Bendemeer House



Located off Serangoon Road, Bendemeer House was formerly called the House of Whampoa or Whampoa House. It was a mansion designed and built in 1840 by Hoo Ah Kay (better known as Whampoa), a Kapitan China (“leader of the Chinese people”) of Singapore. In 1964, the government acquired the historic building and the 30-acre estate on which it stood for the development of the Kallang Basin housing and industrial project. The building was demolished in 1964 to make way for urban development.1 In 2012, the site where Bendemeer House used to be was featured in the newly launched Jalan Besar Community Heritage Trail.2

Description
Fruit tree plantations once dotted the expansive grounds of Whampoa House. A Chinese garden maintained by Cantonese horticulturists was famed for its rockeries, aquariums, bonsai and well-manicured topiaries. There was also a mini-zoo, which had animals such as the bear, musang, loris, silver cat, as well as an aviary with peacocks and a pond with the water lily Victoria regia, a gift from the regent of Siam.3


Whampoa was well known for his hospitality. The Whampoa Gardens, or nam-sang fa-un in Cantonese, was a gathering place for the local Chinese community. During the Lunar New Year season, in particular, the garden was transformed into a wonderland with merry-go-rounds and joy-wheels, with food and goods stalls. Whampoa also frequently hosted naval officers and important guests in his home. In 1867, a large dining room attached to the main house was completed to host a dinner for the returning Admiral Henry Keppel.4

After Whampoa’s death, Whampoa House was bought over by Seah Liang Seah and renamed Bendemeer House.5



Author

Bonny Tan



References
1. Govt buys historic Whampoa House for $3.8 mil. (1964, March 25). The Straits Times, p. 13; On The City’s Edge. (2012, September 17). The Straits Times, p. 14/15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. On The City’s Edge. (2012, September 17). The Straits Times, p. 14/15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 658–659. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS]); Moore, D., & Moore, J. (1969). The first 150 years of Singapore. Singapore: Donald Moore Press, pp. 240–242. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 MOO-[HIS]); Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 51–57. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON-[HIS]); Low, A. (1984, October 19). Pictures offer peek into Kallang’s pastThe Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 658–659. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS]); Moore, D., & Moore, J. (1969). The first 150 years of Singapore. Singapore: Donald Moore Press, pp. 240–242. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 MOO-[HIS]); Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 51–57. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON-[HIS]); Chandy, G. (1980, March 3). Mansion that was the hub of the social setNew Nation, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 660. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS]); Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 55. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON-[HIS])


Further resources
Singapore Press Holdings. (1958, November 24). Bendemeer House located between Lavender Street and Woodsville Circus – main attraction of Whampoa’s (Hoo Ah Kay) House is its magnificent gardens comprising a fruit orchard and orange plantation [Photograph no. PCD0108–077]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/

Singapore Press Holdings. (1964, March 16). Demolition of historical ‘Bendemeer House’ in Serangoon Road, which belonged originally to a prominent Chinese Whampoa (Hoo Ah Kay) in 19th century Singapore [Photograph no. PCD0108–073]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/



The information in this article is valid as at July 2019 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Historic buildings--Singapore
Historic buildings
Customs
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Historic Buildings
People and communities>>Social groups and communities
Ethnic Communities>> Customs and Traditions
Arts>>Architecture>>Architectural structure