Atbara House

Perhaps a few Botanic Gardens-goers will notice a beautiful colonial house standing at the top of a small hill at Gallop Road. It is the former French Embassy to Singapore, also known as the Atbara House.

Built in 1898 by well-known architect Regent Alfred John Bidwell (1869–1918), who also designed the Raffles Hotel, Stamford House and Goodwood Park Hotel, the Atbara House possesses English-flavoured white walls with distinctive black outlines and a red roof.

The main stairway is laid with red mosaic tiles that give a welcoming feel, while the secondary stairway leads to a sheltered porch probably for the ambassador’s car.

At its ground level, the double-storey building is decorated with a series of Victorian-styled pillars with curved plasterworks that display an elegant and romantic appeal.

Today, despite its dilapidated roof, peeling walls and overgrown bushes covering part of the structure, the Atbara House still displays a sense of pride which speaks volumes about its 114-year history.

In September 1999, the French Embassy was relocated to a new building at nearby Cluny Park Road. But this old embassy, which represents a part of Singapore’s history, should be considered by the authority for conservation.

Published: 23 April 2011

46 Responses to Atbara House

  1. Jeffery Abdullah says:

    Wow! Great photo shots with beautiful scenary! It seems a little spooky and looks haunted? 🙂

  2. hi Jeffery, thanks.
    It may look haunted at night but during the day, its colonial flavour and its peaceful surrounding are absolutely captivating..

  3. Zoe23 says:

    Hi nice nostalgic photos! Im thinking of doing a vintage type of photo session outside this place,do we still have to ask permission or as long as it subtle,it’s ok to take photos around the area? Thanks! =)

  4. Zoe23 says:

    Thanks! Keep the vintage photos coming! They’re beautiful.=)

  5. Xi says:

    Lovely! Really like your posts!

  6. sgnicholas says:

    Have you been visit another abandon place. The Keat Hong Camp?

    • Hmm.. The old Keat Hong Camp in CCK? Nope not yet 😉

      • nicholas says:

        Demolished. And Built for what Keat Hong Pride?
        Sad, lots of memory in that camp. The g0v should kept it and not demolish. Full of historical values.

    • othman says:

      That my camp. As a storeman, we went thru three months basic coures there. It was in 1979. Every scary doing guard night patrol. The stores were far apart and the furtherest was Accomodation Stores. Before I left the camp, it was upgraded to new army drivers and offensive skills facilities. When I took MRT I will see the remaining but the driving facilities still there. It is more appropriate place if it is opened for public driving test.

  7. Wendy Hutton says:

    I enjoyed meals at the French Ambassador’s house here in the early 1980s. The Ambassador’s wife kept her horse on site (the govt couldn’t stop her — diplomatic territory!) and the horse actually wandered into the kitchen via the back door looking for treats from the
    Vietnamese chef.

    • Hello Wendy, the Chollets. A charming couple. Their horse trotted off one day and there was panic when Lola Chollet found out that the horse was trotting against traffic, i think it was on Scotts Road. Lola always had lovely stories to relate. I remember doing a an Cleef & Arpels launch in their home. The jewellery on display was worth millions and the guests were wearing millions too. I sat next to a crazy chap who said what a great idea it would have been to arrange a robbery. It certainly look viable.

    • Drew Hulton-Smith says:

      In the 80’s we spent a lot of time at the Chollet’s house further up the hill, Paso Doble was the horse, pretty unfriendly as I recall. As kids we mostly played in the pool or upstairs in the house

  8. George says:

    Pity this couldnt be restored and preserved as a Heritage Building because of its history and charming “colonial” architecture. Such building shouldnt be lost in the modernity of our island’s faceless urban landscapes

  9. Sheila says:

    Really enjoy browsing your website. Thanks!

  10. Ishvarlall Singh says:

    In the Singapore context History starts from 1965. So all these beautiful sites and many stories if only the walls could talk will be destroyed then removed and completely forgotten. It is sad but that is how things are, preserving history does not bring money. It really hurts me when I see some of these places go (disappear forever). Thank you for preserving these photographs, they speak more than 1000 words. Thank you.

  11. Marie-Agnès Meune/Royère says:

    This remenbers me so fondly the ancient time in the 55’s/58’s when my father worked in this place … We lived up the hill in the residence nearby (7 Gallop road) that was demolished, I heard. This are wonderful memories. So sad to see it abandonned.
    An ancient french little girl in Singapore.

  12. Well, the house was still in usage until 1999.
    Guess the diplomats were not used to our hot and humid weather 😀

  13. Lee says:

    Drove by today.. it’s under renovation/being restored..whole bldg covered in green cloth and I can see that parts of it have been taken apart.

