Fort Fullerton



Fort Fullerton was one of the earliest forts built in Singapore, predating even Fort Canning. It was located at the mouth of the Singapore River and constructed with the aim of protecting the ships in the harbour. The fort was subsequently demolished and replaced by the Post Office in 1882, the headquarters of the Singapore Volunteer Artillery in 1891 and Fullerton Building in 1928. Today, the Fullerton Hotel stands on its site.

Beginnings
Soon after Stamford Raffles signed the treaty that secured Singapore as a trading post for the British East India Company on 6 February 1819, he instructed the then Resident, William Farquhar, to establish “one or two strong batteries” along the coast “in the vicinity of the Settlement”.1 In addition, Farquhar had to establish a redoubt (fort) at Sandy Point “for the protection of the shipping”.2 Sandy Point referred to a spit of land at the entrance of the Kallang Basin.3 At the time, the Settlement of Singapore consisted of only a small area in the vicinity of the Singapore River and not the entire island.4

A year after the British landed on Singapore, there was only a small fortification built at the mouth of the Singapore River, approximately on the site of what was to become Fort Fullerton.5 In an 1825 map of Singapore, this location was labelled Rocky Point, also known as Artillery Point and Battery Point.6

It is believed that Fort Fullerton was located near this site but it is unclear in which year the fort was built. Some sources say that Fort Fullerton was built in 1825,7 while others put it as 1829.8 An 1827 report on the fortifications of Singapore made no mention of Fort Fullerton, but noted a crumbling earth fieldwork, identified as possibly being Battery Point.9 Hence, it was likely that the first governor of the Straits Settlements, Robert Fullerton, started work on building the fort during his stint as governor (1826–1830).10 The fort was named in his honour.11


Defending Singapore
Scant attention was paid to Singapore’s military defences in the early colonial period despite the island being an important trading port. The first major study of Singapore’s fortifications was done in 1827 by Captain Edward Lake of the Bengal Engineers.12 He noted Singapore’s scanty and defective defences and recommended the construction of extensive fortifications, including a chain of batteries along the coast as well as a fortress or citadel.13

Fort Fullerton was the only physical outcome of Lake’s recommendations.14 By 1830, the fort consisted of artillery barracks and an officer’s house. An access road, known as Battery Road, led from the fort to Commercial Square.15 The fort was built using “very good local bricks” and hydraulic lime.16 The sea wall of the fort, possibly built sometime in 1844, was “a well built work composed of rough axe-squared red sandstone with boulder packing” and filled in with lime mortar.17


Between 1854 and 1859, the fort area was enlarged to three times its size to accommodate 56- and 68-pounder cannons. It was also extended from the Singapore River to Johnston’s Pier.18 The batteries at the fort were constructed in 1855.19 By 1858, the fort was armed with seven 68-pounders (with a range of three miles), two 8-inch guns, two 8-inch howitzers and two 13-inch mortars.20 Construction work was carried out by convict labour.21

An ineffective fort
Although Fort Fullerton was constructed with the objective of protecting shipping, and indirectly, the trade of Singapore, not everyone was happy with its location. For one, it was located on prime land with a commanding view of the sea. The merchants thought it was a waste that the best location in town was given to military use. Another complaint of the merchants was the constant artillery practice conducted at the fort. They petitioned the government for the practice drills to stop, but to no avail.22 

A more serious concern was the proximity of Fort Fullerton to the godowns and offices situated along the banks of the Singapore River and at Commercial Square (now known as Raffles Place). The merchants did not like the idea of the fort being so close to their offices and godowns as these would be in the direct line of fire should the fort be attacked.23

Furthermore, Fort Fullerton was not seen as an effective deterrent to any potential attacks. A Captain Elliot, commander of a warship that anchored in Singapore in the 1850s, proclaimed that his guns could “smash the fort in a minute and a half”.24 A committee convened to look into general colonial military expenditure, circa 1860, noted that it was impractical to depend on land fortifications such as Fort Fullerton to defend Singapore against enemy attacks from the sea. Instead, the committee was of the view that naval defence was the best strategy and recognised that “the probable result of their attempting to annoy a hostile fleet would be the destruction of the town”.25

An 1872 newspaper editorial was scathing in its description of the efficiency of the fortifications in Singapore. Of Fort Fullerton, the editorial commented that it “seem[ed] to have been expressly designed for the destruction of the Collyer Quay godowns and the whole [Commercial] Square”26 given its proximity to these areas. The editorial further remarked that the site was a more suitable and convenient location for the Post Office and Stamp Office.27


The colonial government finally dismantled Fort Fullerton after repeated criticisms of its efficacy and location. The process began in the 1860s and was completed by 1873.28 There was little love lost when the fort was demolished as it was seen as a relic of the rule of the India Office.29

