A Different Sanctuary at Mount Vernon

With the closure of Mount Vernon Columbarium in end-September 2018, a different type of sanctuary may appear in five years’ time when the new Bidadari housing estate is completed.

It was back in 2013 when the government announced the development plans of the new estate that will replace the former “resting place” of 20,000 niches and urns with 10,000 Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats and 1,000 private homes.

Named after English naval officer Admiral Edward Vernon (1684-1757), the Mount Vernon area has always been a serene and quiet part of Singapore often overlooked by many. In the early fifties, the Singapore City Council built 70 semi-detached houses at Mount Vernon for the accommodation of its junior staffs.

Mount Vernon Columbarium/Crematorium

Calls for a public columbarium started in the sixties, but it was only in the mid-seventies when the Mount Vernon Columbarium was completed at a construction cost of $220,000. The new facilities were able to store 3,000 niches, with each space available for $200, supplied with marble plaques, during the first years of its opening. However, only ashes from the cremations at Mount Vernon could be stored.

The first group of concrete slab-styled columbariums used for the storage of niches were of plain and simple design, where each of them was able to take up to 200 niches on both side of the walls. When these columbariums was filled, the government built new ones with the addition of the sloping green Chinese-style roofs that later became a familiar sight at Mount Vernon.

Mount Vernon was the final resting place for several notable figures, including the fifth Singapore President Ong Teng Cheong (1936-2002), former Finance Minister Hon Sui Sen (1916-1983), Teh Cheang Wan (1928-1986), Minister for National Development between 1979 and 1986, and Naa Govindasamy (1946-1999), People’s Action Party Member of Parliament for Telok Blangah (1968-1976) and Radin Mas (1976-1977). 

Prominent local businessman and philanthropist Lee Kong Chian’s (1893-1967) funeral service was also held at Mount Vernon Crematorium, where hundreds of people from all walks of life came to pay their last respects.

The Mount Vernon Crematorium began as a small government-run crematorium, built in 1962, beside the Bidadari Cemetery. Prior to the seventies, burials were still the preferred choice for various ethnicity and religions in Singapore. It was only after the government announced the closure and exhumation of many cemeteries in the seventies that cremation was gradually accepted.

The nine-storey, green-roofed Mount Vernon pagoda was built in 1987 by the Public Works Department (PWD), which functioned as a vertical columbarium and was the vicinity’s tallest building, allowing visitors to have a bird’s eye view of the tranquil surroundings of Mount Vernon sanctuary. Upon its completion, the pagoda was handed over and managed by the Ministry of The Environment. For three decades, it was the iconic landmark of Mount Vernon.

There were other landmarks too, past and current, at Mount Vernon, such as the Mount Vernon Police Barracks, Maris Stella High School, Mount Vernon Secondary School and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

Mount Vernon Police Cantonment

The Mount Vernon Police Barracks was built in the mid-fifties by the PWD for the operations and accommodation of the police’s Federal Reserve Unit. Since the sixties, the Gurkha Contingent, established in Singapore in 1949, was also housed in this police barracks.

The new police barracks did not get a good start, hitting the news headlines in 1957 when several of their automatic pistols were stolen from the armoury.

After the National Service started in 1967, the police barracks, by then known as Mount Vernon Police Cantonment, began receiving drafted young servicemen to be attached to their reserve unit. Mount Vernon became part of these servicemen’s memories, including the rigorous trainings and the long walk to the secluded camp for booking-in.

An audacious case happened in 1978 when a 18-year-old police serviceman was abducted from his sentry post at the main gates of Mount Vernon Police Cantonment and stabbed to death. His revolver was snatched by three men, all aged 21, who got away in a stolen taxi. They were later caught and sentenced to death for double murder of the police serviceman and taxi driver.

In the early eighties, Mount Vernon Police Cantonment was given a major renovation. Its blocks of quarters, recreation hall, Inspector’s mess and sports facilities were refurbished for more than $1.1 million.

Today, the police cantonment, also known as Gurkha Cantonment, is functioning like a self-sustained small town with shops and schools, providing the necessities to the Gurkha contingent and their families. Katmandu (Kathmandu) Road, where Kathmandu is the capital of Nepal, home of the Gurkhas, used to lead to the barracks. It was later absorbed as an inner road inside the barracks during Gurkha Cantonment’s expansion.

Maris Stella High School

Maris Stella High School was founded in 1958, but did not have its own premises until 1965, when $1.4 million raised from funds from the various business sectors helped in the construction of its new school compound and buildings at Mount Vernon Road. In 1967, Maris Stella High celebrated its grand opening with a new school with fifteen classrooms and a four-storey science block.

The school incorporated classes for both its primary and secondary students, and to cope with increasing number of students, its school premises underwent expansions in the mid-seventies and late eighties. In 1996, Maris Stella High became an autonomous school with additional allocated funds for extra programmes and facilities.

Mount Vernon Secondary School

Maris Stella High’s neighbour was Mount Vernon Secondary School, established in 1968 and officially opened a year later by Mohamed Ghazali Ismail, Aljunied’s Member of Parliament and Education Ministry’s Political Secretary. Mount Vernon Secondary School was the 100th secondary school built within a decade by the government since the start of Singapore’s self-rule in 1959.

Excelling in sports such as badminton and football, as well as being the host of regular athletic competitions, Mount Vernon Secondary School put much emphasis in their sports facilities. The school in 1975 added a $90,000 grandstand to its sports complex.

Mount Vernon Secondary School also paid attention to handicapped students, as it became one of the first local schools to accept pupils with hearing impairment in the mid-seventies. In 1985, Mount Vernon Secondary School was handpicked by the Education Ministry to represent Singapore in the United Nations Association’s Flags for Peace project that was launched to celebrate the United Nations’ 40th anniversary and the International Youth Year. For the project, the students put in two-and-half months of work, researching Singapore’s history, geography, culture, festivals and iconic representatives of the country.

In 1991, Mount Vernon Secondary School’s 33 years’ history came to an end due to falling enrollment in the number of students. The same year also saw the closure of Willow Avenue, Toh Tuck, Tiong Bahru and Bukit Ho Swee Secondary Schools, which faced similar student enrollment difficulties.

In the mid-nineties, the vacated Mount Vernon Secondary School was briefly used by Maris Stella High when the latter’s school premises was being renovated. The Mount Vernon Secondary School compound was later used as foreign workers’ dormitory before its eventual demolition.

Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Located at the junction of Mount Vernon Road and Bartley Road, the SPCA had operated at the Mount Vernon vicinity for 32 years. Previously based at Orchard Road, SPCA moved to Mount Vernon in 1984, before relocating to Sungei Tenagh Road in 2016.

Bidadari Cemetery

Accompanied Mount Vernon for decades was the former Bidadari Cemetery, built in the early 20th century for burials of various faiths. The predecessor of Bidadari Cemetery was Bidadari Estate, owned by Johor Sultan Abu Bakar who constructed a grand residence in the mid-19th century for one of his wives. The grand residence, also known as Istana Bidadari, was demolished in 1915.

The estate was acquired by the Singapore Municipal Commission for $112,000, and was converted into the cemetery in late 1907, consecrated by the Anglican bishop of Singapore, Labuan and Sarawak George Frederick Hose.

Bidadari Cemetery was officially opened in 1908, initially for Christian burials. Other sections for Muslim burials (1910), Hindu and Sinhalese burials (both 1925) were later opened. Notable figures of different ethnic backgrounds had found their resting places at the cemetery, including famous architect Alfred John Bidwell, doctor and community leader Lim Boon Keng, governor of Sarawak Duncan Stewart and local politician Baharuddin Ariff.

As it became fully filled – it had almost 147,000 graves by then – Bidadari Cemetery was closed from further burials in October 1972. In 1996, the Singapore government announced its plans to acquire Bidadari Cemetery for the construction of a new Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) line and station (Northeast Line and Woodleigh MRT Station). The vicinity was also later slated for new Housing and Development Board (HDB) housing projects.

