Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church



The Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church at 77 Prinsep Street was built in 1843 by Reverend Benjamin Peach Keasberry, a Protestant minister from the London Missionary Society.1 Apart from being the first Straits Chinese church, it was also the birthplace of the first company of the Singapore Boys’ Brigade, which was established on 12 January 1930. The church was gazetted as a national monument on 12 January 2000.2

History
Malay Chapel
The Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church was built on a plot of land on Prinsep Street, then known as Kampong Bencoolen. It was initially called the Malay Chapel.3


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 1875 while preaching at the pulpit. Although the church was intended to serve a Malay congregation, over time, the Malay Chapel became associated with the Malay-speaking Peranakan (Straits Chinese) community.4

By the latter half of the 19th century, the Malay Chapel had become the place of worship for many illustrious Straits Chinese, such as Foo Teng Quee, Tan Boon Chin, Song Ong Siang, and was renamed the Straits Chinese Church in 1886.5

Prinsep Street Church
Until 1885, the church was still the legal property of the London Missionary Society.6 Reverend J. A. B. Cook, under the auspices of the English Presbyterian Mission, initiated the purchase of the church from the society using funds from Singapore Presbyterian merchants living in London. The church was renamed the Prinsep Street Church after it was bought over. Groups such as the Teochew Tek Kha Group (or “Kandang Kerbau Market” Group) used the church for their services.7


In 1901, a building fund was set up for the construction of a new church building. With the old church demolished in 1930, the foundation stone for the new building was laid by Song Ong Siang, a well-respected Straits Chinese lawyer, scholar and community leader, on 5 March 1930. The new church building, constructed at a cost $55,000, was opened on 4 February 1931.8

Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church
In November 1931, the church joined the Synod of the English Presbytery and was renamed the Straits Chinese Presbyterian Church. It was renamed the Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church in 1955. With a surge in the non-Straits Chinese congregation by the mid-1980s, a new four-storey block was added to accommodate the expanding assembly.9


Architecture
The church was designed by C. J. Stephens of architectural firm Swan & Maclaren10 in a modern fresco style. Inspired by Spanish architecture, the style was very popular in the 1930s in the United States.11 The church's most notable features are its deep red bricks and the raised brickwork on the tower and belfry.12

Pioneers
Song Hoot Kiam was one of the first local elders of the church, and was succeeded by his son, Song Ong Siang, in 1900.13 The younger Song was a prominent figure in local history, and became the first Malayan Chinese to receive a knighthood when he was conferred the Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (K.B.E.) in 1936.14 Having published his monumental work entitled One Hundred Years' History of the Chinese in Singapore in 1923, Song donated the proceeds of the sale of his book to the church building fund.15



Author

Gracie Lee



References
1. Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church. (n.d.). Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church [PSPC] (p. 4). Retrieved October 3, 2016, from Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church website: www.pspc.org.sg/history/pspc-history.html
2. Leong, W. K. (2000, January 11). Prinsep Street church will be a national monumentThe Straits Times, p. 34. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church. (n.d.). Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church [PSPC] (p. 4). Retrieved October 3, 2016, from Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church website: www.pspc.org.sg/history/pspc-history.html
4. Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church. (n.d.). Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church [PSPC] (pp. 5, 6, 14). Retrieved October 3, 2016, from Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church website: www.pspc.org.sg/history/pspc-history.html
5. Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church. (n.d.). Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church [PSPC] (pp. 17, 18, 21, 24). Retrieved October 3, 2016, from Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church website: www.pspc.org.sg/history/pspc-history.html; Leong, W. K. (2000, January 11). Prinsep Street church will be a national monumentThe Straits Times, p. 34. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church. (n.d.). Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church [PSPC] (p. 4). Retrieved October 3, 2016, from Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church website: www.pspc.org.sg/history/pspc-history.html
7. Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church (Singapore). (2013). Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church (1843–2013): Celebrating 170 years of God’s faithfulness. Singapore: Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church, p. 15. (Call no.: RSING 285.25957 PRI)
8. Prinsep St. Presbyterian Church, 1930–1980. (1981). Singapore: The Church, pp. 3, 5. (Call no.: RSING 285.25957 PRI); Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church (Singapore). (2013).  Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church (1843–2013): Celebrating 170 years of God’s faithfulness. Singapore: Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church, p. 15. (Call no.: RSING 285.25957 PRI)
9. Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church. (n.d.). Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church [PSPC] (pp. 5, 8). Retrieved October 3, 2016, from Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church website: www.pspc.org.sg/history/pspc-history.html
10. Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church (Singapore). (2013). Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church (1843–2013): Celebrating 170 years of God’s faithfulness. Singapore: Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church, p. 15. (Call no.: RSING 285.25957 PRI)
11. Leong, W. K. (2000, January 11). Prinsep Street church will be a national monumentThe Straits Times, p. 34. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church (Singapore). (2013). Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church (1843–2013): Celebrating 170 years of God’s faithfulness. Singapore: Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church, p. 15. (Call no.: RSING 285.25957 PRI)
13. Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church (Singapore). (2013). Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church (1843–2013): Celebrating 170 years of God’s faithfulness. Singapore: Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church, p. 19. (Call no.: RSING 285.25957 PRI)
14. Prinsep St. Presbyterian Church, 1930–1980. (1981). Singapore: The Church, p. 9. (Call no.: RSING 285.25957 PRI); Knighthood for Song Ong Siang. (1936, January 1). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Prinsep St. Presbyterian Church, 1930–1980. (1981). Singapore: The Church, p. 5. (Call no.: RSING 285.25957 PRI)




Further resources

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

Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church 160th anniversary: The recent years (1993–2003). (2004). Singapore: The Church.
(Call no.: RSING 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)

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

Wan, M. H., & Lau, J. (2009). Heritage places of Singapore . Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 136–141.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 WAN-[HIS])



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.

Subject
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
Monuments--Singapore