Friday, October 20, 2006

The Phra Racha Wang Derm Restoration Foundation

PhraRachaWang Derm orThon Buri Palace is the only palace
built by King Taksin the great in 1768. It was built on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River near the old WichayenFort which was later renamed Wichaiprasit Fort to the canal
north of ArunRajawararamtemple (Nakornban Canal) and included Wat Chaeng (Arun Rajawararam Temple) and Wat Tai Talad (Wat Molee Lokayaram) within its bor ders. Later, when King Rama I ascended the throne, the capital was moved to the east bank of the Chao Phraya River, and a new royal palace was constructed. Thon Buri Palace became known as Phra Racha Wang Derm (the original palace). King Rama I reduced the area of the palace by excluding the two temples from the palace grounds. Because of its strategic location, the King placed important royal family members in Phra Racha Wang Derm. This practice continued until King Rama V. Important members of the royal family who resided at the palace were as follows:

  • King Rama I -King Rama II -King Rama III -King Rama IV -King Pinklao -King Rama V -Prince Khrom Luang Vongsa Thirajsnid -Prince Khrom PhraChakrapadibhongse

When Prince Chakrapadipongse, the last occupant, passed away, King Rama V graciously bestowed the palace to the Royal Thai Navy to be used as the site of the Naval Academy. Specific instructions were given to preserve ancient sites such as the Throne Hall, King Pinklao's residence, King Taksin's Shrine and the Whale Head Shrine. The Naval Academy remained at Phra Racha Wang Derm until 1944 when it was moved to Sattahip and Kledkaew. Then it was moved to its current location at Samutprakarn in 1952. The Academy building, which was originally built in western style, was remodeled into a Thai style and has housed the Royal Thai Navy Headquarters up to the present.


Wichaiprasit Fort was formerly called Wichayen Fort and was built during the reign of King Narai the Great to protect the important port of Bangkok. Another fort was built on the east bank of the river at the same time.When King Taksin the Great established Thon Buri as his capital, Thon Buri palace was built in the compound of Wichayen Fort and the fort nearby was renovated and renamed "Wichaiprasit Fort". At present, the Royal Thai Navy uses the fort for cannon firing at important ceremonies.The flags of the Commander-in-Chief and the Royal Thai Navy fly from the flag pole installed there.

The smaller of the two structures was constructed in the beginning of the Rattanakosin Era, when King Rama ll was still Prince Khrom Luang Isara Sunthorn and lived in Phra Racha Wang Derm.The smaller building's style is Chinese. At present, it is used to house a collection of traditional Thai weapons as well as information on King Taksin's battle achievements. The larger building is believed to have been constructed when King Pinklao was Prince Issares Rangsan and resided in Phra Racha Wang Derm during 1824-1851.The style is a mix of Thai and Chinese. At present, the building houses an exhibit of the social, economic and cultural activities of King Taksin the Great as well as a collection of antiques and paintings.

This building was the official residence of King Pinklao from 1824-1851, before he received the royal titles of Khrom Phra Racha Wang Baworn Sathan Mongkol, the second King of Siam, and moved to live in Front Palace at the beginning of King Rama IV's reign.The building is considered to be the first western style structure with an American influence that was used as the royal family resdidence. At present, the upper floor is used to exhibit the life and work of King Pinklao and contains a reference library of the Thon Buri period as well as information concerning Phra Racha Wang Derm. The lower houses an exhibit of the antique ceramic wares and old Thai currencies and coins.
The present shrine was built when Prince Khrom Phra Chakrapadibhongse, the last occupant, lived in Phra Racha Wang Derm from 1881-1900. It is located north of the Chinese buildings and west of the palace wall. The architecture is a mix of western and Thai styles. Inside is a statue of King Taksin the Great holding his sword .
The recent shrine is a building constructed in 1999 on the base of the old shrine and is used to house the relics of the whale bones found below King Taksin's shrine during present restorations.The former shrine is believed to have been built during early Rattanakosin Period and fell to ruin on 11 April 1900, the night Prince Chakrapadibhongse died. Historical research shows that the shrine was a Chinese Pavillion.The present structure is designed to reflect the style of the period and to blend with surrounding buildings.
In the past, this was the infirmary of the Naval Academy. Built around 1900-1906, the building was originally a single storey wooden structure on a man-made hill constructed at the beginning of King Rama V's reign when Prince Khrom Phra Chakrapadibhongse resided in Phra Racha Wang Derm. The building is presently under the care of the Naval Communications Department and is used as a meeting room.

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