Bidadari Memorial Garden

Full-scale exhumations of Bidadari Cemetery were subsequently carried out between 2001 and 2006. The iconic cemetery gates and their gateposts, as well as key tombstones of prominent persons, were shifted to the Bidadari Memorial Garden at Mount Vernon, built in 2004 by the National Heritage Board (NHB) as a commemoration of the significant history of Bidadari Cemetery.

During the development of the new Bidadari housing estate, the Bidadari Memorial Garden may be relocated or integrated with the estate’s new park or garden.

Mount Vernon Crematorium had ceased its services since 2004. The service halls, however, continued to operate for funeral parlours under the name of Mount Vernon Sanctuary, after the government leased the buildings to private operators. While the Mount Vernon Columbarium had stopped accepting niches for many years, it remained crowded especially during the annual Qingming festival when many came to pay respect to their loved ones.

As part of the redevelopment of the vicinity, a new funeral parlour complex, albeit a small one, will be built at the site of the current Mount Vernon Columbarium. It is expected to be ready by 2024. For now, let us have another glimpse at the old Mount Vernon Columarbium before its demolition.

Published: 20 October 2018

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Retracing the 26 Tracks of Punggol Road

A section of the old Punggol Road has walked into history in late August 2018. The pedestrianisation project will convert the 1.3km-long stretch of the road, between Punggol Drive and Ponggol Seventeenth Avenue, into a heritage trail which can also be utilised for jogging and cycling.

Punggol Road

The 4.5km-long Punggol Road first appeared in the later half of the 19th century. Being the only access road to the northeastern part of Singapore for more than a century, the early Punggol Road was largely made up of granite and laterite, where it was filled with potholes and certain parts of the road became impassable during rainy days.

Many Chinese immigrants settled at Punggol during the early 20th century, establishing villages and shophouses along Punggol Road. There were also poultry, pig and vegetable farms, as well as rubber plantations in the vicinity. Far away from the city area, the area, however, also quickly developed into a hotbed of crimes where murders, gambling and secret society activities frequently occurred.

In the sixties, basic public amenities such as electricity supply, pipped water, street lights and metalled roads were introduced, through both government and gotong royong efforts, to the areas along Punggol Road.

Further improvements to Punggol Road were implemented in 1983 for better road safety. The long and narrow road had been plagued by high accident rates due to dim street lights and reckless overtaking by drivers.

Several measures taken were the installation of high pressure sodium vapour lamps, using of highly visible thermoplastic paint for lane markings, and the implementation of double white lines.

Milestones and Landmarks

Like the other old major roads of Singapore, milestones were marked along Punggol Road. Branching off Upper Serangoon Road near Sungei Pinang, Punggol Road was ranged from 7th milestone (intersection with Upper Serangoon Road) to the 11th milestone (near Punggol end).

Along the Punggol Road were several recognisable landmarks. Located near Punggol 9¾ milestone was the Matilda House, a grand private residence that was surrounded by rows of palm trees and well-maintained lawns. Built in around 1920, the bungalow was owned by the Cashin family who occassionally used it as their weekend resort.

Punggol Road 9¾ milestone was also previously home to the Holy Innocents’ School, which, between 1959 and 1961, had its two classrooms shared to Hai Sing Girls’ School to accommodate the girl students from the rural Punggol areas.

Punggol Road 10th milestone was home to a large rubber plantation in the early 20th century.

There was a private Singapore Zoo, also commonly known as Punggol Zoo, located at the 10¾ milestone of Punggol Road. It was set up by a wealthy Indian trader named William Lawrence Soma Basapa in the 1920s, but the zoo was closed and destroyed during the Second World War.

In 1984, Punggol Road 10¾ milestone was selected to be the new site of the Punggol Fishing Port, built by the Primary Production Department (PPD) for the relocated fishermen and fish merchants from the nearby Kangkar, which had ceased their 60-year-old operations due to the development of Hougang New Town.

The $12-million fish port, market and jetty, however, lasted only 13 years before the entire operations had to be shifted again, this time, to Senoko Fishing Port at Woodlands. Punggol Fishing Port and its wholesale fish market were subsequently closed in 1997 for the development of Punggol New Town. Punggol Port Road, the road leading to the port and fish market, was also expunged.

Not known to many, the Punggol area once had many fortifications, built by the British as part of the defence line for Singapore’s northeastern coastline. After the Second World War, most of them were destroyed, with some remnants still located at Punggol Seventeenth Avenue and Cheng Lim Farmway 1, off Punggol Road.

By the eighties, the fortifications were largely forgotten; many were covered by creepers and thick vegetation, while others were utilised as store buildings for the farmers. In 1988, the Singapore Tourism Promotion Board (STPB) was keen to restore the Punggol forts as a tourist attraction, similar to that of Sentosa’s Fort Siloso. Most of the fortification remnants no longer exist today.

The Kampongs

Several kampongs once existed at Punggol. The oldest was Kampong Punggol, located at Punggol end and was one of the earliest settlements in Singapore. Said to have existed before the arrival of the British in the early 19th century, the Malay fishing village was also known as Kampong Wak Sumang, named after its founder Wak Sumang, a legendary Javanese warrior.

Several distinguished guests had visited the century-old village in the past, including Richard Nixon, former USA President (then Vice President), in 1981, Yusof Ishak, Singapore’s first President, in 1966, and former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on several occasions.

Other villages at the Punggol vicinity were Kampong Sungei Tengah (located at the junction of Punggol Road and Lorong Buangkok), Kampong Serangoon Kechil (along Jalan Serangoon Kechil, off Punggol Road) and Kampong Pinang (along Sungei Pinang, near Punggol Road Track 1). There was also another Kampong Punggol located near Punggol Road Track 20 in the sixties and seventies.

Pig Farming

In 1975, the commercial pig farming at Punggol was started at Punggol Road 10½ milestone, occupying several plots of lands that totalled 2.5 square kilometres in size.

In 1980, as more pig farmers were relocated from Chua Chu Kang, Bukit Timah and the Kranji water catchment area, another 1.5 square kilometres of lands near Punggol Road 9th milestone were developed by the PPD. The expanded pig farming industry at Punggol increased the pig population to almost 375,000.

By the mid-eighties, Punggol was the only place in Singapore where pig farms were still allowed to operate. But the pollutive nature of pig farms to the environment meant that they would not last for long in Singapore.

By 1990, the last pig farm at Punggol was closed; their lands replaced by the less pollutive vegetable and orchid farms. Many of these farms flourished along Buangkok Farmway and Cheng Lim Farmway until the mid-nineties and early 2000s respectively, when they had to give way to the rise of the new Punggol New Town.

Punggol Road’s 26 Tracks

The tracks of Punggol Road first appeared as dirt paths in the late sixties. In total, there were 26 tracks, starting from Track 1, near present-day Sengkang East Avenue, all the way to Track 26 at the Punggol end. On the map, the tracks located on the left side of Punggol Road, in the northward direction, were named in odd numbers (Track 1, 3, 5, 7 and so on), whereas those on the right were assigned with even numbers.

Several larger roads such as Cheng Lim Farmway, Punggol Farmway and Buangkok Farmway also appeared in the early seventies, branching off the Punggol Road and serving as the main roads leading to the farms.

Track 1 to Track 8

Punggol Road Track 1 was located where Sengkang East Avenue is today. It was home to the Singapore Telecoms building in the seventies.

Track 3 was expunged in the late seventies, making way for the Punggol Rural Centre, one of the earliest HDB developments at Punggol. Built at the junction of Punggol Road and Buangkok South Farmway 1, the Punggol Rural Centre, when completed in the mid-eighties, quickly became a little bustling enclave with six blocks of low-rise flats made up of more than 200 units, 12 shops and two eateries.

Buangkok South Farmway 1 became defunct in the nineties, but Punggol Rural Centre lasted until the mid-2000s before its six blocks of flats were demolished.

