Old Admiralty House


Old Admiralty House, located at Old Nelson Road, off Canberra Road, was built in 1939 and served as the residence for several senior officers as part of the British naval base. After the British military withdrawal, it was used by various country clubs. It was gazetted as a national monument in 2002 and is currently occupied by a private school.

Old Admiralty House was built in 1939 on 4 ha of land at the British Naval Base in Sembawang. Meant to be the residence of the Commodore Superintendent of the Royal Navy Dockyard, it was designed by British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and constructed by His Majesty's Navy Works Department of the British Royal Navy. It was also used as the strategic planning headquarters of the British armed forces during World War II (1939 – 1945). After the war, a swimming pool was built on the premises with the help of 200 Japanese prisoners-of-war.

The building was named Admiralty House in 1958. As Admiralty House, it was the home of the Commander of the Far East Fleet until 1 November 1971. Prior to this, it had been known as Canberra House and then Nelson House, and had served as the residence of not only the Commodore Superintendent of the navy dockyard but also the Flag Officer of the Malayan Area.

From 1971 to 1974, it was called ANZUK House, during which time it was the residence of the commander of the ANZUK force. Comprising troops from Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, the ANZUK force lightened the burden of the British in providing security for their ex-colonies in Southeast Asia and served as an interim defence arrangement while Singapore and Malaysia built up their militaries. After the departure of the ANZUK force, the building was used variously as a private residence, a hotel and Sembawang Shipyard’s recreational club.

In 1990, while landscaping was being carried out on the premises, the ground under an excavator collapsed, leading to the discovery of a 30 m2 underground bunker, believed to be a bomb shelter for the Commodore Superintendent’s workers. There has been speculation that a separate bomb shelter for the Commodore exists and that a tunnel connects Admiralty House to Sembawang Shipyard as part of a network of as yet unexplored tunnels.

The building was taken over by Yishun Country Club in 1991 and by Karimun Admiralty Country Club 10 years later.

Designation as a national monument and later developments
On 2 December 2002, the building was gazetted as a national monument and renamed Old Admiralty House. In January 2007, it became the first gazetted monument to be put up for tender by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA). Earmarked for recreational use, the site was eventually awarded to YESS Group on a three-year renewable lease.

YESS Group planned to establish a S$5 million family-oriented recreational club offering a golf course, sporting facilities and adventure courses. It also planned to highlight the historical significance of the site by constructing a replica of a British warship on the premises. The club was to be opened by October 2007 but the completion of the project was delayed, and in 2009 a series of problems surfaced. It was discovered that YESS Group had signed on sub-tenants, including several restaurants and a school, without the permission of SLA. It was also found operating an illegal dormitory comprising air-conditioned metal containers on the site. SLA finally terminated YESS Group’s contract in July 2010 after it repeatedly defaulted on rent payments.

In September 2011, the tender for the site was awarded to FIS Institute. Since January 2012, it has been used as the school’s new campus.

Old Admiralty House was designed in the Arts and Craft architecture style that was popular in the 19th century. Its exterior resembles a traditional English cottage with a two-storey brick building and a one-storey wing on its northwest side. Its roof is high-hipped and clad with terracotta tiles in a French pattern.

The first storey is heavily stuccoed and painted white, while the second storey is exposed fairface brickwork with white joints. The building's casement windows are made of timber and painted blue. The asymmetrical design of the house means that visitors need to change directions several times to find the main rooms.

Justin Zhuang and Alex Chow

Yohanna Abdullah. (1992, January 6). Treasure hunt that unearthed not gold or silver, but a WWII bunker. The Straits Times, p.3. Retrieved July 27, 2012, from NewspaperSG.

Cheam, J. (2007, May 9). Old Admiralty House to get makeover as country club. The Straits Times, Home, p.H4. Retrieved July 27, 2012, from NewspaperSG.

Dunlop, P. (2000). Street names of Singapore (pp.23, 229). Singapore: Who's Who Publishing.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS])

Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places (pp.67-68). Singapore: Times Books International.
(Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])

FIS Institute. (2011, January 5). About FIS Institute. Retrieved July 27, 2012, from http://www.fis.edu.sg/en/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&layout=item&id=14&Itemid=9

Former Admiralty House. (2010). Retrieved July 27, 2012, from Preservation of Monuments Board website: http://www.pmb.sg/

Koh, G. (2002, December 6). Three historic buildings picked for preservation. The Straits Times, Home, p.H13. Retrieved January 21, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Old Admiralty House. (2006). In T. Koh, et al. (Eds.), Singapore: The encyclopedia (p.389). Singapore: Editions Didier Millet; National Heritage Board.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])

Lim, J. (2009, March 26). Admiral plan still seeking sea legs. The Straits Times, Home, p.B1. Retrieved May 24, 2012, from NewspaperSG.

Lim, J., & Leow, S. W. (2009, October 16). School told to vacate premises. The Straits Times, p.A17. Retrieved May 24, 2012, from NewspaperSG.

Nurul Syuhaida, & Lip, K.W. (2011, September 26). Old Admiralty House to be boarding school. Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved May 24, 2012, from http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1155658/1/.html

Singapore Land Authority (2007, May 8). Singapore Land Authority’s first preserved monument on tender gets five million touch-up [Press release]. Retrieved December 23, 2008, from http://www.sla.gov.sg/htm/new/new2007/new0318.htm

SLA to re-launch tender of Old Admiralty House site in Sembawang. (2010, July 1). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved May 24, 2012, from http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1067031/1/.html

Snapped up: $4,750 a month Anzuk House. (1976, May 13). The Straits Times, p.9. Retrieved July 27, 2012, from NewspaperSG.

Tilbrook, J. D. (1989). To the warrior his arms: A history of the ordnance services in the Australian army. Canberra: Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps Committee. Retrieved July 27, 2012, from http://www.raaoc.asn.au/images/warrior/01.pdf

Further reading
Wan, M. H. (2009). Heritage places of Singapore (pp.215-216). Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 WAN)

The information in this article is valid as at 27 July 2012 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.

Historic buildings--Singapore
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Historic Buildings
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Monuments
National monuments
Historic buildings
Arts>>Architecture>>Public and commercial buildings

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