village inhabitants had moved to dry land and the majority of them are staying at Kampung Perpindahan Mata-Mata Gadong.

The area where Kampung Sultan Lama used to be was razed and flattened and upon it now stand the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Foundation Building.

The writer of The Golden Legacy column – the longest running column in The Brunei Times – also runs a website about Brunei at

The Brunei Times


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