  14. A. Vivien says:

    It’s so pretty. Is it open to public? I love your blog, it’s so informative. 🙂

  15. Weiloong Takahama says:

    a * Colonial Classic*

    Thanks for sharing this excellent collection!!

  16. Gnanamoorthy says:

    Devi says
    Thank you for these beautiful pictures . Hope they will preserve them for eternity!

  17. Shereen Boaz says:

    This building really needs to be preserved. It is a part of our history and history includes everything that has made us who we are.

  18. Cath says:

    They are in the process of doing a total renovation to it. Does any one have any idea as to whether they are keeping it as a residential house or is it going to be a restuarant. They look like they are almost done. It looks absolutely spectacular………

  19. sora says:

    I actually took my wedding photos here in 2008. You can see the photos here: Its dilapidated grandeur really felt romantic. What a gorgeous place.

  20. Hi,any idea if this Atbara House is still around?
    Are we allowed to enter the house or the compound to take some pictures?
    I always hope to go to these places to take some pictures however many places were either being torn down or do not allowed public to enter(like OCH).

  21. EMF says:

    May I know exactly which part of Botanic Gardens can we see the house?

  22. Little Pixie says:

    I went on a lil “exploring” some years back, maybe around 2009(?) with a group of frens at night. We managed to enter the vast building. Nothing much left in there except for some graffities, broken chair, lotsa rubbish and whatnots. There were security cameras around the property, and we were actually called out to leave the vicinity by a group of plain clothed police officers who were parked down the lane. We had our ICs screened as well, reasons being it was a private property and we were trespassing etc. We were told that in previous years after being abandoned and before security cameras were installed, the place was misused by inconsiderate beings to jab drugs, was badly littered and vandalised by so called “adventure seekers”.
    I do still have some pictures taken, but they are a bit grainy with alot of orbs. They were taken around 2-3am.
    It is sad to see alot of magnificent buildings torn down. It is even more heart wrenching to know there are still many who have no sense of respect and conscience.

  23. EMF says:

    The house is being sold for rent and renovated

  24. jono chua says:

    as an architect, i’m actually glad that its being rented out for alfresco dining (not sold)..with renewed purpose comes an injunction from demolition..Lets Re-purpose old buildings rather than demolish the Cathay in Dhoby Ghaut (even though thats technically adaptive reuse)

  25. i one to try going this house look fun 🙂

  26. Hazeli says:

    Hi,,, I would like to enquiry if Atbara House is available for rental for the 26th Oct 2013. Would greatly appreciate if you could reply me…

  27. sreevalsan says:

    Really interesting!

  28. SINGAPORE: A 106-year-old property is being put up for tender after being vacant for over a decade.

    The black and white bungalow at Gallop Road used to be the residence of a French Ambassador. The house is now a state building managed by the Singapore Land Authority. The price for renting this 150,000 square foot property is over S$50,000 a month but property analysts said they don’t expect aggressive bids for it.

    – CNA

  29. The house is beautifully restored now, but no longer accessible

    The Atbara is the former French Embassy to Singapore and was left unoccupied after the French Embassy vacated in 1999. This 114-year-old state building is now managed by the Singapore Land Authority, having been successfully restored to its former glory by the team led by S A Chua Architects Pte Ltd, with TP Seow Consultants, Enkon International, PQS Consultants and the main contractor, SCT Construction Pte Ltd in November 2012.

  30. Cu says:

    perhaps end up future house of someone in govt

  31. J Walker says:

    I am glad to see it restored. I wonder why people of great wealth do not take the opportunity to rescue such pieces of history. One can imagine a Bill Gates or Peter Lim (China has 152 billionaires!) using such houses as vacation homes or even guest homes. A rich man can easily build a new palace, but he can’t claim it was the French Embassy or designed by the man that designed Raffles Hotel.

  32. Angela Tan says:

    Wow it’s restored! I’ve actually had my pre-wed photoshoot there in 2011. It’s an amazing venue and absolutely rustic for a shoot! Love how the shots came out and everyone was raving about the venue =) We didn’t manage to go in and explore though, cuz we saw security cameras and a lot of dried leaves blocking the small entrance as seen in the above shots.

  33. Chloe says:

    This website is absolutely fascinating! I’ve lived here my whole life and so many of these things I never knew about before! Please continue to write on this blog, it’s really amazing what you are doing! I want to visit everywhere!

    Looking forward to more posts!

  34. The French Embassy at Atbara House, 1973

    (Source: Facebook Group “Nostalgic Singapore”)

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