Aljunied



Situated on the eastern fringe of the city centre, Aljunied broadly refers to the areas surrounding Aljunied Road, which connects Geylang Road and MacPherson Road, and Upper Aljunied Road, which extends from the MacPherson Road junction to Upper Serangoon Road.1

Early history
Maps of 19th-century Singapore show the Aljunied area as largely undeveloped.2 It is possible that the area took its name from Aljunied Road. The road was named in 1926 after Syed Ali bin Mohamed Aljunied of the Aljunied family.3 Syed Ali was the son of Syed Omar bin Ali Aljunied, one of the earliest Arabs to arrive in Singapore after a British trading post was established on the island in 1819. Members of the Aljunied family were prominent businessmen, community leaders and philanthropists.4 The extension of Aljunied Road from MacPherson Road to Serangoon Road was officially named Upper Aljunied Road in 1929.5


Little was written about the early history of the Aljunied area; by 1931, however, the area had undergone some development with a newspaper article mentioning the presence of a plantation off Aljunied Road.6

Japanese Occupation
During the Japanese Occupation of Singapore (1942–45), the Japanese airforce built hangars in the Aljunied area for repairing airplane engines. The area was chosen for its large number of coconut trees, which provided good camouflage for the hangars. The people residing there were driven out by the Japanese, who considered the area a protected military site.7 A map produced during the Occupation years shows numerous structures on both sides of Aljunied Road.8

Postwar years
Villages and squatters

In the early postwar years, Aljunied remained a rural area populated by squatters living in attap (palm frond) houses.9 The villages included Geylang East village, which had a population of about 30,000 people by 1960, Kampong Aceh and Kampong Aljunied.10  

One of the major squatter colonies was established in the area by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT), as part of its $2-million squatter resettlement scheme in 1953. Under the scheme, SIT rented out the land, which was divided into plots, to squatters resettled from other areas.11 Although much of the land was acquired by the Singapore government for urban development since the 1950s, there were still squatter colonies in several parts of Aljunied up to 1980.12 

Housing estates
Prior to 1953, there were few housing estates in the eastern side of Singapore. The SIT, responsible for public housing at the time, focused its energies in the city area, as well as in the western areas such as Queenstown, Alexandra and Bukit Timah.13

One of the earliest housing estates in the east was built in Aljunied in 1953. The estate was part of SIT’s low-rental scheme (formerly known as the Squatter Resettlement Scheme), which relocated squatters from areas being cleared for redevelopment.14 The scheme was extended to the victims of the fire that broke out on 16 July 1963 at Lorong 3 Geylang.15

In December 1953, two months after another severe fire had occurred in Geylang, the government announced the provision of more emergency housing for squatters in the area. A 120-acre plot of land between Aljunied Road and MacPherson Road was earmarked for a housing scheme that would provide 1,250 homes and 300 flats in three-storey blocks, with 50 shops and three markets.16

The Upper Aljunied Housing Estate, comprising seven blocks of high-rise flats, was built in the 1960s. Located near Upper Aljunied and Macpherson roads, most of the estate’s residents in the 1970s were middle-income earners such as clerks, teachers and small-time businessmen.17

Private estates
The MacPherson Homes and Happy Avenue estates were among the early private housing estates found in the Aljunied area. Built in the 1960s, these two housing estates comprised two-storey terrace houses. Prior to the construction of these estates, the area was home to vegetable and pig farms as well as banana and coconut plantations.18

Area boundaries
Urban planning boundaries
Under the 1955 masterplan, Aljunied Road was zoned as an urban planning district, flanked by Toa Payoh, Paya Lebar, the Jalan Eunos Malay Settlement and Geylang.19 The area was then regarded as “a fast growing residential suburb” with about 24,100 residents in 1953.20

Since 1994, Aljunied has been a subzone in the Geylang planning area.21

Electoral boundaries
Between 1959 and 1988, Aljunied was a single-member constituency (SMC). Aljunied made its debut as an electoral division in the 1959 general election. S. V. Lingam of the People’s Action Party (PAP) won the three-way contest with 49.4 percent of the votes and became the first member of Parliament (MP) for Aljunied.22

