Gillman Barracks



Gillman Barracks is located at Lock Road off Alexandra Road. It used to house the British army, and subsequently various units of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) such as the School of Combat Engineers and the SAF 3rd Transport Battalion.1 After the army vacated the camp in the 1990s, the area developed into a cluster of restaurants, bars and furniture shops frequented by office workers and expatriate families from nearby areas.2 These tenants, however, had moved out by end of February 2011 to make way for the government’s remaking of Gillman Barracks into an arts hub.3 On 15 September 2012, Gillman Barracks was relaunched as an arts cluster, with a total of 13 art galleries from 10 countries.4

Webb Gillman
Gillman Barracks was named after Webb Gillman (Sir), a distinguished Royal Artillery officer of the British army who rose to the rank of General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Command in 1931.5 He died in 1933 and was accorded a military funeral held at St Peter’s Church in London.6


Sent by the War Office in London, Gillman came to Singapore in April 1927 for three months as head of a commission to prepare a report on the defence requirements of the new naval base in Singapore.7

History
Gillman Barracks was completed in 1936 on a site that was once jungle and swamp. It was specially built to accommodate the 1st Battalion, the Middlesex Regiment, which was sent to double the British army’s infantry strength in Singapore.8 The barracks included barrack buildings, married quarters, mess halls, regimental institutes and sports facilities.9 The camp later became home to the 2nd Battalion, the Loyal Regiment. During World War II, Gillman Barracks was the site of a fierce battle between the regiment and the Japanese during the three days before Singapore surrendered in February 1942. It was one of the last British posts in Singapore to fall to the Japanese.10


In August 1971, Gillman Barracks was handed over to the Singapore government for a token sum of S$1, as part of the British military’s withdrawal from Singapore.11 The SAF moved in and held a passing-out parade there two months later.12 The camp’s swimming pool, tennis court, three sports fields and two badminton courts were transferred to the National Sports Promotion Board, which opened the facilities to the public.13 After the SAF vacated the camp in the 1990s, the government allowed the buildings to be used for commercial purposes. In 1996, Gillman Barracks was renamed Gillman Village.14

Key developments after 2000
In 2002, Gillman Village was included in an Identity Plan unveiled by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) that sought to not only preserve the distinctive character of 15 areas in Singapore, but also enhance them.15 Under the proposed plan for Gillman Village, new commercial uses would be introduced. New buildings and car parks would also be built while retaining the area’s old-world colonial charm, so as to attract more visitors to the area.16

An exhibition on the URA’s plan was held and feedback was gathered from the public. The response turned out positive, with 72 percent of survey respondents agreeing that it was a good idea to introduce new buildings and more activities in the area.17 Respondents also rated restaurants and cafes, and arts-related activities as their two most preferred activities there.18 The final proposals were then incorporated into the Master Plan – the government’s medium-term plan – to guide the physical development of Singapore.19

Although Gillman Village did not become as popular as other lifestyle enclaves like Dempsey Road, it attracted a following for its tranquil ambience and colonial feel.20 In 2010, Gillman Village reverted to its original name of Gillman Barracks21 and in February 2010, the government announced its plan to develop the area into a hub for arts-related activities and businesses such as art galleries and art research centres.22 The proposal was among the recommendations submitted by the Economic Strategies Committee (ESC) established in 2009 to look into Singapore’s long-term economic development.23

Consequently, the existing tenants moved out of Gillman Barracks by early 2011, and the government commenced work on transforming the area shortly thereafter.24

On 15 September 2012, Gillman Barracks was officially launched as Singapore’s art district after a S$10 million makeover.25 It opened with 13 art galleries from 10 different countries, featuring art works by foreign artists such as Yoshitomo Nara and Sebastiao Salgado.26 It had, however, encountered some setbacks as some renowned international art galleries like Kaikai Kiki Gallery decided not to open at Gillman Barracks, with the former alluding that it had decided to re-strategise its plans.27

During Gillman Barracks’ second anniversary in 2014, the Economic Development Board (EDB), Jurong Town Corporation (JTC) and National Arts Council – the joint management of the Gillman Barracks arts cluster – announced that there would be more eateries and covered walkways to increase traffic to Gillman Barracks.28 Then in 2015, 5 out of the 17 art galleries at Gillman Barracks decided against renewing their leases, citing poor sales and low visitorship as reasons for their closure.29

In 2016, the number of visitors to Gillman Barracks surged. This could be attributed to high quality art shows held at the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art (NTU CCA) Singapore, which had opened there in October 2013. Strategies such as working with the Singapore Tourism Board to promote Gillman Barracks as a tourist attraction have also helped to increase visitorship.30 In April 2016, a dedicated Programme Office was opened to help integrate and coordinate the activities of the arts cluster and advertise them.31 Gillman Barracks also expanded its mix of tenants by including lifestyle store Supermama, as well as two art organisations, Playeum and Art Outreach, to increase its appeal.32

Timeline
Apr 1936:
1st Battalion, the Middlesex Regiment, moves into Gillman Barracks soon after the camp’s completion.33

21 Aug 1971: Barracks are sold to Singapore government for S$1.34
10 Oct 1971: SAF holds passing-out parade at the camp.35
1984: SAF units in the camp start moving to other locations.36
1996: Name of the camp is changed to Gillman Village.37
23 Jul 2002: URA launches its Identity Plan for Gillman Village and various other areas of Singapore.38
Feb 2010: The ESC proposes turning Gillman Village into an arts and creative cluster.39
2010: Gillman Village reverts to its original name, Gillman Barracks.40
Jan–Feb 2011: Existing tenants move out of the area.41
14 Jun 2011: EDB calls for expressions of interest to establish art galleries in Gillman Barracks.42
4 Jul 2011: JTC, the site’s master tenant, invites tenders for the refurbishment of existing buildings, improvement works to surrounding facilities and the construction of ancillary buildings at the site.43
15 Sep 2012: New art district in Singapore with 13 galleries from 10 countries opens at Gillman Barracks.44
Oct 2013: NTU CCA Singapore opens at Gillman Barracks.45
Apr 2015: Five art galleries close down at Gillman Barracks.46
Apr 2016: Opening of Gillman Barracks Programme Office to coordinate activities at Gillman Barracks and promote the arts cluster.47



Author
Valerie Chew




References
1. Tan, W. (2004, April 3). Barracks turned seafood paradise. Today, p. 26; Lee, H. S. (1993, October 26). Gillman site worth more than $1b if condos are builtThe Business Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Lim, W. C. (2006, April 1). Sleepy nook now a quiet, little bohemia. The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Lim, J. (2011, January 16). Gillman Village takes a breakThe Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Contemporary art destination officially opens. (2012, September 15). The New Paper. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
5. General Sir Webb Gillman. (1927, August 8). The Straits Times, p. 10; New barracks for Singapore. (1935, June 3). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Nations’ homage to Shakespeare. (1933, May 27). The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. McIntyre, W. D. (1979). The rise and fall of the Singapore naval base, 1919–1942. London: Macmillan, p. 81. (Call no.: RSING 359.7 MAC); Singapore defences and the base. (1927, April 26). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. “Die-hard” machine-gunners arrive tomorrow. (1936, March 30). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. New army headquarters in Singapore. (1935, June 2). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Plaque honours the Loyals for their last stand. (1958, December 22). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Barracks ‘sold’ to S’pore govt for a dollar. (1971, August 21). The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Passing-out parade at Gillman. (1971, October 8). The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Public can now use takeover sports facilities. (1971, August 29). The Straits Times, p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Tan, R. (1996, June 7). From barracks to food court. The New Paper, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Neo, H. M. (2002, July 24). Giving 15 areas a new lease of lifeThe Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Scenic walks for nature lovers. (2002, July 24). The Business Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2002, November 25). URA’s parks & waterbodies and identity plans receive strong public support. Retrieved 2016, November 10 from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/media-room/news/2002/nov/pr02-66
18. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2002, October 22). Summary of key public feedback. Retrieved 2016, November 10 from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/-/media/User%20Defined/URA%20Online/media-room/2002/nov/pr02-66a1.pdf?la=en
19. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2016). Introduction to Master Plan. Retrieved 2016, November 10 from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/master-plan.aspx?p1=view-master-plan
20. Mak, M. S. (2007, September 16). Out of this world. The Straits Times, p. 48. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2017, February 15). Our favourite place – Gillman Barracks. Retrieved June 20, 2017, from Urban Redvelopment Authority website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/ms/OurFavePlace/events/bench/locations/gillman-barracks
22. A thriving arts cluster. (2010, February 5). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Chia, S-A. (2009, May 28). Panel to prepare for long-term growthThe Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Lim, J. (2011, January 16). Gillman Village takes a breakThe Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Shetty, D. (2012, September 15). S’pore arts district launched. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Contemporary art destination officially opens. (2012, September 15). The New Paper. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
27. Huang, L. (2013, July 2). Murakami not opening gallery here. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Loi, R. (2014, September 26). Gillman barracks has new lease of life. The Business Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
29. Shetty, D. (2015, April 11). Setback for arts cluster? The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