Elsewhere, most tracks of Punggol Road, even by the late eighties, remained rural in nature, consisted of scattered wooden huts, small plots of farms, tall durian trees, fish ponds and, sometimes, a makeshift roadside shrine for religious purposes.

The 1 km-long Track 6 once led to several sand and granite quarries. A common sight in the mid-eighties was a long line of heavy trucks and lorries ferrying the sand and granite from Punggol Road Track 6 to different construction sites in Singapore.

In 1985, the Singapore government started acquiring lands at Punggol for its proposed housing development of the vicinity, which, at that time, was still under the plan of an extension of Hougang New Town instead of a new residential district of its own. Among the first to be affected were those living and plying their trades between Track 1 and Track 7, including the residents, farm owners, boat builders, boatel operators and workers.

Between Punggol Road Track 7 and 9 was Lorong Buangkok, a 3km-long rural road that appeared after the Second World War and was named by the Singapore Rural Board in 1948. One end of Lorong Buangkok was connected to Punggol Road, at the junction with Jalan Merdu and Lorong Sengkang (Lorong Sengkang gave rise to the naming of Sengkang New Town), while its other end was linked to Yio Chu Kang Road, home to Kampong Lorong Buangkok, the last surviving village on mainland Singapore.

At the junction of Punggol Road, Lorong Buangkok and Jalan Serangoon Kechil were the St Anne’s Church and Meng Teck Chinese School (currently St Joseph’s Convent). Built in 1963, St Anne’s Church aimed to provide religious needs to the Catholic community living in the Punggol vicinity. The church was named in honour of Saint Anne, the mother of Virgin Mary.

In the seventies and eighties, due to the resettlement of the residents, the church’s following dwindled to only 300. The development of Sengkang and Punggol new towns managed to revive the church’s prosperity and it has since grown to a present 7,000 strength. For more than half a century, the St Anne’s Church has witnessed the vast changes of its surroundings, made up of wood and attap dwellings in the sixties and seventies to the present day’s high rise HDB flats.

Today, Lorong Buangkok has broken up and separated into two minor roads near Punggol Road and Yio Chu Kang Road respectively. Jalan Merdu and its rows of private housing still remains, but Lorong Sengkang had been expunged years ago.

Track 9 to Track 16

In the late eighties, there was a dairy goat farm at Track 10 Punggol Road that had 80 goats and produced some 35 litres of goat milk a day. There were also small manufacturing factories and repair workshops in the vicinity, but they had to move out by the early nineties, as three large plots of lands near Track 10 were acquired by the Singapore government for general development purposes.

Both Track 10 and 12 led to the swampy areas near Sungei Serangoon Kechil, a small river flowing into the former Serangoon Harbour. Hence, it was not uncommon to see fishermen and their boats fitted with outboard motors parked at the end of the tracks.

On the other side of Punggol Road, one could reach the banks of Sungei Punggol via  Track 13. In the seventies, the swampy area at the end of Track 13 was notoriously filled with stench as it was conveniently used as a dumping ground for dead diseased chicken and other garbage.

Located at the junction of Punggol Road and Track 15 was the Punggol Malay School, a small rural school that first began at Punggol Road Track 24. It was set up by Awang Osman, a village head who aspired to provide education to the Malay children living at Punggol, as there were no formal Malay schools in the vicinity after the Second World War.

Opened by William Goode, the then-Secretary of the Colonies, on 26 February 1955, the humble school had only a small hall with little facilities except a sepak takraw court. Needed to expand for the accommodation of more students, the school was moved to a new building at Track 15 in 1963, where it was opened by Chor Yeok Eng, the former Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of National Development.

Punggol Malay School operated for another 20-plus years before it was closed in the late eighties.

Track 17 to Track 26

Punggol Road Track 17 was converted into a proper asphalt road in the early seventies, after a small residential estate made up of new bungalows was developed there. It was renamed Ponggol Seventeenth Avenue.

Punggol Marina, a $50-million project built in 1996, was once located at the end of Ponggol Seventeenth Avenue. Upon completion, it was hailed as Singapore’s largest sea sports centre, which the developer hoped could revive Punggol’s previous crowd-pulling days of boating and water-skiing. Those days had not been seen since the last boatel at Punggol closed in 1994.

Today, Punggol Marina is no longer linked to Ponggol Seventeenth Avenue. Its surrounding areas are undergoing rapid development into a new Punggol residential district called Northshore.

Ponggol Twenty-Fourth Avenue did not appear until the late seventies. Unlike Ponggol Seventeenth Avenue, it was not converted from Track 24, but instead appeared as a new road on the same side as the odd-numbered tracks of Punggol Road. Hence, for a period of time, there were both Ponggol Twenty-Fourth Avenue and Punggol Track 24.

In 1985, a campsite was opened at Ponggol Twenty-Fourth Avenue, allowing students to experience camping in the rural parts of Singapore. The camp lasted until 1993 before its closure and demolition.

Named Ponggol, the old spelling of Punggol, the two roads of Ponggol Seventeenth Avenue and Ponggol Twenty-Fourth Avenue are the only “numbered” avenues in Punggol.

The land around track 22 was put up for public tender in the late eighties by PPD for the development of a fish or prawn farm. Track 24 was located almost at the end of Punggol Road, where, in the eighties, had a 18-room boatel, dubbed as the Ponggol Hotel. Nearby was the Punggol Boating Centre that provided dinghies and converted fishing boats for rental to sea sports enthusiasts.

There were also several double-storey bungalows located at Punggol Road Track 24, owned by private owners who used them as seaside resorts during weekends.

The bungalows were acquired by the government in the late eighties as the site was earmarked for future public housing development. One of the bungalows, built in 1973, hit the headlines in the newspapers when its owner, a local architect, won a rare case against the government’s low valuation. He was eventually compensated more than $670,000.

By the mid-eighties, except for a handful, most of the bungalows were torn down.

Track 24, most recently home to a fishing and prawning site, was one of the last tracks of Punggol Road to vanish. By 2017, all the tracks of Punggol Road had walked into history.

Punggol Point

The Punggol Point, or Punggol end area, was previously home to many landmarks, one of which was the Punggol Point Community Centre, established at Track 24 in the mid-eighties. The community centre occupied the old school building previously used by Punggol Malay School.

At Track 26 was Masjid Wak Sumang, a small kampong mosque that served the Malay fishing community living at Kampong Wak Sumang. It was demolished in 1995 to make way for the area’s development.

In 1993, the Punggol Point area, near Track 24 and 26, was hit by an outbreak of malaria, likely due to the many pockets of stagnant brackish water found in the fish farms. It resulted in the halting of almost all activities at Punggol Point, as the Environment Ministry scrambled to carry out fogging and oiling to curb the breeding of the Anopheles mosquitoes.

Between 1983 and the late nineties, the northeastern coast at Punggol underwent several land reclamation projects. The cost of the land reclamation totalled more than $1 billion, adding dozens of square kilometres of lands to the Punggol area. The reclamation project was competed by the end of the nineties. By then, the enlarged Punggol was bounded by three rivers – Sungei Punggol to the west, Sungei Serangoon to the east, and a narrow river passageway between Punggol and Coney Island (Pulau Serangoon).

Seafood Restaurants

The Punggol Point, however, was best remembered for its seafood restaurants, jetty and roadside bus terminal.

In the eighties and nineties, there were several large seafood restaurants, such as Hock Kee, Choon Seng, Whee Heng, Punggol and Seashore, operated at Punggol end, making it a popular venue among many locals who flocked there for family dinners, friends’ gatherings, or a sumptuous treat after striking a big lottery.

While the adults feasted their chilli crabs, cereal prawns, steamed groupers and Chinese-style mee goreng, the children were happily playing at the jetty. Others would simply take a relax moment at the beach, enjoying the winds over the calm waters, gazing at the stars in the sky or in the direction of Pasir Gudang on the opposite side of Johor Strait.

