Agnes Keith House

On the western hill over looking Sandakan town is a British colonial government quarters, called Newlands. This is where the famous American writer, Agnes Newton Keith, once stayed.

Agnes Keith penned Land Below The Wind in 1939. With its success, two books were written, namely Three Came Home (1946) and White Man Returns (1951). With the exception of the second book, Land Below the Wind and White Man Returns were written in this house, on the hill where she had the best views of Sandakan Bay at the front and the Sulu Sea at the back.

Newlands was rebuilt some time in 1946/47 and was the first government permanent timber dwelling to be built after the World War II. It was built upon the ruined foundations of the original house that was destroyed during the war.

The house became home to Agnes and her family, Henry (also referred to as Harry in her books) George Keith, who was the Conservator of Forests and their son, George. After the Keiths left Sabah in 1952, the house was occupied by subsequent Conservators of Forests, forestry officers, volunteers and other staff.

Although the Keiths never retuned to Sabah, the house was always referred to as Agnes Keith's House.

Today the house has been restored and turned into a heritage building, providing interesting insights to life during British North Borneo. It is furnished with a reproduction of colonial furniture and antiques. A gallery on the first floor tells the story of this remarkable woman, her books and her family. A Keith time-line starts in 1873 and ends in 2004 tracing the past to the present Keiths.

"The new house is beautiful. Round trippers on world boats would come up to see it, carrying their cameras and calling, Why look!" (Agnes Keith, White Man Returns, 1951, p.87)

There is also a restaurant beside the house, the English Tea House. While dining at the restaurant, the setting will certainly transport you back to the old North Borneo days!

Opening hours for Agnes Keith House:

Sunday - Thursday from 9am to 5pm
Closed on Friday

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons