Pasir Panjang


Named after a long stretch of sandy beach along the southwestern coastline of Singapore, the Pasir Panjang area developed around a main road of the same name that used to hug the coastline prior to land reclamation works. In the early days, the area was occupied by agricultural settlers who planted crops on Pasir Panjang Ridge, as well as Malay fishermen and wealthy Chinese businessmen who lived along the coast. Today, it is a residential, recreational and industrial area. From 1955 to 1988, Pasir Panjang was also a parliamentary electoral constituency.

Origins and boundaries
Pasir Panjang (Malay for “long beach” or “long sand”) was named after a sandy beach that stretched from Batu Berlayer (Malay for “Sail Rock”) – a historic rock formation located at the mouth of Berlayer Creek in present-day Labrador Nature Reserve – to the junction of Clementi and West Coast roads.1 Pasir Panjang Road, then the main road in the area, was built between 1841 and 1853 during John Turnbull Thomson’s term as the government surveyor of the Straits Settlements. By 1850, the road had stretched as far as the Jurong River.2 It used to hug the southwestern coastline of Singapore prior to land reclamation works in the area.3


Pasir Panjang was regarded as a rural area and came under the jurisdiction of the Singapore Rural Board in 1908. The board had administrative powers over parts of Singapore that lay outside the municipal limits, as well as the offshore islands of Pulau Ubin, Pulau Tekong, Pulau Brani and Pulau Bukom Besar.4 In 1957, Pasir Panjang became a city division under the City Council.5

Pasir Panjang was an electoral constituency between 1955 and 1988, before it came under the Pasir Panjang Group Representation Constituency (GRC), which also included the Clementi and West Coast constituencies.6 For the 1991 general election, however, Pasir Panjang GRC was merged with Brickworks GRC.7 In 1996, Pasir Panjang was absorbed into West Coast GRC1996 and remains part of it as at 2016.8

Early residents
People began to settle in the Pasir Panjang area from the early 19th century. These early settlers planted crops such as rubber, pepper, gambier and pineapple on Pasir Panjang Ridge (now Kent Ridge Park). Many of the crop plantations in the area were either destroyed or abandoned during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore (1942–45).9 By the beginning of the 20th century, Pasir Panjang had become home mainly to Malay fishermen, as well as Chinese and Indian shopkeepers and small traders.10


Military installations
In 1878, following the British review of Singapore’s military defences, two new forts were built in the Pasir Panjang area: Fort Pasir Panjang at Labrador and Fort Siloso on nearby Pulau Blakang Mati (now known as Sentosa island). These forts were meant to guard the entrance of New Harbour (now Keppel Harbour).11 Fort Pasir Panjang was later upgraded to become Labrador Battery, which had underground ammunition storerooms and newer guns added to it.12 The guns at Labrador Battery as well as those at Siloso Battery were said to have been particularly active against the Japanese in the western sector of Singapore during the battle for the island in 1942.13 Labrador was gazetted as a nature reserve after the war and converted into a park in 1973.14


Hospitals

In the early 1900s, there were two hospitals in Pasir Panjang: a female lunatic asylum and a beriberi hospital, both on the same site.15 In 1931, the hospitals were relocated and the site that they formerly occupied was set aside for use as a public park.16 The park was close to the seaside and Pasir Panjang Road, conveniently located for residents in the area.17

Private seaside homes
From around the 1920s, wealthy Chinese businessmen began to build seaside houses and bungalows along the coastline at Pasir Panjang.18 By the 1930s, Pasir Panjang Road was so populated with such homes that the stretch came to be known as “millionaire’s row”.19 Among the wealthy Chinese businessmen with homes in Pasir Panjang were Lee Kong Chian and Aw Boon Haw.20

Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Gardens)
Aw built a house known as Haw Par Villa in the area for his brother, Boon Par, and it was completed in 1937. . Over the years, Aw added sculptures and tableaux based on Chinese myths and legends to the villa’s gardens, which came to be known as the Tiger Balm Gardens.21 In 1988, management of the gardens was transferred to the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board (now the Singapore Tourism Board, or STB), which leased it to International Theme Parks Limited for development into a theme park.22 The park underwent several changes in management and redevelopments over the years.23 In 2015, STB appointed tour operator Journeys to run tours in the park.24


Motorsports
Pasir Panjang was a popular location for various sporting activities. Motorboat racing was introduced in the waters off Pasir Panjang in 1928.25 South Buona Vista Road, which linked Dover to Pasir Panjang, was a popular racing circuit for motorcars and bicycles. The curvy road, which passed through hilly terrain, used to be known as “The Gap” and given the nickname “99 turns”.26 In 1927, the Straits Settlements Volunteer Force organised the first motorcycle hill-climb competition using the route.27 The following year, both motorcycles and cars participated in the competition.28 Cyclists also organised their own hill-climb competitions at The Gap.29 The Gap Hill was later renamed Kent Ridge to commemorate the visit of the Duchess of Kent and her son, the Duke of Kent, to Singapore in October 1952.30