It was a common sight to see the end of Punggol Road parked with cars during the weekends. Others would take the Singapore Bus Service (SBS) public buses, numbered 82 or 83, to experience the rustic place that seemed to have stuck in time; a stark contrast as compared to other parts of Singapore which were rapidly evolving during that period.

The seafood restaurants enjoyed such brisk businesses that many had set up extra tables by the side of the road. When the buses did their three-point U-turns at the end of Punggol Road, they sometimes came dangerously close to the diners, who were sometimes treated with bright headlights and exhaust smoke.

The last of the Punggol seafood restaurants, affected by the redevelopment plans of the vicinity, was bulldozed by the end of 1994. With the roadside bus terminal also gone, the jetty, said to be built as early as the 1930s, is the only landmark at Punggol end still remains till this day.

Punggol Beach Massacre

The Punggol Point area was also the massacre site of 400 Chinese civilians by the Japanese military during the Second World War.

In February 1942, after invading and occupying Singapore, the Japanese carried out a series of Sook Ching (purging) operations. Hundreds of Chinese males living at Upper Serangoon Road were rounded up during a house-to-house search by the Hojo Kempei (Japanese auxiliary military police). Accused of anti-Japanese or triad members, the men were brought to the beach at Punggol before being gunned down.

A marker has been erected by the National Heritage Board near present-day Punggol Jetty, serving as a reminder of the Punggol Beach Massacre, a dark chapter in Singapore’s history.

In 1996, Singapore’s former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong announced the Punggol 21 plan to develop the rustic Punggol area into a modern bustling new town. After more than 20 years of transformation, Punggol has become a vibrant waterfront town today, home to a 120,000-strong population living in 43,500 HDB high rise flats that are accompanied by parks, shopping malls and a Light Rail Transit (LRT) network.

Published: 30 September 2018

Updated: 10 March 2019

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Closure and Demolition of Bedok Swimming Complex

The seventies and eighties saw the rise of Singapore’s public swimming complexes. In almost every new town developed, there was one public pool to serve the residents. In the 20 years between 1970 and 1990, more than a dozen public swimming complexes were built at the heartlands.

Other than Bedok Swimming Complex, the other public swimming complexes built in the period of the seventies and eighties were at Queenstown (opened in 1970), Toa Payoh (1973), Katong (1975), Buona Vista (1976), Geylang East (1978), Delta (near Henderson, 1979), Paya Lebar (1981), Bukit Merah (1982), Ang Mo Kio (1982), Kallang Basin (1982), Clementi (1983), Yio Chu Kang (1986), Hougang (1987), Yishun (1988), Bukit Batok (1988) and Tampines (1989).

Opened in late 1981, Bedok Swimming Complex had four swimming pools – one competition pool and three used for training, wading and practice. The charges were at 60c and 30c for adults and those below 18 years old respectively for a two-hour swim.

In the early eighties, Bedok Swimming Complex was one of the most popular public swimming facilities in Singapore, with about 2,500 visitors daily. It was also one of the earliest in the country to install ticketing machines for payment of entry fees, a pilot scheme initiated in 1982 by the Singapore Sports Council (SSC).

The architectural design of Bedok Swimming Complex did not follow the conventional rectangular shape. Instead, Bedok Swimming Complex, when viewed from the top, had a trapezium shape, and its buildings had roofs in the shape of prisms. Similarly, the Ang Mo Kio Swimming Complex, also built in the early eighties, has buildings with roofs designed in triangular prism shapes.

The design of Bedok Swimming Complex won, in 1983, the outstanding design award at the Singapore Institute of Architects, along with six other Housing and Development Board (HDB) projects – the Zhujiao Centre (later renamed Tekka Centre), Rowell Court, Bedok Town Area Office, Jurong Mosque, Bukit Merah Town Centre and Ang Mo Kio New Town.

In the late eighties, Bedok Swimming Complex was one of the four swimming complexes used for training local sportsmen with potential to represent Singapore in swimming, diving and water polo. It was also one of the public swimming complexes where the National Family Swim was held. In 1997, despite the hazy condition, the mega event, flagged off by Minister of Community Development Abdullah Tarmugi, attracted more than 25,000 participants in more than a dozen pools.

A number of public swimming pools had closed in recent years. Yan Kit Swimming Complex (1952-2001), Jurong Town Swimming Complex (built by Jurong Town Corporation (JTC), 1970-mid-2000s), Boon Lay Swimming Complex (mid-1970s-mid-2000s), Buona Vista Swimming Complex (1976-2014), Pandan Gardens Swimming Complex (1978-early-2000s) and Paya Lebar Swimming Complex (1981-2007) were either demolished or redeveloped for other usages.

The new public swimming facilities at Bedok are currently located at the Sport Centre at the integrated community hub Heartbeat@Bedok, opened in February 2018.

Published: 30 August 2018

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Goodbye Kampong Java Park

Come end of August, the 45-year-old Kampong Java Park will be permanently closed.

Once a Christian cemetery bounded by Kampong Java Road and Bukit Timah Road, works were carried out in 1971 by the Public Works Department (PWD) to convert the former cemetery site, exhumed in 1908, into a 22-acre park designed with hillocks and a pond-cum-reservoir as its main attractions. Further plans to add a view tower and restaurant to the park, though, did not materialise.

In November 1971, Education Minister Lim Kim San planted a tree at Kampong Java Park, the tree-planting activity that was launched islandwide by different ministers, to kick start the development of the new park.

Upon its completion and opening in 1973, Kampong Java Park was considered one of the best landscaped parks created by the PWD. Fitted with ornamental lighting, made of steel poles and plastic light covers, along the footpath, the park became the first in Singapore to be installed with such amenity.

Named after the former Christian cemetery, the New Cemetery Road that now ran along the new park became inappropriate in its name. There were different proposals to give it a new name, such as New Scenery Road, New Park Avenue, Park Road or Kampong Java Park Road. The road was eventually renamed Cavenagh Road after Sir Orfeur Cavenagh (1820-1891), the Governor of the Straits Settlements between 1859 and 1867.

In the late seventies, there were also proposals by the Parks and Recreation Department to maximise the use of the park with the addition of a tennis and squash complex. Near the sports complex was the popular Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) restaurant, a favourite fast food outlet at Kampong Java Road still remembered by many Singaporeans. Situated beside the park was the large carpark that was built in the mid-seventies. It was also where the City Shuttle Service (CSS) bus stop and Daily Area Licence sale booth were located.

Beside KFC, another popular eating place near the park was the Palm Beach seafood restaurant at Halifax Road. The restaurant had been in business at Bedok for twenty years before moving to Halifax Road in the eighties. However, it only stayed there for a few years before it was forced to relocate again, this time to Kallang Park, after a major fire incident.

In 1981, an exercise corner, with inclined ramps and special equipment, was installed at Kampong Java Park for the benefits of the disabled. Called the Sunshine Corner, the project was built at a cost of $25,000 by the Rotary Club of Singapore.

Kampong Java Park received a VIP visit from U Ohn Kyaw, Burma’s Minister for Labour and Social Welfare, in 1982 when the foreign dignitary visited the park.

In the early nineties, part of Kampong Java Park was acquired for the construction of the new Kandang Kerbau (KK) Women’s and Children’s Hospital. In 1999, the hospital adopted a section of Kampong Java Park, under the adopt-a-park scheme, as a rehabilitation place for its patients, where the lush greenery of the park could aid in their healing.

Not all memories of the park were about its tranquil surroundings. As it was easily missed from the main Bukit Timah Road, the park was relatively little known. In the eighties, a decade after its construction, the park remained largely deserted, especially at night, except for a few courting couples and peace-loving individuals taking a walk in the park. A few spooky tales about the park occasionally surfaced.

In 1984, a tragedy struck when a Malaysian security guard was found drowned in the pond.

Kampong Java Park will be closed permanently in end-August 2018 for demolition as its site is required for the construction of the new North-South Corridor (NSC) tunnel.

Opposite the park, across the carpark, are the rows of pre-war colonial houses of Halifax Road, which also will be likely affected by the NSC development.