In 1967, the Aljunied electoral division, which by then had 38,421 eligible voters, was subdivided into three electoral divisions ­­– Aljunied, MacPherson and Potong Pasir – because of its large electoral size.23 In the 1968 general election, PAP’s Mohd. Ghazali bin Ismail was uncontested and became the MP for Aljunied.24 In 1972, Chin Harn Tong (also known as Chee Han Tong) succeeded Mohamed Ghazali as MP after winning a three-way contest in that year’s general election.25

In 1988, the Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC) comprising Aljunied, Kampong Kembangan and Kampong Ubi was formed.26 The PAP team of Chin, Wan Hussin Zoohri and George Yeo emerged victorious in the 1988 general election.27

In 2011, the incumbent PAP team lost the Aljunied GRC to the opposition Workers’ Party (WP). Led by Secretary General Low Thia Khiang, the WP team won 54.7 percent of the votes to defeat the PAP team led by Yeo, who was then the minister for foreign affairs.28

As of 2015, the Aljunied GRC comprises part of the Bedok North and Bedok Reservoir Road estates.29 Even though the constituency has retained the Aljunied name, the electoral boundaries of the constituency have changed over the years.30

Officially established on 30 December 1988, the Aljunied Town Council was among the first nine town councils to be formed in Singapore. The town council took over the running of Housing and Development Board estates in the area.31

Landmarks
Aljunied MRT station
The Aljunied MRT station is part of the east-west line of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system that connects Joo Koon to Pasir Ris. The first phase of the eastern line, which included Aljunied, started operations on 18 November 1989.32

Geylang Chinese Methodist Church
Founded in 1905 as a gospel house in Geylang, the first church building was constructed in 1917 at the corner of Lorong 23 Geylang and Geylang Road.33 In 1927, the church moved 100 yards (about 92 m) to its current address, 52 Aljunied Road, when the government acquired the previous site for the building of Aljunied Road.34 The church building also housed Geylang Methodist Girls’ School from 1924 until 1984 when the school moved to its present site at 2 Geylang East Central.35 That year, Geylang Methodist Girls’ School became co-ed and split into Geylang Methodist Primary and Secondary Schools.36

Canossaville Children’s Home
The Canossaville Children’s Home located off Aljunied Road provides residential care for at-risk girls between the ages of six and 12. It also runs a student-care centre for primary school children, including those with special needs or from low-income families.37

The home was founded in 1941 as a convent and orphanage by a Catholic order, the Canossa Sisters. The orphanage was known as Our Lady’s Orphanage.38 The convent also ran a private Chinese school, which later became the Canossa Convent Primary School.39

Mount Vernon Crematorium
Built next to a Hindu cemetery, the Mount Vernon Crematorium at Upper Aljunied Road was opened in 1962 as Singapore’s first government-operated crematorium.40 It was announced in 2003 that the crematorium would be closed and replaced by new facilities at Mandai. The cleared site was to be used for new housing developments.41

Bidadari Cemetery
Bidadari Cemetery used to be located at the junction of Upper Aljunied Road and Upper Serangoon Road. It has since been cleared for development.42

Kallang Basin Industrial Estate
By the mid-1950s, there were plans to provide for an industrial zone in the area to the west of Aljunied Road and south of MacPherson Road.43 Land was reclaimed from the basins of Kallang and Whampoa rivers, and developed in the late 1960s into the Kallang Basin Industrial Estate. Consisting of factories for light and medium industries, it became Singapore’s second largest industrial estate after Jurong. The estate also included low-cost housing.44


Mount Vernon Cantonment
The Gurkha camp, located at Mount Vernon off Upper Aljunied Road, was built in the 1950s. Complete with amenities such as a kindergarten, mini-mart and Nepalese temple, the cantonment, which remains out of bounds to the public, serves as a residential and training area for the Gurkhas of the Singapore Police Force and their families.45 



