Labrador Park/Fort Pasir Panjang



Labrador Park/Fort Pasir Panjang, former defence battery, nature park and designated reserve area, is located in Singapore’s Central Region.1 The name Labrador is derived from “Labrador Villa”, the name of the residence of prominent ship chandler, George John Mansfield, built in 1881.2 Known as Fort Pasir Panjang, it was one of 11 coastal artillery forts built by the British in the 19th century to defend Singapore’s waters.3

Once a rocky coastline, land reclamation and development of a seawall has changed its original rugged look. Today, Labrador Park, also known as Tanjong Berlayer Beach Park, is a historic, leisure and nature park.4 Labrador Park was designated as a nature reserve in 2002.5

Fort Pasir Panjang

Fort Pasir Panjang was completed in 1878 with two gun emplacements. It was twinned with Fort Siloso on Sentosa Island as a defence site to Keppel Harbour (then known as New Harbour).6 The emplacements were upgraded to a six-gun battery, with underground ammunition storage, living spaces and tunnels in 1892.7 With the possible outbreak of war in the region in 1938, the Labrador Battery was further armed with two six-inch 37-ton guns that could fire 102-pound shells to a distance of almost 10 miles. Beaming searchlights that could track enemy ships were another addition to the battery.8

This defence position was part of a strategy based on the popular belief that an invasion of Singapore would probably come via a coastal attack, and so the placements of these guns were fixed facing the sea. In practice, they could be turned around. This was the case in February 1942, during World War II, when the guns were reversed almost 180 degrees and used by the Malay Regiment in their 48-hour struggle against the advancing Japanese 18th Division in the Pasir Panjang / Alexandra Road area.9

Dragon’s Tooth Gate
Dragon’s Tooth Gate, a literal translation of its name in Mandarin – Long Ya Men, is a rock outcrop shaped like a tooth located just offshore from Labrador Park.10 Known in Malay as Batu Berlayar and Lot’s Wife by the Europeans,11 it was believed to be the navigational marker for the great Chinese explorer Admiral Zheng He, as he travelled through the Singapore Straits.12 The rock was however blown up by the British in 1848 to widen the Keppel Straits.13 In September 2005, a 7.5 metre replica of the rock was erected at Labrador Park.14 Near the rock replica, at Tanjong Belayer Point is a white obelisk – the original Western Harbour limit. It served as a reference point for seafarers to identify specific areas within the harbour.15

Development of Labrador Park

Labrador Park has been developed as a nature reserve,16 and the battery as a historical site.17 In 1993, Labrador Park was one of the 19 sites earmarked for conservation under the Green Plan. This led to changes in the development plans by the Port of Singapore Authority in 1993 to help protect the rich marine life at the rocky seashore of the park.18 Plans to develop the park in 1996 also included the restoration and refurbishment of the bunkers and war-time relics. Signages were also included to display information on the historical significance of the relics.19

After World War II, the underground tunnels at Labrador Park were forgotten and hidden by vegetation till 2001, when National Park officials found them by accident. In 2005, two tunnels which are 46 m and 63 m long and between 2.5 m and 4 m high were opened to the public as part of the history trail at the park.20 Other than the tunnels, the machine gun posts, artillery pieces,21 casemate,22 observation positions and ammunition storage compartments can still be seen at the park.23

Labrador Park has also been developed to include food and beverage establishments and even lodging. The first proposed hotel at the park - Villa Raintree Resort and Spa24 - was developed through refurbishing two pre-war bungalows. It was slated to open at the end of 2006, offering a 60-room hotel and a spa.25 Today, the boutique hotel is run by the Samadhi Group, and is known as Villa Samadhi Singapore.26

In 2008, the development of a the Labrador Nature and Coastal Walk was announced, connecting it to Alexandra Road and the Keppel Harbour area.27 Costing $10 million, the 2.1 kilometre walk was officially opened in January 2012. It is made up of three distinct parts: Alexandra Garden Trail, Berlayer Creek and Bukit Chermin Boardwalk.28



