Changi is an estate that is located at the easternmost part of Singapore. Its name is believed to have derived from the Chengai tree, a type of tall tree that used to grow in the district. The estate has several landmarks including Changi Village, Changi Prison and Changi International Airport with Changi Point at the heart of the Changi area. It also serves as a popular recreational area for locals.
Although Changi was famous for its coconut plantations in the 1800s, as early as 1845, Changi was already a fashionable resort with government and private-owned holiday bungalows for picnic parties. The open space, shady trees and sandy beach along Nicoll Drive was a peaceful and recreational hideaway. In the 1860s, Changi was famous for its sago plantations. Its attractive coast, which included the beach, Pantai Chantik, was a popular picnic site.
Generally a flat terrain, Changi had three main hills, namely Battery Hill, the Fairy Point Hill and Temple Hill. Tigers were known to swim across the strait to Fairy Point at Changi, attracted to the wild pigs and deer at Pulau Ubin.
Changi Prison was built in 1936. During World War II, 7,000 - 8,000 British and Australian POWs were interned here, in the main prison and at Selarang Barracks. Bombardier Stanley Warren filled a chapel there with unforgettable Christian-inspired wall-paintings called the Changi Murals.
Most of the Chengai trees, other plantations and the steep cliffs off the Changi Coast were cleared in 1926 to make way for the Royal Air Force Base. Only one Chengai tree was left standing as a guide to mark the base before the Pacific War. However its top was lopped off in 1942 to prevent identification by enemy fliers during World War II.
Changi Point is in the Changi Village area, and has been the focal point of activities since colonial times when it served as military barracks, administrative quarters, and entertainment and recreational facilities. Lloyd Leas was a well-known estate housing British military personnel. The Singapore Armed Forces took over the military installation after the British pull-out in 1967. The Changi beaches and holiday bungalows were popular weekend retreats between the 1950s and 1970s until land reclamation for Changi Airport began. Work on Changi International Airport began in June 1975, and was declared officially open on 29 December 1981. It is today one of the most famous airports in the world.
Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819-1867 (pp. 432, 630, 713). Singapore: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC)
Ramachandra, S. (1969). Singapore landmarks: Past and present (pp. 22-23). [Singapore: s.n.]
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 RAM)
Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1994). Changi planning area: Planning report 1994. (pp. 12-13). Singapore: The Authority.
(Call no.: RSING 711.4095957 SIN)
Probert, H A. (1970). History of Changi. Singapore: Prison Industries in Changi Prison,
(Call no.: RCLOS 959.51 PRO)
The information in this article is valid as at 1999 and correct as far as we can 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.
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