Industries
In 1899, Alexandra Brickworks established the first continuous kiln at Pasir Panjang Road to produce bricks on a large scale in Singapore.31 The company ceased operations in 1972 and sold the brickworks factory site, which stood at the junction of Pasir Panjang and Alexandra roads, to the Port of Singapore Authority.32

In 1930, an opium-packing plant operated by the government was established at the foot of a hill in Pasir Panjang. The plant was responsible for the packing and distribution of all opium consumed in Malaya. Raw opium was first brought to the government opium factory in Keppel Road for processing before being sent to the packing plant. At the plant, the processed opium was packed into small sealed tubes to distinguish it from illegal forms of opium.33 The hill came to be known as Bukit Chandu (Malay for “Opium Hill”) because of its proximity to the plant.34

The Japanese continued manufacturing opium during the war and flooded the market just before the British re-occupation in 1945. During the British Military Administration, opium trading and smoking was banned, and the government withdrew from its involvement in the import, manufacture and sale of opium.35

Japanese Occupation
During the Japanese invasion of Singapore in 1942, some of the fiercest battles were fought on 13 and 14 February when the 1st and 2nd Battalion of the Malay Regiment defended Bukit Chandu against the Japanese army. The Malay Regiment put up a strong resistance despite being outnumbered and low on resources, but was eventually defeated.36

In 2002, a bungalow along Pepys Road was converted into a Second World War interpretive centre known as “Reflections at Bukit Chandu” to commemorate the battle of Pasir Panjang and the courage of the Malay Regiment.37 The bungalow had been used as an ammunition store, and it is believed that the Malay Regiment made their last stand nearby.38

Postwar developments
In the postwar years, Pasir Panjang developed into an industrial and residential area. In 1948, six new roads were constructed in the area: Pepys Road, Yew Siang Road, Jalan Mat Jambol, Jubilee Road, Kay Hai Road and Zehnder Road.39 By 1970, Pasir Panjang had grown in reputation as a middle-class residential area.40 By the 1990s, Pasir Panjang had become very popular among private housing developers due to its proximity to Jurong, easy access to the city and amenities such as shopping centres and markets.41


Industrial development in Pasir Panjang began in 1948 when it was announced that a power plant would be built there to meet the future electrical needs of Singapore.42 The first Pasir Panjang power station, also known as the ‘A’ station, was opened in 1953 at a cost of $93 million and eventually had a production capacity of 175,000 kw.43 An 11-storey block of flats was built close to the station to accommodate the station’s senior officers.44 A second station, the Pasir Panjang ‘B’ power station, was opened in 1965 and added 120,000 kw of electricity-generating capacity to the island.45 With the subsequent construction of larger power plants in Jurong, Seraya and Senoko, the Pasir Panjang ‘A’ and ‘B’ stations were decommissioned in 1987.46

In 1962, the Maruzen Toyo Oil Company established an oil refinery in Pasir Panjang. This refinery was bought over by British Petroleum (BP) in 1964.47 BP operated the oil refinery till 1995, after which the site was used as a petroleum storage and distribution terminal. BP gave up the site and returned the land to the government in 1998.48

In the 1970s, the industrial development of Pasir Panjang intensified. In 1972, a plan to reclaim the Pasir Panjang foreshores to develop a giant warehousing complex was announced. Under the plan, 36.8 ha of land was to be reclaimed, and a further 6.9 ha was to be acquired for the construction of the complex. The project included the construction of berthing facilities for lighters and coastal vessels, transit sheds and warehouses.49

In 1977, the first phase of the Pasir Panjang Wharves was completed, and the lighter cargo operations at Telok Ayer Basin, Rochor River and Kallang River were relocated to the wharves in 1982.50 A decade later, PSA announced additional reclamation works and the building of a new container terminal in Pasir Panjang to expand Singapore’s container handling capacity in addition to the terminals at Tanjong Pagar and Pulau Brani. This formed the first and second phases of the Pasir Panjang project.51  Phases 3 and 4, which will further expand the capacity of the terminal, was officially launched in June 2015 and is planned to be fully operational by the end of 2017.52


Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre
In 1977, Othman Wok, then member of Parliament for Pasir Panjang, announced a plan to establish a central wholesale market for fruit and vegetables in the area, the first such market in Singapore.53 This market, later known as the Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre, was built by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) on 14 ha of reclaimed land in Pasir Panjang.54 Opened in phases between 1983 and 1984, the market quickly attracted many bargain hunters.55

However, sales began to decline from 2003 when the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak occurred in Singapore. The market was closed for two weeks because some sellers had contracted the virus. Subsequently, a number of businesses began to order goods directly from Malaysian suppliers instead of purchasing from the wholesale centre.56 In 2015, HDB announced that the market would be undergoing improvement works.57

MRT stations
Opened in 2011, two Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) stations – Haw Par Villa and Pasir Panjang –service the Pasir Panjang area. Both are part of the Circle Line and have helped boost accessibility to the area.58



Author
Stephanie Ho




References
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The information in this article is valid as at 8 July 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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