Civilian and government use

On 1 August 1874, the Post Office relocated from across the Singapore River to a bungalow on the site of the former Fort Fullerton, an initiative strongly welcomed by the mercantile community.30 The move was lauded as “a step in the right direction” as the new location of the Post Office was far more convenient for the merchants and office workers.31 Eight years later in 1882, the bungalow was demolished to make way for a new Post Office building.32 The demolition began on 16 September.33 The gun emplacements at the former fort were destroyed in 1889.34 Two years later, the Singapore Volunteer Artillery (SVA) built its headquarters, the Drill Hall, on the site of the former post office.35 The volunteers conducted their artillery drills using the fort’s 7-inch rifled muzzle loading guns after business hours36 The SVA moved to Beach Road in 1908.37 

The Post Office building was demolished in 1922 to make way for a bigger building.38 The new building, completed in 1928, was named Fullerton Building, and housed the Singapore Club, the Chamber of Commerce and 10 government departments.39 Fullerton Building officially opened on 27 June 1928 and was named in memory of Sir Robert Fullerton.40


During the Japanese Occupation

Just before Britain surrendered Singapore to Japan in February 1942, Fullerton Building was used as a hospital with makeshift operation rooms to treat wounded British soldiers.41 During the Japanese Occupation, then Governor of Singapore Shenton Thomas and his wife sought refuge in the premises of the Singapore Club located in Fullerton Building before they were interned by the Japanese. It was also in this building that Sir Shenton and Lieutenant General Arthur E. Percival discussed the possibility of surrendering to the Japanese.42 After Singapore fell, the Japanese used the Fullerton Building as their military administration headquarters.43


Post-war
Fullerton Building reverted to civilian use after the war. The General Post Office and other government departments occupied the building.44


Fullerton Hotel
Fullerton Building closed for extensive renovations in 199645 to be refurbished into a hotel.46 Fullerton Hotel opened its doors on 15 December 2000.47 

Timeline
1826–1830: Fort Fullerton built.
1854–1859: Fort Fullerton enlarged.
1860s–1873: Fort Fullerton demolished.
1 August 1874: Post Office moved to bungalow at Fort Fullerton.
16 September 1882: Bungalow of Post Office demolished to make way for new Post Office building.
1891: Singapore Volunteer Artillery Drill Hall occupied the site of the former Post Office.
1922: Post Office building demolished.
27 June 1928: New Fullerton Building officially opened.
1942–1945: Fullerton Building used as Japanese Military Administration headquarters.
1946–1996: Fullerton Building used by various government departments.
1996–2000: Fullerton Building refurbished.
15 December 2000: Fullerton Hotel opened. 