Halifax Road, off New Cemetery Road, appeared in the early 20th century, when the new headquarters of the Singapore Girl Guides was established there in 1925.

The colonial houses at Halifax Road were built in the 1930s as quarters and outhouses for accommodation of the Singapore Municipal staff and their families. They were later, in the fifties, used as offices and stores for the electrical and architect departments of the Singapore City Council (later took over by the Public Utilities Board (PUB) and Public Works Department (PWD)).

In 1953, it was discovered, buried in one of the houses’ compounds, hundreds of ammunition used during the Second World War including hand grenades, anti-aircraft shells, machine gun magazines and bullets.

When Singapore gained independence in 1965, the Halifax Road colonial houses continued to function as junior government quarters as well as government offices used by the Election Department, Industrial Health Unit and other ministerial departments. In the seventies and eighties, the houses, under the ownership of the Ministry of Finance, were leased to the public as private residences and commercial offices for companies and businesses.

One of the houses was utilised as a childcare centre in recent years, but currently most of the buildings are vacant and are classified as state properties under Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) charge.

Kampong Java Park and the Halifax Road houses are just some of the landmarks affected by the NSC project. Elsewhere, other affected landmarks include the Rochor Centre flats, Toa Payoh Rise apartments, Marymount Convent, Ellison Building, Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home, Victoria Street Wholesale Centre and Nanyang Pho Leng Building.

Published: 25 August 2018

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Understanding Singapore’s Different Types of Street Suffixes

According to the Ministry of Transport, there are more than 9,000 lane-km of roads in Singapore, which takes up the nation’s 12% of land. In the past decades, hundreds of roads had been expunged and demolished in the name of development. But hundreds, for the same reason, will be constructed in the future.

So how are the public roads named? How are they categorised into streets, avenues, drives and lanes? It is interesting to understand the street naming convention in Singapore.

Street Naming Authority

In the late 19th century, the Municipal Council was tasked in the naming of the streets. When Singapore gained independence in 1965, an Advisory Committee on the Naming of Roads and Streets (later renamed Street and Building Names Advisory Committee) was formed. In 1968, the Committee on Street Names (renamed Advisory Committee on Street Names in 1978) replaced its predecessor as the main authority in street naming.

Unlike many other countries, Singapore, after its self governance in 1959, did not go on a massive place and street renaming exercise in an attempt to clear its colonisation history. Instead, in the sixties, it placed more emphasis on local names, particularly the Malay names, during the naming of new streets to reflect Singapore’s allegiance to the Malaysian Federation.

An independent Singapore had a different approach; it now placed importance on a multiracial society. When the new Jurong Industrial Estate was set up in 1968, the roads within the industrial area were appropriately named in Malay or given English names that were translated from Chinese and Tamil. Some examples are Jalan Tukang (Malay), Soon Lee Road (Chinese) and Neythal Road (Tamil).

The Committee on Street Names lasted until 2003 when it was replaced by the Street and Building Names Board (SBNB). The secretariat function of board was handed over, in 2010, from the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) to the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) .

Street Suffixes

For the street suffixes in the street names, Singapore largely follows the British naming convention, which means streets and roads refer to any thoroughfares between two places, ways for major roads, and avenues, lanes, drives, vales, rises and groves are residential roads.

For paved public walkways, they can be named a promenade, esplanade, parade or simply walk if they are along the coast, seafront or river.

The United States (US) has its own set of street suffixes. For examples, it has roads called turnpike (refers to a road where tolls are collected), freeway (dual carriageway with controlled access) and stravenue (used exclusively in the state of Arizona to refer to a road that runs diagonally between and intersects an avenue and a street).

Under the Land Transport Authority (LTA), the types of roads in Singapore fall under five major categories (refer to the right table).

Category 1 Roads (Expressway, Parkway, Highway)

At the top hierarchy of Singapore roads are the expressways and semi-expressways (highways), connecting, in Singapore’s context, between new towns or the city area. Expressways are urban motorways designed for high speed vehicular traffic, with no or few traffic light controlled junctions.

There are currently 10 expressways in Singapore, with the eleventh North-South Expressway (NSE) expected to be completed in 2023. The 10 expressways are the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE), Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE), Central Expressway (CTE), East Coast Parkway (ECP), Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE), Kranji Expressway (KJE), Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE), Pan-Island Expressway (PIE), Seletar Expressway (SLE) and Tampines Expressway (TPE).

The East Coast Parkway is the only expressway in Singapore named parkway.

Singapore’s semi-expressways are called highways; they are designed with lower speed limits, and unlike the expressways, they have traffic light controlled junctions along their routes. The Nicoll Highway, West Coast Highway and Jurong Island Highway are part of Singapore’s semi-expressway network, which also includes the long parallel Bukit Timah-Dunearn Roads.

The Tuas Second Link Highway is, in fact, a bridge that spans across the Straits of Johor between Singapore’s Tuas and Johor’s Tanjung Kupang.

There was also the Bedok Highway, built by the Public Works Department (PWD) in the mid-seventies, that linked Upper Changi Road to East Coast Parkway. The name, however, lasted only a couple of years before the Committee On Street Names, after consultation with the Housing and Development Board (HDB), decided to change it to Bedok South Avenue 1.

During the renaming process, Bedok Plain, Bedok View and Bedok Walk were also changed to Bedok South Road, Bedok South Avenue 2 and Bedok South Avenue 3 respectively.

Category 2 Roads (Boulevard, Avenue, Way)

The Category 2 refers to the major arterial roads in Singapore. They are named boulevards, avenues and ways, and are typically designed in dual carriageways with a physical median between opposite lanes.

Planted with rows of trees along its sides and median, boulevards are wide roads typically found in the city area. Raffles Boulevard, Temasek Boulevard, Central Boulevard, Marina Boulevard, Republic Boulveard and Straits Boulevard are the examples. Others include Airport Boulevard (Changi Airport), Orchard Boulevard, Stadium Boulevard (Singapore Sports Hub), and Tuas South Boulevard (currently the westernmost road in Singapore).

Avenues, on the other hand, are broad roads flanked by buildings and trees. During the eighties and nineties, the main arterial roads within the new towns, such as Ang Mo Kio, Bukit Batok, Chua Chu Kang, Jurong East, Jurong West, Tampines and Yishun, were named avenues.

Many of the older roads, however, were called avenues but they are actually more of local access roads instead of main arterial roads. This is because the older roads were not bounded by the modern naming convention, or their importance as main roads had declined over the decades due to development.

Technically speaking, a way is a small side street off the road. In Singapore, the descriptor is widely used for major arterial roads, with the most famous being Shenton Way. Other less significant examples are Loyang Way, Kranji Way and Sunset Way.

Initially called Queen’s Way, the two words in its name were combined as one, making Queensway one of the few streets in Singapore without any street suffixes.

The first section of Queensway and Queen’s Circus were built in the late fifties, linking Holland Road to the fringe of the newly-developed Queenstown. In the early sixties, Queensway was further extended to Rumah Bomba Circus, where it was connected to Alexandra Road.

Category 3 & 4 Roads (Drive, Road, Street)

Category 3 and Category 4, made up of drives, roads and streets, include the minor arterial roads as well as roads used for primary access. In general definitions, a street is a public road with buildings on both sides, while drives are long winding roads with routes shaped by nearby mountain or lake.

The major roads in Singapore can be named roads, drives and streets, such as Bukit Timah Road, Eu Tong Sen Street, Holland Road, Serangoon Road and Victoria Street.

At the new towns, however, streets and drives often rank below avenues and roads. For example, Bukit Batok West Avenue 5 is the primary road that runs through the Bukit Batok neighbourhood; Branching off Bukit Batok West Avenue 5 are Bukit Batok Street 31 and Bukit Batok Street 52, access roads that lead to the 300-numbered and 500-numbered HDB flats respectively.

Category 5 Roads (Walk, Lane, Link, etc)

The Category 5 consists of secondary roads, minor roads and roads mainly used for local access, which can be single way or dual carriageway of only one or two lanes, without any physical median.

