Bukit Timah


Bukit Timah, estate, located in the Central Region. The name Bukit Timah came about from a corruption of the name of the Temak tree which grows in the area. Bukit is Malay for "hill"; and Timah is Malay for "tin" and thus the often mistaken belief that the hill holds tin. The total area of Bukit Timah with eight sub-zones is 1,732 ha. It is renowned for being the highest hill in Singapore. It also holds Singapore's primary rainforest reserve, the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. There are many premier residential estates designated as Good Class Bungalow Areas, making the Bukit Timah area one of the most sought after places to live in Singapore.

John Prince, Acting Resident of the Incorporated Settlement, first explored Bukit Timah on 28 June 1827 in preparations for the construction of Bukit Timah Road. It was discovered that the area was a dense jungle, infested with tigers, and thus Indian convicts were deployed to kill the animals. In March 1843 a road was completed to the top of Bukit Timah Hill (519 ft). By 1845, Bukit Timah Road was roughly opened up beyond Bukit Timah as far as Kranji. There was a nutmeg plantation of 600 trees in the area, owned by J.I. Woodford, in 1848. Between 21 to 26 October 1871, serious riots broke out in Bukit Timah. In 1896, two tigers were shot in the area. By the turn of the century, the area had been cleared although it remained rural with a spread of old kampong housing and a few inhabitants. In the 1900s, the sparsely populated land was famed for giant industries like Cold Storage Dairy Farm, the Ford Assembly Plant and Eveready Batteries, with various premier schools like the University of Singapore, the Chinese High School, the Chinese Girl's High School, the Anglo-Chinese School. Other developments appeared like the Railway route, Hindhede Granite Quarry and the Bukit Timah Turf Club.

During World War II, Bukit Timah was the location of Singapore's surrender. The Japanese planned their onslaught measuring their victory with the conquest of Bukit Timah Hill. When Percival surrendered at the Ford Factory off Bukit Timah Road, the Japanese army displayed their victory marching down this road. After the war in 1948, to improve traffic management, the first traffic lights were installed at the junction of Bukit Timah and Serangoon Roads. In the early 1950s, the Public Works Department first converted BukitTimah Road into dual carriageway road. The road was widened subsequently and flyovers built at important junctions and its twin Dunearn Road. These are at Adam Road/Farrer Road, Newton Circus and Whitley Road.

Variant Names
Old English: The British originally spelt it 'Bookit Timah'.

Chinese Name:
(1) In Hokkien, be cha lo boi means "end of the horse carriage road" referring to the halting place for the change of horses at Kranji.
(2) In Hokkien, Sin Swa Lo means "The Johore Road" (Sin Swa=Johore, literally "New Mountain").
(3) In Hokkien, Bukit Timah Road is Tek-kha kanga-a ki and in Cantonese Tek-kha chhung pin refers to "The side of the stream in the Tek-ha district" (Selegie Road).

Vernon Cornelius-Takahama

Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819-1867 (p. 430). Singapore: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC)

Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (Vol. 2, pp. 370, 589, 591). Singapore: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE) 

Ramachandra, S. (1961). Singapore landmarks, past and present (pp. 34-36). Singapore: Eastern Universities Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 RAM)

Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then and now (p. 210). Singapore: Landmark Books.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE)

Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1993). Bukit Timah planning area: Planning report 1993 (p. 8). Singapore : The Authority.
(Call no.: RSING 711.4095957 SIN)

The information in this article is valid as at 2001 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.

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