Author
Jaime Koh 



References
1. Buckley, C. B. (1902). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore (Vol. 1) [Microfilm no.: NL 269]. Singapore: Fraser & Neave, p. 43.
2. Buckley, C. B. (1902). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore (Vol. 1) [Microfilm no.: NL 269]. Singapore: Fraser & Neave, p. 43.
3. Murfett, M. H., et al. (1999). Between two oceans: A military history of Singapore from first settlement to final British withdrawal. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 56. (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 BET)
4. Buckley, C. B. (1902). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore (Vol. 1) [Microfilm no.: NL 269]. Singapore: Fraser & Neave, p. 40.
5. Murfett, M. H., et al. (1999). Between two oceans: A military history of Singapore from first settlement to final British withdrawal. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 56. (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 BET)
6. See Maps V to VII in Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir. (1970). The Hikayat Abdullah, an annotated translation by A. H. Hill. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, pp. 336–338. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.5 ABD) and Lieutenant Philip Jackson’s town plan in Turnbull, C. M. (2001). A history of Singapore, 1819–1988. Singapore: Oxford University Press, facing p. 1. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
7. Fort Fullerton. (1922, July 13). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 6; 100 years of local history. (1928, June 27). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Makepeace, W., Brooke, G., &  Braddell, R. S. J. (Eds.). (1921). One hundred years of Singapore: Being some account of the capital of the Straits Settlements from its foundation by Sir Stamford Raffles on the 6th February 1819 to the 6th February 1919. London: J. Murray, p. 379. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.51 MAK-[RFL])
8. Sharp, I. (2011). The Fullerton heritage: Where the past meets the present. Singapore: ORO Editions, p. 11. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SHA-[HIS]); Tyers, R. (1993). Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 9. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
9. Murfett, M. H., et al. (1999). Between two oceans: A military history of Singapore from first settlement to final British withdrawal. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 56. (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 BET)
10. Murfett, M. H., et al. (1999). Between two oceans: A military history of Singapore from first settlement to final British withdrawal. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 56. (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 BET); Corfield, J. J., &  Mulliner, K. (2011). Historical dictionary of Singapore, p. 91. Lanham: Scarecrow Press. Retrieved from EBSCOhost eBook Collection.
11. Savage, V., & Yeoh, B. (2004). Toponymics: A study of Singapore street names. Singapore: Eastern Universities Pres, p. 133. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
12. Murfett, M. H., et al. (1999). Between two oceans: A military history of Singapore from first settlement to final British withdrawal. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 56. (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 BET)
13. Murfett, M. H., et al. (1999). Between two oceans: A military history of Singapore from first settlement to final British withdrawal. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 56. (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 BET)
14. Murfett, M. H., et al. (1999). Between two oceans: A military history of Singapore from first settlement to final British withdrawal. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 56. (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 BET)
15. Savage, V., & Yeoh, B. (2004). Toponymics: A study of Singapore street names. Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, p. 48. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA]
16. The post office site. (1924, April 19). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. The post office site. (1924, April 19). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1954). Singapore notes on the old straits 1580–1850. Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, XXVII, 200. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.5 JMBRAS)
18. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G., & Braddell, R. S. J. (Eds.). (1921). One hundred years of Singapore: Being some account of the capital of the Straits Settlements from its foundation by Sir Stamford Raffles on the 6th February 1819 to the 6th February 1919. London: J. Murray, p. 379. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.51 MAK-[RFL]); Fort Fullerton. (1922, July 13). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Braddell, R. St. J. (1934). The lights of Singapore [Microfilm no.: NL 25437]. London: Methuen & Co., p. 9.
20. The new bridge. (1908, November 13). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Buckley, C. B. (1902). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore (Vol. 2) [Microfilm no.: NL 269]. Singapore: Fraser & Neave, p. 665.
22. Sixty years ago. (1927, June 18). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. 100 years of local history. (1928, June 27). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Makepeace, W., Brooke, G., & Braddell, R. S. J. (Eds.). (1921). One hundred years of Singapore: being some account of the capital of the Straits Settlements from its foundation by Sir Stamford Raffles on the 6th February 1819 to the 6th February 1919. London: J. Murray, p. 379. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.51 MAK-[RFL])
24. Sutton, H. T. (1959, April 11). Colony defences got off to a poor startThe Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
25. Buckley, C. B. (1902). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore (Vol. 2) [Microfilm no.: NL 269].  Singapore: Fraser & Neave, p. 769.
26. Our military expenditure. (1872, June 15). Straits Times Overland Journal, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Our military expenditure. (1872, June 15). Straits Times Overland Journal, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G., & Braddell, R. S. J. (Eds.). (1921). One hundred years of Singapore: Being some account of the capital of the Straits Settlements from its foundation by Sir Stamford Raffles on the 6th February 1819 to the 6th February 1919. London: J. Murray, p. 379. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.51 MAK-[RFL]); Untitled. (1864, January 30). The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Old institutions. (1873, June 14). Straits Times Overland Journal, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. The old Post Office building. (1922, July 21). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 12; The council debates. (1872, July 14). Straits Times Overland Journal, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Hsu, Y. T. (n.d.). The sesquicentennial chronology of Singapore, 1819–1969, p. 45. (Call no.: RDLKL 959.57 HSU)
31. The council debates. (1872, July 14). Straits Times Overland Journal, p. 4; Needed improvements. (1874, August 1). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. The Post Office. (1928, June 27). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Hsu, Y. T. (n.d.). The sesquicentennial chronology of Singapore, 1819–1969, p. 47. (Call no.: RDLKL 959.57 HSU)
34. The old Post Office building. (1922, July 21). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G., & Braddell, R. S. J. (Eds.). (1921). One hundred years of Singapore: being some account of the capital of the Straits Settlements from its foundation by Sir Stamford Raffles on the 6th February 1819 to the 6th February 1919. London: J. Murray, p. 387. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.51 MAK-[RFL])
36. Headquarters Singapore Artillery. (1988). The Singapore Artillery 100th year commemorative book. Singapore: The Author, p. 10. (Call no.: RSING 358.12095957 SIN)
37. Headquarters Singapore Artillery. (1988). The Singapore Artillery 100th year commemorative book. Singapore: The Author, p. 10. (Call no.: RSING 358.12095957 SIN)
38. The Post Office. (1928, June 27). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. The Fullerton Building. (1928, June 27). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40. The Fullerton Building. (1928, June 27). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
41. Leong, P. (2000, April 12). Hotel project preserves hallmarks of Fullerton Bldg. The Straits Times, p. 43. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
42. Uma Devi, G., et al. (2002). Singapore’s 100 historic places. Singapore: Archipelago Press in association with National Heritage Board, p. 75. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
43. Koh, T., et al (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 207. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
44. New electoral office. (1947, August 27). The Singapore Free Press, p. 5; $21m to spruce up Fullerton Building. (1985, May 10). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
45. Leong, P. (2000, April 12). Hotel project preserves hallmarks of Fullerton Bldg. The Straits Times, p. 43. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
46. A grand lady set to emerge. (2000, October 27). The Business Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
47. Koh, B. P. (2000, December 15). Old look, new feel for hotel. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resource
Chew, M. (2001). Memories of the Fullerton. Singapore: The Fullerton.
(Call no.: RSING q959.57 CHE-[HIS])



The information in this article is valid as at 1 September 2014 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
Streets and Places
Architecture and Landscape>>Streets and Places