The category is made up of different types of street suffixes such as link, lane, loop and walk. Link refers to road linkages, while close is used for cul-de-sac or dead end roads (which practically is not always true). Loop, crescent and ring typically mean curved roads, whereas a circle is a long curved road that connects from one end to the other end of an estate. Walk is usually used for wide public pedestrian walkways, but in Singapore context, it is also used for minor roads that are for local access.

In a private residential estate, due to the numerous local access roads it may be having, a mixture of name descriptors such as green, garden, place, rise or terrace will also be used. For example, at Bedok’s Eastwood Estate, there are Eastwood Road, Eastwood Drive, Eastwood Green, Eastwood Place, Eastwood Terrace, Eastwood Walk and Eastwood Way.

Likewise, for Springleaf Garden Estate, along Upper Thomson Road, it has a total of 11 local access roads, namely Springleaf Road, Springleaf Avenue, Springleaf Crescent, Springleaf Drive, Springleaf Garden, Springleaf Height, Springleaf Lane, Springleaf Link, Springleaf Rise, Springleaf Walk and Springleaf View.

The naming convention applies to public housing estates too, especially the newer towns such as Sengkang and Punggol. The Sengkang New Town consists of Compassvale Bow, Compassvale Crescent, Compassvale Drive, Compassvale Lane, Compassvale Link, Compassvale Road, Compassvale Street and Compassvale Walk.

Shapes (Square, Circle, Oval, etc)

Street names that have descriptors in shapes, forms and contours are usually based on the configuration of the roads.

For example, Sengkang Square and Woodlands Square are named based on their squarish layouts which border their respective town centres. Sengkang MRT Station, Sengkang Bus Interchange and the Compass One mall are located within Sengkang Square, while Woodland Square forms a squarish perimeter around Woodlands’ MRT station and bus interchange, and the Causeway Point shopping mall.

Other streets that have square as their name descriptors include Flanders Square, off Serangoon Road, and Ellington Square, a private housing estate in Ang Mo Kio. A new Prince Charles Square is also coming up, linking to the existing Prince Charles Crescent off Alexandra Road.

A Circle, on the other hand, describes a long curved road that skirts an estate or vicinity. Cairnhill Circle, Conway Circle (Serangoon Gardens), Pavilion Circle (Bukit Batok) and Lagos Circle (Sembawang) circumscribe their respective private residential estates, whereas Gul Circle is a long boundary road around the large industrial estate at Tuas.

Similar to circle is circus, referring to a roundabout where several streets converge. The Newton Circus is one of the most famous roundabouts in Singapore; others are Serangoon Garden Circus, Piccadilly Circus (Seletar) and Pioneer Circus (Tuas).

Many old roundabouts in Singapore had phased out and were replaced by traffic light controlled junctions. This was because roundabouts often caused traffic confusions that led to accidents. Some of the former circuses that ceased to exist were Alexandra Circus, Delta Circus, Gillman Circus, Hillview Circus, Orchard Circus, Rochor Circus, Princess Circus, Queen’s Circus, Tanglin Circus and Pulau Saigon Circus.

The Rumah Bomba Circus, built in the late fifties, was a large roundabout that linked to Alexandra Road, Queensway and Jalan Bukit Merah. Both Queensway and Jalan Bukit Merah were constructed in the early sixties, a few years after the completion of Rumah Bomba Circus. The roundabout lasted until 1976, when the PWD converted it into a traffic light controlled junction.

The Oval, located in the Seletar vicinity, is an unique name, being the only road in Singapore named after the oval shape. It also has a street prefix of The, which is usually disallowed by the Street and Building Names Board (SBNB) to prevent the impression of the street “monopolising” the area.

The name was retained nevertheless, due to its historical link with the establishment of the Royal Air Force (RAF) Seletar in the late 1920s, when The Oval, along with other British-named roads, were developed as part of the road infrastructure that served the air base and its private residential estate.

In Singapore, there are four roads with the as street prefix. Other than The Oval, there is also The Inglewood at Sin Ming, The Knolls, a small road in Sentosa that leads to Capella Hotel, and The Loop, a minor road previously located between Sembawang Road and Mandai Road but was expunged due to the development of Sembawang Airbase.

Other street name descriptors associated with shapes, forms and contours are bow, circuit, close, court, crescent, cross, junction, loop, ring and turn. Each has its own definition; for example, a court refers to a circle or loop without a throughway, whereas crescent typically describes a curved road that tapers at both ends, much like a semi-circle when viewed from the top. Dakota Crescent and Beo Crescent are two well-known crescent-named roads in Singapore.

Beo Crescent took the name from the nearby Beo Lane, also located off Havelock Road. Beo Lane  – Beo means temple in Hokkien and Teochew – was named in 1907 after the three Chinese temples in the vicinity. The temples were burnt and destroyed in the 1961 Bukit Ho Swee Fire, and the road itself was later expunged.

The fire disaster led to the development of new Bukit Ho Swee HDB flats to house the affected residents. Beo Crescent was built at almost the same period. During its construction, some century-old shophouses along Havelock Road had to be demolished, much to the dismay of the residents who had lived there for generations.

In the 2000s, with the addition of a new multi-storey carpark and other amenities, Beo Crescent was altered and cut short. The Beo Crescent of today no longer looks like a curved “crescent” road.

There are many other roads in Singapore that carry crescent as their street suffix, such as Ayer Rajah Crescent, Commonwealth Crescent, Eunos Crescent and Telok Blangah Crescent. An interesting one is called Moon Crescent, but the road, previously located off Upper Changi Road, was expunged during the expansion of the Changi Prison complex.

Topography (Basin, Grove, Ridge, etc)

Topography-related terms are common road name descriptors, often used to describe the terrains and landscapes that are in close proximity to the streets. These include basin, crest, field, garden/gardens, green, grove, height/heights, hill, island, mount, park, peak, plain/plains, ridge, rise, summit, vale, valley and view.

Hill is a common street suffix – there are roads in Singapore named Binjai Hill, Claymore Hill, Goodwood Hill, Leonie Hill, Paterson Hill, York Hill and many others.

Other than the land-related topographic terms, there are also water body-related descriptors used in the street names, such as bay, coast, cove, island and marine.

The island-named roads are all located at Sentosa, where the new private residential developments have named their inner roads Coral Island, Paradise Island, Pearl Island, Sandy Island and Treasure Island.

Locational (Central, Place, Terrace, etc)

The road name descriptors and street suffixes under the locational context include boundary, central, centre, concourse, edge, gate, parade, perimeter, place, point, terrace, town, view, village and vista. Also, at designated industrial, commercial and business parks, the inner roads can be named business park, estate, industrial park, mall, plaza or sector. For instances, there are roads named Ang Mo Kio Industrial Park 3 and Woodlands Industrial Park E3 within the Ang Mo Kio and Woodlands industrial parks respectively.

Directional descriptions are a part of the street suffixes with locational context. They can be east, west, north, south, central, upper and lower. The last two are actually street prefixes instead of suffixes.

Upper Changi Road East, Admiralty Road West, Pioneer Road North and Still Road South (formerly Karikal Road) are the extensions of the main road – Upper Changi Road, Admiralty Road, Pioneer Road and Still Road.

Directional suffixes can also be found in some of the older housing estates. When Toa Payoh was developed in the mid-sixties, its main roads were simply named Toa Payoh East, Toa Payoh West and Toa Payoh North. A flyover called Toa Payoh South Flyover was later built to link to the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE). Likewise, there are Whampoa East, Whampoa West, Whampoa North (expunged) and Whampoa South.

In some cases, street prefixes of upper and lower are used instead, such as Upper Paya Lebar Road, Upper Serangoon Road and Lower Delta Road, to indicate the continuation of, in these examples, Paya Lebar Road, Serangoon Road and Delta Road.

Non-English (Jalan, Lorong, etc)

A large number of roads in Singapore are named in Malay. Both jalan and lorong generally refer to roads in English. Non-English names for streets, however, are not encouraged anymore after the 2000s with the establishment of the SBNB.

