Bukit Batok



Bukit Batok is an estate located in the west of Singapore. Bukit Batok in English literally means “Coughing Hill”. It is bounded by Upper Bukit Timah Road, Old Jurong Road to the east; Pan Island Expressway to the south; Bukit Batok Road to the west and Chua Chu Kang Road to the north.1 The land size for this area is approximately 1,104-hectares covering nine sub-zones – mainly Gombak, Hong Kah, Brickworks, Guilin, Hillview, Bukit Batok West, Bukit Batok Central, Bukit Batok East and Bukit Batok South.2 Bukit Batok today is a housing estate with public housing and a variety of private dwellings, industrial estates with all the necessary facilities and amenities.3

History

Bukit Batok was described as a sleepy, rural outback with undeveloped areas occupied by farmlands, villages, granite quarries, forest reserves and factories.4 There are many different versions concerning the origins of the name Bukit Batok but what is clear is that, according to the Malay language, bukit means “hill” and batok means “cough”. A possible explanation for being conferred the name batok was the cold air in the area that caused coughs and cold. There are several other explanations concerning the use of the term batok. According to one version which can be traced to the Javanese village chief in the tiny village of Gassing, coconut trees grew on the hills in this area, and hence the term batok, the Javanese term for “coconuts”. The Chinese interpretation says that the hills were of solid granite, and hence called batu, the Malay name for “stone” which had been mispronounced as bato and finally batok. However, another interpretation points to the blasting of the granite quarries, which sounded like as though the hills were “coughing”. Yet another version, argues that the hill resembled a skull top and batok could also be construed to mean skull top. However, these explanations are difficult to verify.5


A prominent landscape even back in the early days, the Bukit Batok Hill (present-day Bukit Batok Nature Reserve) was an area that stretched to the west of the Amoy Canning Corporation factory and the former site of the Poh Hin Granite Quarry. This hill was partly owned by the Hume Pipe Company.6 It was marked by two war memorials built by the Japanese forces during the Occupation. One of them was the Syonan Chureito, a Shinto shrine built by about 500 Australian prisoners-of-war in 1942 to commemorate the Japanese soldiers who died, and the other, the British Memorial Cross, a wooden cross which stood behind the shrine, was dedicated to the fallen Allied soldiers. Both were demolished in 1945 by the Japanese before the British returned. All that remains of the memorials today are two nondescript pillars standing at the foot of the hill. The 125 steps that once led up to the memorials still exist.7 Today, they lead to the new Bukit Batok Transmission Tower. Back in 1963, the original tower was Singapore’s first and only TV transmitting tower. The television broadcasting services was officially launched on 15 February 1963.8

The Bukit Batok Hill was also the site where sporting events, mainly the hill climbing competitions were held. Singapore’s first hill climbing contest since liberation was organised by the Singapore Motor Club. This event attracted some 40 competitors who took part in motorcar and motorcycle races. It was held on Sunday, 25 April 1948.9

As early as the 1950s, prominent factories that operated in Bukit Batok included the Hume Industries and the Ford Motor Works Factory along Upper Bukit Timah Road. It was also used as a military training ground and a site for granite quarrying activities; the most famous being the Poh Hin Granite Quarry.10

In the 1960s, the area was sparsely occupied with the bulk of its population living in squatters and temporary structures. These made way for a modern satellite town in the 1970s. A total of 1,872 flats for an initial population of  about 10,000 were to be completed in two building phases by 1978.11 Subsequently, works on the public housing estate known as the Bukit Batok New Town began under the Housing and Development Board’s (HDB) five-year plan (1981−1985). The new town spanning a total of 750 hectares was to have four neighbourhoods comprising a total of 26,000 flats to house approximately 130,000 people.12


Besides the public housing initiatives, Bukit Batok also benefitted from the other efforts to improve public works such as the nation-wide drainage schemes in 1979, which cost $31 million to keep floods at bay floods in low-lying areas. The Pang Sua scheme called for the widening and deepening of the Pang Sua River that ran parallel to Woodlands Road for 14 km from Upper Bukit Timah Road to the Straits of Johore. The completion of this project alleviated flooding in the low-lying areas of Woodland Road, Upper Bukit Timah Road, Bukit Batok and Bukit Panjang.13 Bukit Batok has since developed into a self-contained new town with shopping centres, a driving centre, nature parks, clubhouses and an industrial park.14