Author

Jaime Koh



References
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National Archives of Singapore. (1846). Plan of Singapore town and adjoining districts from actual survey by John Turnbull Thomson, Government Surveyor, Singapore. [Survey map; accession no. SP004423_1]. Retrieved from the National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/; Survey Department. (1885). Map of the island of Singapore and its dependencies. [Topographic map, accession no. TM000003]. Retrieved from the National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/   
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Singam, D. R. (1939). Malayan street names: What they mean and whom they commemorate. Ipoh: Mercantile Press, p. 80. (Call no.: RSING 959.5 RAJ)
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Municipal affairs. (1929, December 13). The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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First Singapore assizes. (1932, January 5). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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Low, L. L. (Interviewer). (1983, September 30). Oral history interview with Soh Guan Bee [Transcript of MP3 recording no. 000310/10/05, pp. 69–72]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/ 
8.
Singapore Survey Department. (1943). Syonan – Map showing Police Division C. [Survey map; accession no. SP001571]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/  
9.
Kampong men must find new homes. (1949, October 8). The Singapore Free Press, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10.
Lim, M. (Interviewer). (2010, November 6). Oral history interview with Pangkat Kostan Samosir [MP3 recording no. 003562/02/02]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/; Heroine of nine at fire. (1956, July 11). The Straits Times, p. 1; Geylang residents form 45-man fire-fighting squad with Govt. aid. (1960, November 28). The Singapore Free Press, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
11.
Now they can feel like real citizens. (1953, May 2). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12.
End of squatters by 1990: Teh (1980, June 8). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13.
See annual reports of the Singapore Improvement Trust from 1948 to 1959. Singapore Improvement Trust. Annual report. Singapore: Singapore Improvement Trust. (Call no.: RCLOS 711.4095951 SIN-[RFL])
14.
Fraser, J. M. (1952). The work of the Singapore Improvement Trust 1952. Singapore: Singapore Improvement Trust, p. 40. (Call no.: RCLOS 711.4095951 SIN-[RFL]); Fraser, J. M. (1954). The work of the Singapore Improvement Trust 1953. Singapore: Singapore Improvement Trust, p. 31. (Call no.: RCLOS 711.4095951 SIN-[RFL])
15.
Fraser, J. M. (1954). The work of the Singapore Improvement Trust 1953. Singapore: Singapore Improvement Trust, p. 54. (Call no.: RCLOS 711.4095951 SIN-[RFL]); $2,000,000 of your money is being spent. (1953, 21 July). The Singapore Free Press, p. 3; Cheap houses for all if the fire victims’ settlement succeeds. (1953, July 30). The Straits Times, p. 8; 50 houses for victims of fire in 6 weeks. (1953, July 19). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16.
15,000 in shacks to get break. (1953, December 11). The Singapore Free Press, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17.
Chua, S. K. (1971, January 27). Where modern living finally catches up with kampong life. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18.
Chua, S. K. (1971, January 27). Where modern living finally catches up with kampong life. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19.
Colony of Singapore. (1955). Master plan: Report of survey. Singapore: Govt. Print. Off., map 2. (Call no.: RCLOS 711.4095957 SIN)
20.
Colony of Singapore. (1955). Master plan: Report of survey. Singapore: Govt. Print. Off., p. 62. (Call no.: RCLOS 711.4095957 SIN)
21.
Urban Renewal Authority. (1994). Geylang East planning area: Planning report 1994. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, p. 5. (Call no.: RDKL 711.4095957 URB); Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2016). Planning boundaries. Retrieved 2016, May 11 from URA website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uramaps/?config=config_preopen.xml&preopen=Planning%20Boundaries&pbIndex=1 
22.
Elections Department Singapore. (2015, November 2). 1959 parliamentary election results. Retrieved 2016, May 11 from Elections Department Singapore website: http://www.eld.gov.sg/elections_past_parliamentary1959.html 
23.
Singapore Parliament. (1967). White paper on the report of the Electoral Boundaries Delineation Committee on the review of the boundaries of the present fifty-one Parliament electoral divisions. Singapore: Printed by the Government Printer, p. 2. (Call no.: RSING 324.5957 SIN)