The better known jalans are Jalan Besar, Jalan Kayu, Jalan Bahar, Jalan Ampas, Jalan Bahagia and Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim. Some jalans have incorporated Chinese dialect names, such as Jalan Tua Kong, off Upper East Coast Road, and the expunged Jalan Ang Siang Kong, off Tampines Road, where the Golden Palace Resort once stood.

Sometimes, the road names could be so long that they were shortened in maps and street directories. Jalan Gagak Selari Timor and Jalan Gagak Selari Barat, the extensions of Jalan Bukit Merah, became Gagak Selari Timor and Gagak Selari Barat on the maps, before they were, in the seventies, renamed Jalan Bukit Merah and became part of the entire stretch of the road.

While most other new towns named their roads avenues, streets and drives, Toa Payoh, Singapore’s second satellite town, largely use lorongs for its road names. Within the town are Toa Payoh Lorong 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8.

Another vicinity with many lorongs is Geylang, where the odd- and even-numbered lorongs are located on both sides of Geylang Road.

In 1980, there were suggestions to the Advisory Committee on Street Names that all the jalans and lorongs in Singapore be renamed to English’s roads and avenues. Fortunately, this was rejected by the committee, as it was deemed that the original names could better reflect the heritage of the streets. Also, the names of the streets were already familiar to most Singaporeans, and any alterations would cause inconvenience and confusion.

Like the jalans, there are lorongs assigned with Chinese dialect names, such as Lorong Lew Lian and Lorong Ong Lye at the Upper Serangoon vicinity, possibly named after the durian and pineapple plantations there in the olden days.

Other Malay street suffixes are bukit (hill), kampong (village) padang (field), taman (garden/park) and tanjong (cape). There are only a handful of such roads. Bukit Ayer Molek (near Bukit Timah Nature Reserve), Padang Jeringau (off Kallang Road), Padang Chancery (off Thomson Road), Taman Bedok (off Bedok Road), Taman Ho Swee (at Bukit Ho Swee estate) and Tanjong Penjuru are some of the examples.

The lengkongs (curve/crescent in Malay) can be found within the Kembangan district, where there are Lengkong Satu, Lengkong Dua, Lengkong Tiga, Lengkong Empat, Lengkong Limi, Lengkong Enam and Lengkong Tujoh (Tujuh), named after the numbers one to seven. Lengkok also means curve/crescent in Malay – there are Lengkok Angsa, Lengkok Mariam, Lengkok Merak.

One unique Malay-named road was Persiaran Keliling at MacPherson housing estate, where the road formed a loop around the HDB flats built in the sixties. It was renamed Circuit Road in the early seventies.

Roads that had street suffix of kampong were usually the main roads to the villages they named after, for example Kampong Bugis, Kampong San Teng (expunged), Kampong Wak Hassan and Kampong Wak Tanjong (expunged).

Kampong Wak Hassan is located at the end of Sembawang Road. The Malay village Kampong Wak Hassan was demolished in the nineties, but the road name stays on. In the vicinity, there are other minor roads named after the village, such as Wak Hassan Drive and Wak Hassan Place.

Types of -way

Beside expressway, parkway and highway, there are other roads in Singapore that use -way as their name descriptors, such as causeway, gateway and farmway.

Causeways are raised roads above a broad body of water or wetland. The Causeway, also known as Woodlands Causeway or Singapore-Johor Causeway, was opened in 1923, forming a 1.05km link between Singapore and Johor Bahru.

At the south of Singapore are the Brani Causeway (links to Pulau Brani) and Sentosa Gateway (links to Sentosa). The latter is the vehicular link to Sentosa, which was opened in December 1992 as a 380m-long causeway. The second causeway to Sentosa is a bridge, built in 2009 by the Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), serving as an one-way incoming route to the island.

Gateway can also be used to refer to start-point or entrance, at strategic locations, to a district. One example is the new one-north Gateway near Fusionopolis.

The farmways, uniquely named in Singapore, once refer to the rural tracks that led to the vegetable, poultry and pig farms located at the northeastern and northwestern parts of Singapore.

Previously, there were Seletar East Farmway, Punggol Farmway, Cheng Lim Farmway, Buangkok North Farmway and Buangkok South Farmway, but all of them were expunged during the development of the Sengkang and Punggol New Towns in the late nineties and early 2000s. Today, the only farmways still exist in Singapore are the Seletar West Farmway, Pasir Ris Farmway and Murai Farmway (Lim Chu Kang).


Other rural roads, simply named tracks, used to be found along major roads such as Mandai Road, Punggol Road and Yio Chu Kang Road. They were long muddy trails that provided accessibility to the villages, farms and plantations. Most had been expunged, with a few like Jurong Road Track 22, Mandai Road Track 16 and Old Choa Chu Kang Road Track 14 still manage to survive till today.

At the Choa Chu Kang cemetery sites, the roads leading to the different sections of burial places are named paths, such as Admadiyya Cemetery Path 1, Chinese Cemetery Path 7, Christian Cemetery Path 2, Hindu Cemetery Path 1 and Muslim Cemetery Path 10.

For roads with street suffix of quays, they are largely located in the downtown or by the sides of the Singapore River. Examples are Boat Quay (converted into pedestrian walkway), Clarke Quay, Collyer Quay, North Boat Quay, Raffles Quay and Robertson Quay.

Without Street Suffix

Only a few roads in Singapore have no street suffixes. Most were located at the old Seletar vicinity. Half-Moon, a short curved road, was expunged when Seletar Aerospace was developed. There were also Chowringhee (named after a place in India), Haymarket and Knightsbridge (both named after places in Britain), roads that were lost during the changes in Seletar in the past few decades.

Today, the roads without street suffixes are Bishopsgate (Tanglin), Piccadilly (Seletar) and Queensway. Off Bishopsgate was a short lane named Bishopswalk. but it was absorbed into the premises of private condominium Bishopsgate Residences upon its completion in 2012.

One and Only

Some of the street suffixes have only been used once, such as alley (Sembawang Alley), bow (Compassvale Bow), concourse (Tampines Concourse), field (Punggol Field), grande (Tampines Grande), ring (Stagmont Ring) and wood (Saint Anne’s Wood).

Meanwhile, Seletar Court, off Yio Chu Kang Road, is the only court-named road after Colombo Court was replaced by Supreme Court Lane. Although Cross Street is a well-known road, Rhu Cross is the only road with street suffix of cross. But the road itself is a straight road instead of a cross-like junction.

At Woodlands Checkpoint, the inner lanes are named Woodlands Crossing, the only set of roads in Singapore with crossing as its street suffix. And Kim Seng Promenade, the curved road between Great World City and Singapore River, is the only road named promenade.


Published: 15 August 2018

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Memories of Bedok’s Princess

One by one, the good old (or bad, depending on your memories) cinemas of the eighties and nineties have closed down; their sites redeveloped or demolished. Bedok once had four cinemas – Bedok, Changi, Liwagu and Princess/Raja – at its town centre and within walking distances from the old Bedok Bus Interchange.

After their respective closures in the late nineties and 2000s, Changi and Bedok Cinemas were demolished and their sites redeveloped into the new shopping mall Bedok Point, whereas the building of the former Liwagu Cinema was first taken over by Geylang United Football Club and later used as a church premises for Bethesda Community.

By the late 2000s, the last old Bedok cinema standing was Princess, but even then it could not escape its eventual fate of closure. After screening Chinese movie Painted Skin in September 2008, Princess Theatre officially walked into history.

Princess was once a common name for cinemas and theatres. In the sixties and seventies, there were Princess Theatres at London, United Kingdom, as well as Kampar and Sungei Siput at Perak, Malaysia.

Bedok’s Princess Theatre began as Princess/Raja that was officially opened on 11 February 1983. It featured a dual screen cinema at the 1200-seat Princess Hall and 800-seat Raja Hall. In the eighties, the Princess Cinema was mainly used to show Chinese blockbusters while Raja Cinema screened a mixture of Chinese, English, Malay and Indian films.