Key features
Prominent landmarks include Bukit Batok Town Park spanning a land area of 36-hectare that features well-established secondary forests and “Little Guilin”,15 Bukit Batok MRT Train Station and Bus Interchange; and the former Ford Factory where the British surrender to the Japanese took place on 15 February 1942 during World War II.16



Authors
Vernon Cornelius-Takahama & Bonny Tan



References
1. Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1996). Bukit Batok planning areas: Planning report 1996. Singapore: The Authority, p. 4. (Call no.: RSING 711.4095957 SIN)
2. Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1996). Bukit Batok planning areas: Planning report 1996. Singapore: The Authority, p. 6.  (Call no.: RSING 711.4095957 SIN)
3. New HDB estate. (1981, September 16). The Business Times, p. 1; Bukit Batok to have 26, 000 flats. (1981, September 16). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Housing & Development Board, (2015, October 1). Bukit Batok. Retrieved 2016, August 3 from Housing and Development Board website: http://www.hdb.gov.sg/cs/infoweb/about-us/history/hdb-towns-your-home/bukit-batok&rendermode=preview
4. Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1996). Bukit Batok planning areas: Planning report 1996. Singapore: The Authority, p. 8. (Call no.: RSING 711.4095957 SIN); Our home on the hill: Bukit Batok 1998−2008. (2008). Singapore: Bukit Batok Grassroots Organisation, p. 23. (Call no.: RSING 307.76095957 OUR)
5. Ramachandra, S. (1961). Singapore landmarks, past and present. Singapore: Eastern University Press, p. 25. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.57 RAM); Savage, V. R. & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 50. (Call no.: RSING 959.9570014 SAV-[TRA]); Our home on the hill: Bukit Batok 1998−2008. (2008). Singapore: Bukit Batok Grassroots Organisation, p. 23. (Call no.: RSING 307.36095957 OUR); What’s in a name? (2005, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 114. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Hill tests for cars and cycles. (1948, April 13). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Yeoh, B., & Wong, T. (2007). Over Singapore 50 years ago: An aerial view in the 1950s. Singapore: Editions Didier Miller in association with National Archives Singapore, p. 25. (Call no.: RSING 779.995957 YEO); Wee, L. (2001, May 20). An oasis of peace and tranquility. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ramachandra, S. (1961). Singapore landmarks, past and present. Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, p. 35. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.57 RAM)
8. Our home on the hill: Bukit Batok 1998−2008. (2008) Singapore: Bukit Batok Grassroot Organisation, p. 23. (Call no.: RSING 307.36095957 OUR); Yong, J. (1963, September 16); Raja: this could be a start of cultural, social revolution. (1963, February 16). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Over 40 competed in hill climb. (1948, April 26). The Straits Times, p. 8; Hill tests for cars and cycles. (1948, April 13). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1996). Bukit Batok planning areas: Planning report 1996. Singapore: The Authority, p. 8. (Call no.: RSING 711.4095957 SIN)
11. Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1996). Bukit Batok planning area: Planning report 1996. Singapore: The Authority, p. 8. (Call no.: RSING 711.4095957 SIN)
12. Bukit Batok to have 26,000 flats. (1981, September 16). The Straits Times, p.11; New HDB estate. (1981, September 16). The Business Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Yeo, J. (1979, January 28). Two more schemes costing $31m to keep floods at bay. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Housing & Development Board, (2015, October 1). Bukit Batok. Retrieved 2016, August 3 from Housing and Development Board website: http://www.hdb.gov.sg/cs/infoweb/about-us/history/hdb-towns-your-home/bukit-batok&rendermode=preview
15. National Parks Board. (2016). A guide to Bukit Batok Nature Park walking trail. Retrieved 2016, August 3 from National Parks Board website: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/~/media/nparks-real-content/gardens-parks-and-nature/diy-walk/diy-walk-pdf-files/bukit-batok-nature-park-walking-trail.pdf?la=en; National Parks Board. (2016). Bukit Batok Town Park. Retrieved 2016, August 10 from National Parks Board website: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/parks-and-nature-reserves/bukit-batok-town-park
16. Ford Motor Factory gazetted a national monument. (2006, February 8). The Business Times, p. 10. Retrieved from Newspaper SG.



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
Street names--Singapore
Suburbs--Singapore
Arts>>Architecture>>Residential buildings
Urbanization--Singapore
Streets and Places
Architecture and Landscape>>Streets and Places
Arts>>Architecture>>Public and commercial buildings