24.
Elections Department Singapore. (2015, July 22). 1968 parliamentary election results. Retrieved 2016, May 11 from Elections Department Singapore website: http://www.eld.gov.sg/elections_past_parliamentary1968.html 
25.
Elections Department Singapore. (2015, November 2). 1972 parliamentary election results. Retrieved 2016, May 11 from Elections Department Singapore website: http://www.eld.gov.sg/elections_past_parliamentary1972.html
26.
Singapore. Electoral Boundaries Review Committee. (1988). White paper on the report of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee, 1988. Singapore: SNP, p. 21. (Call no.: RSING 324.63095957 SIN)
27.
Elections Department Singapore. (2015, July 22). 1988 parliamentary election results. Retrieved 2016, May 11 from Elections Department Singapore website: http://www.eld.gov.sg/elections_past_parliamentary1988.html 
28. Channel NewsAsia. (2011, May 8). GE: Opposition parties reflect on post election results; Kor, K. B. (2011, May 8). Aljunied win 20 years in the making. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
29.
Singapore Electoral Boundaries Review Committee. (2015). The report on the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee, 2015 (Cmd 7 of 2015). Singapore: The Committee, map. Retrieved 2016, June 6 from Elections Department website: http://www.eld.gov.sg/pdf/White%20Paper%20on%20the%20Report%20of%20the%20Electoral%20Boundaries%20Review%20Committee%202015.pdf  
30.
See the maps in various reports of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee. (Call no.: RSING 324.63095957 SIN)  
31.
9 town councils gazetted so far. (1988, December 31). The New Paper, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32.
SMRT. (n.d.). MRT network map. Retrieved 2016, June 7 from SMRT website: http://journey.smrt.com.sg/journey/mrt_network_map/; MRT eastern line to start operating on Nov 18. (1989, August 4). The Business Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33.
Doraisamy, T. R. (Comp., Ed.). (1985). Forever beginning: One hundred years of Methodism in Singapore. Singapore: The Methodist Church in Singapore, pp. 187, 254. (Call no.: RSING 287.095957 FOR)
34.
Doraisamy, T. R. (Comp., Ed.). (1985). Forever beginning: One hundred years of Methodism in Singapore. Singapore: The Methodist Church in Singapore, p. 254. (Call no.: RSING 287.095957 FOR); 芽笼卫理学校 (新加坡). [Geylang Methodist Chinese School, Singapore]. (1955) 《星洲芽笼卫理学校廿周年纪念刊》 [Singapore Geylang Methodist School 20th Anniversary Magazine]. 新加坡: 星洲芽笼卫理学校, p. 53. (Not available in NLB holdings)
35.
Doraisamy, T. R. (Comp., Ed.). (1985). Forever beginning: One hundred years of Methodism in Singapore. Singapore: The Methodist Church in Singapore, p., 255. (Call no.: RSING 287.095957 FOR); Tan, J. (1983, June 30). Geylang Methodist to take in boys. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36.
Tan, J. (1983, June 30). Geylang Methodist to take in boys. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
37.
Canossaville Children’s Home. (2016). About us. Retrieved 2016, May 11 from Canossaville Children’s Home website: http://cch.org.sg/about/  
38.
The Canossa Convent in Geylang. (1947, November 22). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Canossaville Children’s Home. (2016). Our story. Retrieved 2016, May 11 from Canossaville Children’s Home website: http://cch.org.sg/about/our-story/
39.
Canossa Convent Primary School. (2013). History of Canossa Convent Primary School. Retrieved 2016, May 11 from Canossa Convent Primary School website: history http://www.canossaconventpri.moe.edu.sg/our-school/school-information/school-history
40.
Govt builds crematoria. (1962, October 12). The Straits Times, p. 8; Over 200 police at cremation (1950, December 21). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
41.
S. M. Wong. (2003, February 17). Mount Vernon has to go. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
42.
Final resting place. (2008, May 20). The Straits Times, p. 107. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
43.
Colony of Singapore. (1955). Master plan: Report of survey. Singapore: Govt. Print. Off., p. 62. (Call no.: RCLOS 711.4095957 SIN)
44.
Campbell, W. (1969, May 24). New factory site rises in the heart of Singapore. The Straits Times, p. 8; Kallang Basin industrial plan to make area second Jurong. (1964, July 16). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
45.
Raymond, J. (1999, April 18). Home away from home for Gurkhas. The Straits Times, p. 27; Lee, J. (1999, April 10). Gurkhas mark 50th year. The Straits Times, p. 38. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 21 June 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
Streets and Places
Architecture and Landscape>>Streets and Places

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