Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church



The Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church at 77 Prinsep Street was gazetted as a national monument by the Preservation of Monuments Board on 12 January 2000. Built in 1843 by Reverend Benjamin Peach Keasberry, a protestant minister from the London Missionary Society, the church went on to become the first Straits Chinese church. It was also the birthplace of the first company of the Singapore Boys’ Brigade, which was started at the church on 12 January 1930.

Malay Chapel
The Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church was built on a plot of land acquired in Prinsep Street, then known as Kampong Bencoolen. It was named the Malay Chapel, in acknowledgement of Keasberry's work amongst the Malay community in the areas of education, missions and the translation and publishing of English religious texts into Malay. The church was popularly known as Greja Keasberry or "Keasberry's Church". When the London Missionary Society closed its Malaya mission in 1847, Keasberry stayed behind as an independent missionary to continue his work with the Malays. He did so until his sudden death on 6 September 1875, whilst preaching at the pulpit.

Though the church was intended to serve a Malay congregation, over time, the Malay Chapel became associated with the Straits-born Malay-speaking Chinese community. By the latter half of the 19th century, the Malay Chapel became the place of worship for many illustrious Straits Chinese.

Prinsep Street Church
Until 1886, the church was still the legal property of the London Missionary Society. Funded by Singaporean Presbyterian merchants living in London and under the auspices of the English Presbyterian Mission, Reverend J. A. B. Cook initiated the purchase of the church from the Society. The church was renamed the Prinsep Street Church. Groups such as the Teochew Tek Kha Group or "Kandang Kerbau Market" Group and the pupils of the Chinese Girls' School used the church for their services.

In 1901, a building fund was set up for the construction of a new church building. By 1930, the old church was demolished. The foundation stone for the new building was laid by Sir Song Ong Siang, a prominent Straits Chinese, on 5 March 1930 and the new church building was opened on 4 February 1931. It had cost $55,000 to build.

Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church
In November 1931, the church joined the Synod of the English Presbytery and was renamed the Straits Chinese Presbyterian Church. After the Japanese Occupation, the church saw a fall in attendance from parishioners of Straits Chinese origins. Hence in 1956, it was renamed the Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church. Its non-Straits Chinese congregation increased and by the mid-1980s, a new four-storey block was added to accommodate the expanding congregation.

The church was designed by C. J. Stephens of Swan & Maclaren in a modern fresco style. Inspired by the Spanish, the style was very popular in the 1930s in the United States. The church's most notable features are its deep red bricks and the raised brickwork on the tower and belfry.

Song Hoot Kiam was one of the first local elders of the church and was succeeded by his son, Sir Song Ong Siang. The younger Song was a prominent figure in local history and became the first Malayan Chinese to be knighted by the English crown in 1936. Having published his monumental work entitled One Hundred Years' History of the Chinese in Singapore in 1932, he donated the proceeds of the sale of his book to the church building fund.

Gracie Lee

Leong, W. K. (2000, January 11). Prinsep Street church will be a national monument. The Straits Times, Home, p. 34. Retrieved December 6, 2010, from NewspaperSG.

Prinsep St. Presbyterian Church, 1930-1980. (1981). Singapore: The Church.
(Call no.: RSING 285.25957 PRI)

Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church. (2010). Retrieved November 4, 2010, from Preservation of Monuments Board website:

Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church: 150 years of faithfulness 1843-1993. [1993]. [Singapore: The Church].
(Call no.: RDLKL 285.25957 PRI)

Sng, B. E. K. (1993). In His good time: The story of the church in Singapore, 1819-1992. Singapore: Graduates' Christian Fellowship.
(Call no.: RCLOS 280.4095957 SNG)

Sunquist, S. (Ed.). (2001). A dictionary of Asian Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.
(Call no.: RSING 275.003 DIC)

Tan, K. T. (1971). A brief historical statement of the Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church Singapore. In Presbyterian Church in Singapore and Malaysia, 90th anniversary of the Church and 70th anniversary of the Synod commemoration volume (pp. 20-21). Singapore: The Church.
(Call no.: RSING 285.1595 PRE)

Uma Devi, G., et al. (2002). Singapore's 100 historic places (pp. 44-45). Singapore: Archipelago Press: National Heritage Board.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN)

Further readings
Johnson, A. (1988). The burning bush. Singapore: Dawn Publications.
(Call no.: RSING 285.25957 JOH)

Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church. (n.d.). Retrieved December 9, 2004, from

Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church 160th anniversary: The recent years (1993-2003). [2004]. Singapore: The Church.
(Call no.: RSING 285.25957 PRI)

Wan, M. H. (2009). Heritage places of Singapore (pp. 136-141). Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 WAN)

The information in this article is valid as at 2010 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.

Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Monuments
National monuments
Arts>>Architecture>>Religious buildings
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Religious Buildings
Religious buildings
Historic buildings--Singapore
Presbyterian church buildings--Singapore

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