Author

Vernon Cornelius-Takahama



References
1. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore). (1993). Bukit Merah planning area: planning report 1993. Singapore: The Authority, p. 9. (Call no.: RSING 711.4095957 SIN)
2. Savage, V. R. & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 221. (Call no.: 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
3. Uma, D. G. (2002). Singapore’s 100 historic places. Singapore: Archipelago Press in association with National Heritage Board, p. 121. (Call no.: 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
4. Tsang, S., & Hendricks, E. (2007). Discover Singapore: The city’s history & culture redefined. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 114. (Call no.: 959.57 TSA-[HIS])
5. Sim, G. (2005, March 12). Labrador Park brings WWII to life. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Rogerson, M. (2009). In Singapore: 60 fabulous adventures in the city. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 109. (Call no.: 915.95704 ROG-[TRA]); Wan, M. H. (2009). Heritage places of Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 159. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 WAN)
7. Tsang, S., & Hendricks, E. (2007). Discover Singapore: The city’s history & culture redefined. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 112. (Call no.: 959.57 TSA-[HIS]); Teo, G. (2002, February 22). A walk in the park, a step back in time. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Tsang, S., & Hendricks, E. (2007). Discover Singapore: The city’s history & culture redefined. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 114. (Call no.: 959.57 TSA-[HIS]); Yap, S. Y. (2011). Fortress Singapore: The battlefield guide. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 66. (Call no.: 959.5703 FOR-[HIS])
9. Tsang, S., & Hendricks, E. (2007). Discover Singapore: The city’s history & culture redefined. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 114. (Call no.: 959.57 TSA-[HIS]); Yap, S. Y. (2011). Fortress Singapore: The battlefield guide. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 66. (Call no.: 959.5703 FOR-[HIS])
10. Pereira, M. L. (2005, September 7). Historic dragon’s tooth gate reborn at Labrador Park. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Tsang, S., & Hendricks, E. (2007). Discover Singapore: The city’s history & culture redefined. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 112. (Call no.: 959.57 TSA-[HIS])
12. Pereira, M. L. (2005, September 7). Historic dragon’s tooth gate reborn at Labrador Park. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Kwa, C. G., Heng, D. T, S., & Tan, T. Y. (2009). Singapore, a 700-year history: From early emporium to world city. Singapore: National Archives of Singapore, p. 67. (Call no.: 959.5703 KWA-[HIS]); Pereira, M. L. (2005, September 7). Historic dragon’s tooth gate reborn at Labrador Park. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tsang, S., & Hendricks, E. (2007). Discover Singapore: The city’s history & culture redefined. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 112. (Call no.: 959.57 TSA-[HIS]); Tyers, R. K. (1976). Singapore: Then & now (Vol 2). Singapore: University Education Press, p. 353. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
14. Pereira, M. L. (2005, September 7). Historic dragon’s tooth gate reborn at Labrador Park. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tsang, S., & Hendricks, E. (2007). Discover Singapore: The city’s history & culture redefined. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 112. (Call no.: 959.57 TSA-[HIS]).
15. Singapore approaches. (1933, June 10). The Straits Times, p. 3; Singapore port rules. (1931, March 14). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. National Parks. (2016). Labrador Nature Reserve. Retrieved 2016, November 11 from National Parks Board website: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/parks-and-nature-reserves/labrador-nature-reserve
17. National Heritage Board. (2016). Labrador Battery. Retrieved 2016, November 11 from the Roots website: https://roots.sg/Content/Places/historic-sites/labrador-battery
18. Dominic, N. (1993, October 14). PSA plans "will not harm Labrador Park'The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Ho, K. Y. (1996, May 8). Labrador Park works will preserve war relicsThe Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Sim, G. (2005, March 12). Labrador Park brings WWII to life. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. National Parks Board. (2016). Labrador Nature Reserve. Retrieved 2016, November 11 from National Parks Board website: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/parks-and-nature-reserves/labrador-nature-reserve
22. Rogerson, M. (2009). In Singapore: 60 fabulous adventures in the city. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 109. (Call no.: 915.95704 ROG-[TRA])
23. Teo, G. (2002, February 22). A walk in the park, a step back in time. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Chee, H. Y. (2007, October 2). Transforming Singapore’s hotel industry. The Business Times, p. 30; Page 14 Advertisements Column 1. (2008, March 21). The New Paper, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Boo, K. (2006, May 10). Labrador Park to get a hotel and spa. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Villa Samadhi Singapore. (2016). Corporate overview. Retrieved 2016, November 11 from Villa Samadhi Singapore website: http://www.villasamadhi.com.sg/
27. Liaw, W. (2008, May 15). From garden to creek to harbour – all in just 2km. The Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Lim, Y. L. (2012, January 3). Trail linking Southern Ridges to coast opens. The Straits Times. Retrieved from ProQuest.



Further resources
Dominic, N. (1993, October 14). PSA plans "will not harm Labrador Park'The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.


Ho Y. Y. (1996, May 8). Labrador Park works will preserve war relicsThe Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Labrador Park beach gets a big clean-up. (1992, November 7). The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Tyers, R. K. (1976). Singapore, then & now.( Vol. 2). Singapore: University Education Press, p. 353.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE)

Wan, M. H. (2009). Heritage places of Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 158–159.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 WAN)



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 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
Recreation>>Places of Interest
Streets and Places
Parks--Singapore
Architecture and Landscape>>Streets and Places
Arts>>Architecture>>Architectural structure
Arts>>Architecture>>Public and commercial buildings
Historic sites--Singapore
Places of interest

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