Source of the Singapore River

Source of the Singapore River, upper reaches of the 3.2 km Singapore River, in the Central Region of Singapore. Before modern developments, many river sites upstream were swampy fields overrun by tidal currents. By 1850 most of these swampy areas were filled, and by the turn of the 19th century, these areas had become fairly well developed with village settlements, godowns and industries. 

Economic activity began near the mouth of the Singapore River after the founding of Singapore and its establishment as a free port. With population and trade growth in the 1860s, development of the river gradually extended upstream, and by the late 1890s, there were Chinese villages, Malay kampongs, godowns, ricemills, sawmills, Chinese-owned boat-yards specialised in building and repair of bumboats, and an assortment of other trades and home industries. In the 1930s, the areas upstream from Robertson Quay, Ho Puah Quay and Kim Seng Bridge became heavily industrialised, with godowns and shophouses everywhere.

Until the early 1980s, before the 1983 "River Clean-up Campaign", families still lived in wooden huts along the wharehouses on the Jiak Kim Street side of the river. After the cleanup, the old wharehouses in the area were restored and converted for entertainment use.

The present demarcated start of the Singapore River is at Kim Seng Bridge, as can be seen in today's Singapore Street Directory. The actual source of the river is fed by Alexandra Canal, visible on the map from Commonwealth Avenue; and the area between the present Sungei Ulu Pandan Canal system and the Alexandra Canal system seems to be the original source of the Singapore River.

Some books have also pointed out other older sources of the river, one of which is Bukit Larangan (currently Fort Canning Hill) where the Singapore River ran at the foot of the hill. Other hills indicated on older maps include the Western Hills and Mt. Stamford.

Now new hotels stand alongside old restored wharehouses, which have been converted to discos, restaurants and wine-bars, along the upper reaches of the Singapore River.

Vernon Cornelius-Takahama

Berry, L. (1982). Singapore River: A living legacy ( p. 92). Singapore: Eastern Universities Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 BER) 

Hon, J. [1990]. Tidal fortunes: A story of change: The Singapore River and Kallang Basin (pp. 73, 103). Singapore : Landmark Books.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 HON) 

Singapore lifeline: The river and its people (pp. 35-36, 40). (1986). Singapore: Times Books International.
(Call no.: RSING 779.995957 SIN)

The information in this article is valid as at 2002 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.

Arts>>Architecture>>Area planning
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Singapore River (Singapore)
Architecture and Landscape>>Streets and Places
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