Standing alone in the wildness of Punggol, the Matilda House has been around for more than a hundred years. It was built in 1902 by Irish lawyer Joseph William Cashin (1844-1907) for his wife. The wealthy Cashin family regarded the Matilda House, also known as Istana Menanti (“Waiting Palace” in Malay) or the Punggol Kampong House, as a weekend resort.
According to the third generation of the Cashin family, Howard Edmund Cashin (1920-2009), the house was built by his father Alexander William Cashin (1876-1947) instead of his grandfather.
During the fifties, the Cashin family started to regularly live in the Matilda house until 1970s. They had properties in other parts of Singapore as well, including The Pier at Lim Chu Kang (also a weekend resort), “Butterfly House” at Amber Road, some shophouses at Victoria Street and a coconut estate at Geylang.
Although the bungalow is in ruins today, it still possesses certain features of its glorious past, such as the red roofs, white walls and two large staircases. The single-storey building, with six bedrooms, occupies 417 square feet.
There is also a dilapidated stable beside the main building. The nearby orchard, once filled with many types of fruit trees, no longer exists.
A tennis court, supposed to be just outside the house, cannot be found anymore.
Today, the building is now surrounded by barbed fences and installed with a CCTV. No one is allowed to enter the perimeter for exploration.
With its unique tropical architectural design, the Matilda House has been a favourite haunt for photographers since the Cashin family moved out many decades ago.
In the early 70s, the Singapore government acquired the nearby land.
In 2000, the house was put onto the conservation list by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).
Today, the Punggol LRT loops around the house, and several new blocks of flats are being built nearby. Very soon, the once isolated and quiet Punggol will be buzzed with life again.
In December 2010, developer Sim Lian Group made a bid of $363 million to acquire the surrounding land off Punggol Field and Punggol Walk. If their bid is successful, the plot of land will be used to develop high rise condominiums, and the century-old Matilda House will be converted into a clubhouse.
Most probably in more than a year from now, the lonely and sad-looking Matilda House of many years will have an entirely new look.
Published: 09 December 2010
Updated: 17 March 2012