The Walls of Old Batavia

The map below shows the outline of the City of Batavia and its defensive walls and bastions in 1780, at the peak of its commercial development and before the subsequent bankruptcy of the United Dutch East India Company (VOC) only another 15 years later.

The walled city of Old Batavia

The walled city of Old Batavia

Who would believe that after more than 300 years some of the walls of Old Batavia are still standing? Along with Sake Santema from the Bartele Gallery and a small group of enthusiasts we decided to mount an expedition to ‘discover’ part of the old wall. Walking north from Fatahillah Square along Jalan Pintu Besar Utara we passed under the tollroad and then turned right across a muddy open area used to store construction materials. The detail map shows the location of the remaining warehouse and the old wall.

Map of Batavia. Detail

Map of Batavia. Detail

The map shows four warehouses originally built in this location but only one is remaining. These warehouses were built by the VOC from 1700 to 1752 in the eastern area between the City of Batavia and Kasteel Batavia. Known as the Graanpakhuizen (grainwarehouses) they were used to store corn, rice, beans, peanuts, peas, ships biscuit and other foodstuffs. It is possible to enter the abandoned warehouse and after you pick your way throught the dust, dirt and debris you can admire the massive teak beams used in its construction. There must be a way to preserve this historic building before it is allowed to be destroyed by the onslaught of ‘development’.

How much longer can this historic building survive?

How much longer can this historic building survive?

On the east side of the warehouse we passed through a gap which allowed us to follow the outside of the Old Wall towards the northwest. Here there is a pathway between the wall and the temporary houses built along the canal which extended towards Kasteel Batavia before it was demolished by Marshall Daendels in 1809 to build Fort Cornelis.

The old wall and local residents

The old wall and local residents

This photograph show our small group standing in front of the old wall which towers above us. Sake Santema is holding the historic map of Batavia that we used as our guide.

A remaining part of the old walls of Batavia

A remaining part of the old walls of Batavia

About ianburnet

Author of the book, Spice Islands. Which tells the History, Romance and Adventure of the spice trade from the Moluccas in Eastern Indonesia over a period of 2000 years. Author of the book, East Indies.Which tells the history of the struggle between the Portuguese Crown, the Dutch East India Company and the English East India Company for supremacy in the Eastern Seas. Author of the book 'Archipelago - A Journey Across Indonesia'. Author of the book 'Where Australia Collides with Asia' Author of the book 'The Tasman Map'. Author of the book 'Eastern Voyages'.
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11 Responses to The Walls of Old Batavia

  1. mumun indohoy says:

    Oh how I would have loved to walk with you guys.

    Is that Brian Kelly?

  2. Randy Rutledge says:

    I wish I could have joined in on this adventure. I can’t get over how high the wall is! I hope the new governor of Jakarta makes an effort to preserve it as well as the remaining warehouse.

  3. Grant says:

    It looks like you’d need to be quick to preserve the old warehouse going by the number of heavy equipments vehicles just outside. Grant.

    • ianburnet says:

      Thanks Grant. That was one reason for making the post, hopefully there is someone in Jakarta who can help.

      • Rizki says:

        as Indonesian… First, my appreciation to your vision and mission for your job .. thank you for that..It is actually done by foreign nationals …
        The second, just my opinion, your desire likely to fail ..
        I’m not intend to impose the good of science that you accomplish,,
        It’s another matter, as typical of our government that is less concerned with the segmentation of history …
        Let alone thought about it to think only towards the welfare of citizens our government is like running out of time..

  4. hanneke says:

    That is fascinating! Would love to go and see myself! Did you also visit Fort Robijn?

  5. Donna says:

    It would be fantastic if someone would purchase this and turn it into a restaurant or gift shop…. maybe if its commercially viable it will be preserved.

  6. Johan says:

    It’s not part of the “Jakarta Old Town Revitalization Corporation, renovation of the Kota Tua area is expected to be finished before the start of the 2018 Asian Games.”?

  7. rochelimit55555 says:

    I can’t believe it, I never realized there’s still the old wall. I better check them out. Jakarta’s full of discoveries.

  8. Yugo says:

    Mr. Burnet,

    I’ve just started writing a series of articles about the spatial-historical development of Batavia, from its establishment by VOC, the expansion under Dutch East Indies Colony, until its transfer to the Indonesian Republic.

    I am using old maps to trace the developments. But unfortunately there are a few words or texts from the old map (in Dutch) that I cannot “decipher” yet. Considering your 30 years of experience in the history of Indonesia, is it possible to seek your assistance to examine it?

    Thank you very much.

    • ianburnet says:

      Hello Yugo. Congratulations on the work that you are doing and it will be really valuable contribution to the history of Batavia. Unfortunately I cannot help you with the ‘old dutch’ words you cannot decipher. You really have to find a ‘old dutch’ expert as in my experience even modern Dutch speakers have difficulty in deciphering these words.

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