Cavenagh Bridge



Cavenagh Bridge is located across the Singapore River in the Central Region.1 It is named after William Orfeur Cavenagh, the last governor of the Straits Settlements (1859–67) under British India control. The bridge, completed in 1869, is the oldest bridge across the Singapore River.2 It was the last major work of the Indian convicts and now serves as a footbridge.3

History
The construction of Cavenagh Bridge started in 1867 and was completed in 1869.4 The structure was meant to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of Singapore in 1869.5 It is named after Cavenagh,6 the last governor of the Straits Settlements under the government of British India, although his successor, Governor Harry St George Ord, had planned for it to be named “Edinburgh Bridge” to commemorate the Duke of Edinburgh’s visit to Singapore in 1869. Ord eventually relented when members of the Singapore Legislative Council decided that it should honour and perpetuate the name of the last governor appointed by the British East India Company to Singapore.7 Cavenagh Bridge was the last major project undertaken by Indian convict labour.8

Description
Cavenagh Bridge was opened without much fanfare.9 It was designed by Colonel G. C. Collyer, chief engineer of the Straits Settlements, with R. M. Ordish, of the Public Works Department,10 which was then under the charge of John Turnbull Thomson.11 Its steel structure was imported from Glasgow by P&W MacLellan,12 the same company that built the cast-iron Telok Ayer Market.13 The Cavenagh family coat-of-arms can be seen on the cross-beams at both ends of the steel structure.14

The bridge linked Commercial Square (later renamed Raffles Place) and the government quarter, and was an essential alternative to reach the General Post Office, replacing the ferry crossing.15 Although Cavenagh Bridge supported the passage of trams at first, all heavy traffic was diverted to Anderson Bridge when the latter was opened in 1909.16 Cavenagh Bridge was thereafter declared off limits to “any vehicle of which the laden weight exceeds 3 cwt. and to all cattle and horses” – text inscribed on a signage that can still be found at the bridge today – and was converted into a pedestrian-only bridge.17

Unfortunately, the bridge had not been designed to make allowances for the tides; as late as 1983, bumboats plowing the river had to wait for low tide before making their way under the bridge.18 In 1987, Cavenagh Bridge underwent a five-month refurbishment carried out by the Public Works Department to preserve and strengthen its structure.19 The restoration work cost a total of S$1.2 million and the bridge was reopened on 3 July 1987.20

Variant names
Hokkien: Hai ki thih tiau kio, meaning “iron suspension bridge by the sea shore”.21




Author

Vernon Cornelius



References
1. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 12. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
2. Cheong, C. (1992). Framework and foundation: A history of the Public Works Department. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 55. (Call no.: RSING 354.5957008609); Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 783. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
3. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 492. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
4. Cheong, C. (1992). Framework and foundation: A history of the Public Works Department. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 55. (Call no.: RSING 354.5957008609); Untitled. (1869, November 9). Straits Times Overland Journal, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 492. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA]); Cheong, C. (1992). Framework and foundation: A history of the Public Works Department. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 55. (Call no.: RSING 354.5957008609)
6. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 10. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
7. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 10. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
8. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 492. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
9. Fortnight’s summary. (1869, November 13). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Cheong, C. (1992). Framework and foundation: A history of the Public Works Department. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 55. (Call no.: RSING 354.5957008609)
11. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 492. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
12. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 492. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
13. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 492. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
14. Cavenagh Bridge. (1869, November 9). Straits Times Overland Journal, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 10. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
16. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 11. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
17. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 492. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA]); Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 11. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
18. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 492. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA]); Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 11. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
19. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 11. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
20. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, pp. 11–12. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
21. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish, p. 67. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])



Further resource
Wan, M. H., & Lau, J. (2009). Heritage places of Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 10–11.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 WAN)



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
Commerce and Industry>>Transportation
Architecture
Historic bridges--Singapore
Architecture and Landscape
Transportation
Footbridges--Singapore
Arts>>Architecture>>Architectural structure