Raffles Lighthouse


Raffles Lighthouse, located on Pulau Satumu, 23 km south-west of Singapore, at the western entrance of Singapore Straits, designed by John Bennet, was named after and dedicated to the memory of the founder of Singapore, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. The foundation stone was laid in 1854, by Colonel William J. Butterworth, C.B., Governor of the Straits Settlements. The lighthouse began daily operations from December 1855.

In July 1838, it was proposed that a lighthouse be built on one of the islands at the western entrance of the Singapore Straits, with suggestions that Barn Island, Alligator Island and Coney Island were the most advantageous. The eventual choice was Coney Island (today's Pulau Satumu), which was considered the best location with its position, on the south channel sea passage into Singapore, and ideal for hosting a lighthouse.

On 24 May 1854, the Raffles Lighthouse Foundation Stone and the Raffles Lighthouse Memorial Tablet were laid by William J. Butterworth, the Governor of the Straits Settlements. A Masonic ceremony with the laying of the foundation stone was officiated by William H. Read, Worshipful Master of the first Masonic Lodge "Zetland in the East". Amidst much military pomp and followed by a party celebration, the Raffles Lighthouse project was thereafter executed with the help of Indian convicts and other labourers. Indian convicts served as stone-cutters, blasters, and labourers of the project, supervised by an Officer of the Convict Department. Raffles Lighthouse was completed and began operations on 1 December 1855


The lighthouse stands on an island with a superficial area of 70 ft by 22 ft and is only 30 ft above sea-level. It was designed by John Bennet, a civil and mechanical engineer, who also assisted in the construction of St. Andrew's Cathedral. The original light-beam came from a fixed bright dioptric light of the third order. The centre of the light-beam is 106 ft above the high water mark, and is visible about 12 nautical miles away. On 1 October 1968, the lighthouse was converted from kerosene to electrical light source, and with a new fourth order optic, the light-beam strength was increased from 99,000 to 350,000 candle power.

Raffles Lighthouse is still in operation today. It is out-of-bounds except for the lighthouse staff and visitors with special permission.

Vernon Cornelius-Takahama


Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819-1867 (pp. 520-526). Singapore: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC)

Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991).
One hundred years of Singapore (Vols. 1 & 2, p. 590). Singapore: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE) 

McNair, J. F. A. (1899).
Prisoners their own warders (p. 62). Westminster: A. Constable.
(Call no.: RSEA 365.95957 MAC)

Singapore Year Book
(p. 298). (1968). Singapore: Government Printing Office.
(Call no.: RCLOS 959.57 SIN)

Further Readings

Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore). (1996). Punggol 21: A waterfront town of the 21st century (pp. 35-37). Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority.
(Call no.: RSING 711.4095957 SIN)

Islands in the sun [Microfilm: NL 8965]. (1976, December 3).
The New Nation, p. 10.

'New' island for Raffles Lighthouse [Microfilm: NL 9057]. (1977, April 27).
The New Nation, p. 2. 

The information in this article is valid as at 2001 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.

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