30. Helmi Yusof. (2016, June 24). Has Gillman Barracks turned the corner? The Business Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

31. Huang, L. (2016, September 20). Gillman Barracks is four. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

32. Helmi Yusof. (2016, September 16). Gillman redefines role at its four-year mark. The Business Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

33. Second infantry regiment in their new home. (1936, April 1). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. Ortega, B. (1984, November 2). Colonel who ‘sold’ Gillman Barracks for just one dollar. Singapore Monitor, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. Passing-out parade at Gillman. (1971, October 8). The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. Ortega, B. (1984, November 2). Colonel who ‘sold’ Gillman Barracks for just one dollar. Singapore Monitor, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
37. Yeo, M. (2015, May 15). New life for old barracks. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
38. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2002, July 23). URA launches identity plans for 15 areas in Singapore. Retrieved 2016, November 10 from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/media-room/news/2002/jul/pr02-42
39. Ministry of Trade and Industry. (2010). Report of the Economic Strategies Committee, p. 97. Retrieved 2016, November 10 from Ministry of Trade and Industry website: https://www.mti.gov.sg/ResearchRoom/Documents/app.mti.gov.sg/data/pages/885/doc/ESC%20Full%20Report.pdf
40. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2017, February 5). Our favourite Place - Gillman Barracks. Retrieved June 20, 2017, from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/ms/OurFavePlace/events/bench/locations/gillman-barracks
41. Lim, J. (2011, January 16). Gillman Village takes a breakThe Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
42. Singapore Economic Development Board calls for expressions of interests (EOI) for galleries to set up in Gillman Barracks. (2011, June 14). Singapore Government News. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
43. Lim, J. (2011, January 16). Gillman Village takes a break. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
44. Helmi Yusof. (2012, September 15). Big guns, big bang at barracks. The Business Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
45. Nanyang Technological Institute. (2013, October 14). International curator and MIT Associate Professor Ute Meta Bauer to lead NTU’s Centre for Contemporary Art [News release]. Retrieved June 20, 2017, from Nanyang Technological University website: http://media.ntu.edu.sg/NewsReleases/Pages/newsdetail.aspx?news=f2b0cf9d-6199-42de-a68f-567fbaa525c0
46. Shetty, D. (2015, April 11). Setback for arts cluster? The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
47. Huang, L. (2016, September 20). Gillman Barracks is four. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/



The information in this article is valid as at July 2017 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Great Britain. Army--Barracks and quarters
Streets and Places
Gillman, Webb, Sir
Gillman Village (Singapore)
Architecture and Landscape>>Streets and Places
Personalities
History>>Asia>>Southeast Asia>>Singapore
Business, finance and industry>>Industry>>Services>>Retail and wholesale