The Malay movies, in particular, were popular among the large Malay communities living at the eastern side of Singapore. In 1990, Indonesian film Isabella stirred up some interest – a 10-second kissing scene between the male and female leads had been censored – when it was screened at Princess/Raja.

In 1995, after a year of renovation, the Princess/Raja Cinema was converted into a three-screen cinema and became known as Princess Theatre. The original cinema hall of Princess was split into the smaller Princess 1 and Princess 2, whereas Raja hall was refurbished to become Princess 3.

Movie goers of Princess Theatre in the nineties would remember that the cinema, by then, had relatively poorer amenities compared to the newer cinemas in the city area. The seats were cramped and squeaky, never mind that some were even broken due to lack of maintenance and had been left unattended for years.

If there was something positive about the cinema, it was the movie ticket prices, relatively cheap by the standards then. Weekday movie ticket prices were charged at $5, while watching a movie at Princess during weekends cost $7 each. Another “positive” thing was the cinema’s lax regulations. Outside food and drinks could be dabao (packeted) into the cinema halls for consumption. Hence, it was not uncommon to see some movie goers eating their favourite McDonald’s burgers or even Hokkien mee while watching the movies.

Things got unruly in the eighties and nineties, when the cinema premises became a favourite haunting place for teenage gangs and school dropouts in the Bedok neighbourhood. Fights and extortion occurred occasionally. In 1983, a robber gang overpowered the cinema’s watchman and got away with tens of thousands of dollars from the manager’s office. In 1997, the Bedok residents were shocked when a 14-year-old boy was killed by a youth in a fight at the cinema lobby.

After its closure in 2008, the cinema building was leased out to be used as recreational club, karaoke bar, LAN game shop and billiard saloon. McDonald’s, the longtime tenant at Princess Theatre, lasted another eight years until 2016.

The same year also saw Princess Theatre, previously owned by OCCB International, being mentioned in the news as a potential redevelopment target. True enough, it was redeveloped, and completed in 2018, as the new Djitsun Mall, a Golden Village cineplex equipped with six screens and 600 seats. After a 10-year gap, the Bedok residents can enjoy a movie in a cinema in their neighbourhood once again.

25 years of blockbusters, kungfu flicks, comedies and horror movies at the former Princess and Raja cinemas had become nostalgic recollections for the Bedok residents. It is now replaced by the new cineplex, which will provide another set of memories perhaps 20 or 30 years later.

Published: 16 July 2018

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Singapore Monuments in Lego @National Library

The National Heritage Board (NDB) collaborates with My Little Brick Shop in the Building History: Monuments In Bricks And Blocks exhibition, which display Singapore’s eight national monuments made with more than 110,000 Lego pieces. The exhibition is currently held at the National Library, after which the miniature landmarks will make their appearances at the public libraries at Jurong, Tampines, Ang Mo Kio, Sengkang and Choa Chu Kang.

Central Fire Station

Still in operation today, the Central Fire Station is Singapore’s oldest surviving fire station. Built in 1909, it was also the first fire station in Singapore to be equipped with modern fire engines and fire fighting equipment. The firefighters from the Central Fire Station played important roles in the nation’s history; they were activated and involved during the Bukit Ho Swee fires (1961) and the Hotel New World disaster (1986).

Gazetted on 18 December 1998 by the Preservation of Monuments Board as one of Singapore’s national monuments, the Central Fire Station’s striking red and white facade symbolises “blood and bandage”, representing the firemen’s roles and commitment in their rescue and life-saving jobs. The tall lookout tower is the station’s another iconic feature, where it was used in the past by the firemen to spot fires and smokes in the city area.

Sultan Mosque

Built in 1932, the current Sultan Mosque is the second version, replacing the original mosque that had its history dated back to 1824, when Singapore was ceded to the British East India Company. As part of the agreement, a parcel of land was reserved near Istana Kampong Glam for the construction of the mosque.

As the former royal mosque of Singapore, Sultan Mosque’s grand design was largely influenced by the Indo-Saracenic architectural style, a mixture and blending of traditional Islamic, Indian and European architectural styles. The most recognisable part of the mosque is its twin large onion-shaped domes, while its other features include minarets at each corner of the building, decorative cresting along the roof and around the arched window bays.

On 8 March 1975, Sultan Mosque was gazetted as one of Singapore’s national monuments.

National Museum

The National Museum of Singapore’s history dated back to 1887, when it was built and served as a library and museum of Southeast Asian natural history. Located at Stamford Road, the oldest museum in the country was gazetted on 14 February 1992 as part of Singapore’s national monument list.

The National Museum was designed in typical Neo-Classical style, which, based on ancient Greek architectural style, consists of symmetry in the building layout, even spacing of the window bays, and the inclusion of large triangular pediments at the corners of the building. There is also the striking large dome at the centre of the museum building, which has numerous glass windows to allow natural light to enter the central atrium area.

Thian Hock Keng Temple

Built in 1842 as a place of worship for the local Chinese Hokkien community as well as the immigrants from China, the Thian Hock Keng Temple is currently one of the oldest Chinese temples in Singapore. It was also within the temple premises that saw the establishment of Hokkien Huay Kuan, a clan association that promotes and provides education, culture and social welfare among the local Chinese.

There are three traditional main temple halls designed for Thian Hock Keng, where each main hall is linked to smaller halls via covered walkways. The temple’s typical Chinese architectural style is also displayed through its curved roofs with sweeping ends, decorated with dragon ornaments, and the large incense burners in its courtyards.

Thian Hock Keng was added to the national monument list on 28 June 1973.

Jurong Town Hall

The Jurong Town Hall looks futuristic now even though it was built in 1974. The building is a reminder of Singapore’s rapid industrial development and economic progress between the sixties and seventies, during which the Jurong Town Corporation (JTC) was established to oversee Singapore’s industrialisation projects as well as develop and manage the nation’s newly-built industrial estates.

As JTC’s headquarters, the Jurong Town Hall has the modern architectural style that emphasises the industrial character of the building. From the sky, it looks like the capital H, while the unique building looks like a ship when viewed from the side.

The Jurong Town Hall was gazetted on 2 June 2015 as a national monument.

Tanjong Pagar Railway Station

Opened in 1931 and gazetted as a national monument on 8 April 2011, the former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station has played an important role in the transport and railway history of Singapore. Once the key transport hub linking Singapore’s port to the Malay peninsula, the railway station, upon completion, was a modern station fitted with many facilities for passenger comfort such as hotel, hair salon and restaurant.

Designed in Art Deco style, the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station’s most iconic features are the four sculptures on its facade, which represent the four economic sectors – agriculture, commerce, transport and industry – of colonial Malaya.

Former Nanyang University Library

Built in 1955, the former Nanyang University (Nantah) was founded to provide education for the Chinese community in Singapore. Singapore’s second university after the National University of Singapore, the construction of Nanyang University was funded generously by the local Chinese from all walks of life, while the land it was sited on was donated by the Hokkien Huay Kuan.

The former Nanyang University library and administrative building has become the Chinese Heritage Centre of Nanyang Technological University today. It is largely designed in Chinese National style, which comprises a traditional Chinese roof on top of a modern concrete building. On 18 December 1998, it was gazetted as one of Singapore’s national monuments.

St Andrew’s Cathedral

A reminder of the English, Scottish and Indian influences during the colonial era, the St Andrew’s Cathedral is currently Singapore’s oldest Anglican place of worship, in existence since 1861. It is also the last major building constructed by the Indian convict labourers.

Gazetted on 28 June 1973 as a national monument, the grand cathedral possesses a Neo-Gothic architectural style, made up of a cross-shaped floor plan, sharply-pointed lancet windows and high arches. The tall tapered spire on top of the main building and large stained glass windows behind the church altar are also some of the unique features of St Andrew’s Cathedral.

Published: 24 June 2018

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