The photo today of Boat Quay and Singapore River from Elgin Bridge.
The archived photo of the Elgin Bridge over a century ago. [Source: NAS].
Elgin Bridge over the Singapore River links North Bridge Road (Sio Por) to South Bridge Road (Tua Por). These are the places of Singapore with street names in Hokkien.
It was replaced by a wooden drawbridge known as the Presentment Bridge in 1822 before John Turnbull Thomson replaced it in 1843. From 1862 onwards, it was replaced by an iron bridge. Finally, it made for the present concrete bridge, which was completed in 1929. The 46 metre-long bridge was named after Lorde Elgin, Governor-General of India (1862-1863). The bridge is also an important marker between North Bridge Road and South Bridge Road. Bronze plaques, each with a lion standing in front of a royal palm tree engraved on it, can still be found at Elgin Bridge.
It was officially opened on 30 May, 1929.
The plaque was fixed to the bridge by the City Council with the agreement of the “Committee for the Preservation of Historic Sites and Antiquities” (the precedence of the present Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Conservation Programme).
Do you know that there was once a ferry across the mouth of the Singapore River where Cavanagh Bridge now stands?
To go by road from the north to the south side of the river it was necessary to go round by Elgin Bridge and sampan owners used to charge exhorbitant rates for ferry service across the river.
Elgin Bridge, like most of the 9 bridges, was an essential link between the communication at both sides of the river. All the bridges have a colourful history. They were named after various important people who came to Singapore many years ago.
The bridges, especially Elgin Bridge, are historical. They are among the oldest parts of the road system in Singapore.
It is a landmark for residents and visitors who often gaze from it at the junks crowding the river banks or at the city’s outline etched against the sky.
Facelift for Elgin Bridge in 1988
Elgin Bridge underwent “cosmetic surgery” to regain its original beauty.
Workmen filled up cracks along the arches and decks of the bridge spanning the Singapore River.
The bridge stood on the spot where Singapore River’s first bridge, which was a wooden drawbridge built in 1822, once stood.
[Source: Straits Times, 10 March, 1988. Picture by H.L. Chan]
Children’s Playground beside Elgin Bridge in 1959
Sir Stamford Raffles reserved the north bank of the Singapore River for government buildings, while the south bank was designed for warehouses and other commercial developments. In the early 1820s, he launched Singapore’s first land reclamation project, turning the river’s swampy south bank into an embankment on which shophouses and godowns could be built, which became known as Boat Quay.
Boat Quay faces a broad, crescent-shaped part of the river that locals once called the “belly of the carp” as it resembled a fish associated with good fortune. Traditional boats called tongkang or twakow ferried goods to and from quayside warehouses until the 1980s, when the Singapore River was thoroughly cleaned up.
In the 1990s, Boat Quay’s traditional shophouses were restored as modern shops and riverside eateries.
[Source: National Heritage Board, Singapore]
With courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore and the National Library Board, the archived photos are curated on this blog to share with our heritage friends.
This old building at the junction corner between Boat Quay and South Bridge Road is located at the south of Elgin Bridge is a memorable landmark to juxtapose the same spot of the transformation of Boat Quay over the decades.
Walking down the same flight of steps from Elgin Bridge to Boat Quay, past and present.
Old Singapore Fifty Years Ago Video on YouTube (Courtesy of Michael Rogge)