Charles Edward Faber



Captain Charles Edward Faber (b. 1807?, location unknownd. 7 November 1868, location unknown1) of the Madras Engineers arrived in Singapore in September 1844. He worked briefly as the sheriff and marshall of the Court of Judicature,2 and was also the government superintending engineer between 18443 and 1850.4 Faber constructed the road and signal station on Telok Blangah Hill, and for that, the hill was renamed Mount Faber after him. His other building projects include the first Ellenborough Market, the gothic-style north-side gateway in Fort Canning Park, and the former Outram Prison.5

Arrival in Singapore
On 19 September 1844, Charles Edward Faber of the Madras Engineers arrived from Madras on the ship Orestes.6 The next day, in the presence of then Governor Colonel W. J. Butterworth,7 who was also his brother-in-law,8 Faber was appointed and sworn in as sheriff and marshall for the Court of Judicature for the Straits Settlements.9 He held this post until 20 September 1845, when he was replaced by John Purvis.10 Faber was also concurrently appointed as the superintending engineer in 1844 and served in Singapore in that role till 1850.11

Mount Faber
One of his first duties as superintending engineer was to cut a road up Telok Blangah Hill, and establish a signal station with a flagstaff on its summit. This narrow winding road and the new signal station was completed in July 1845, and Telok Blangah Hill was renamed Mount Faber after Captain Faber.12 A government notice dated 21 July 1845 and signed by Resident Councillor Thomas Church announced in The Singapore Free Press of 24 July 1845: “Mount Faber at Telloh Balanga having been selected as an eligible site for a Signal Post in lieu of Balankan Mattie, the establishment will be withdrawn from the latter place on the 1st August next, and the usual distinguishing numerical, and other flags hoisted at the new Station from that date”.13

Fort Faber
Although named after Faber, the fort was erected only in the late 1850s or early 1860s and hence was not constructed during his tenure in Singapore.14 Fort Faber was believed to have been built after the Indian Mutiny of 1857 as the Straits government feared a revolt among the local Indian sepoys and thus stepped up fortification on the island. Defence work was carried out and granite emplacements for guns were completed halfway up Mount Faber.15

Ellenborough Market
Faber built the original Ellenborough market in 1845, on a swampy bank of the Singapore River.16 However, newspaper reports soon surfaced in 1846 criticising him for the market’s bad construction as the ends of the building proved too heavy for the unstable foundations and began sinking. The walls were cracked so badly that the heavy ornamental pediments had to be removed.17 A fire destroyed the market in 1968 and it was demolished in 1970.18

Gothic gateway for cemetery
The gothic-style North Gateway on the eastern section of the former Government Hill Cemetery (now Fort Canning Park) was designed by Faber, and believed to be the first example of gothic revival architecture in Singapore.19 The Christian cemetery was extended in 1845 and the whole area encased by a brick wall. It is believed that the gothic gateway was added.20

Outram Prison
On Saturday morning, 6 February 1847, the foundation stone of the new prison at Outram Road was laid by Faber in the presence of Governor Butterworth and Resident Councillor Thomas Church.21 The jail complex was built from plans by J. T. Thomson.22 The prison was eventually demolished in 1968 and replaced by Outram Park, a residential cum-shopping complex built by the Housing and Development Board in 1969.23

Criticism
Faber’s career was marred by poorly constructed projects.24 Newspaper reports have documented some of these failures, which included the cracking walls of Ellenborough Market, as well as “Faber’s Bridge”, which “could not be made to maintain its proper position until after several attempts”.25 In particular, in response to the poor design of the “two bridges across the canal” that were so low-lying that they obstructed river tongkang traffic at high tide, Faber proposed that the canal bed be dredged to lower the canal level rather than raising the bridges up in the centre.26


Other developments
In November 1846, Faber was promoted to the rank of major,27 and his daughter was born in Singapore on 27 April 1847.28 He died with the rank of major general on retired full pay on 7 November 1868, aged 61.29

Of his development work in Singapore, the winding road up Mount Faber30 and his gothic gateway structure in Fort Canning Park still stand today.31



Authors

Vernon Cornelius-Takahama & Chris Tang



References
1. Obituary. (1868). Colburn’s United Service Magazine and Naval and Military Journal, 1868, Part III [Ebook], p. 606. Retrieved 2016, August 10 from GoogleBooks website: https://books.google.com.sg/books?id=XINNAAAAcAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false
2. Government notification. (1844, September 26). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1859), p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. The Free Press. (1844, September 26). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Untitled. (1850, February 19). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Government notification. (1844, September 26). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, pp. 147, 184. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS]); Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish, p. 112. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA]); Magic of ‘Forbidden Hill’. (1988, May 5). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. The Free Press. (1844, September 26). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore, 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 459. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
7. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore, 1819–1867 . Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 384–385. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
8. Thomson, J. T. (1984). Glimpses into life in Malayan lands. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp, 275, 279. (Call no.: RSING 959.5 THO)
9. Government notification. (1844, September 26). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), p.1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Government notification. (1845, September 25). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. The Free Press. (1844, September 26). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), p. 3; Untitled. (1850, February 19). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 147. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
13. Notice. (1845, July 24). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Spectator. (1976, October 11). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish, p. 260. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV)
16. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish, p. 112. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA]); Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 20. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
17. Untitled. (1846, November 5). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), p. 4; Singapore guns blasted own fort. (1955, January 23). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish, p. 112. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
19. Magic of ‘Forbidden Hill’. (1988, May 5). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde. (1956). Gate leading to Fort Canning Hill Cemetery, built probably in 1846 after a drawing by Captain Charles Edward Faber – Singapore [Photograph accession no. 2006-002893-RMV]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
20. Christian cemetery at Fort Canning. (1971, September 10). New Nation, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 459. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS]); Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 184. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
22. Hall-Jones, J. (1979). An early surveyor in Singapore: John Turnbull Thomson in Singapore, 1841–1853. Singapore: National Museum, p. 30. (Call no.: RSING 526.90924 THO)
23. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 184. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
24. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 184. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
25. Untitled. (1846, November 5). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
26. Untitled. (1848, June 22). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), p. 2; Singapore guns blasted own fort. (1955, January 23). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Obituary. (1868). Colburn’s United Service Magazine and Naval and Military Journal, 1868, Part III, p. 606. Retrieved 2016, August 10 from GoogleBooks website: https://books.google.com.sg/books?id=XINNAAAAcAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false
28. Birth. (1847, April 29). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Obituary. (1868). Colburn’s United Service Magazine and Naval and Military Journal, 1868, Part III, p. 606. Retrieved 2016, August 10 from GoogleBooks website: https://books.google.com.sg/books?id=XINNAAAAcAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false
30. Singapore Tourism Board. (n.d.). Mount Faber Park. Retrieved 2016, August 10 from Your Singapore website: http://www.yoursingapore.com/see-do-singapore/nature-wildlife/parks-gardens/mount-faber.html
31. National Parks Board. (n.d). Your guide to sculpture trail in Fort Canning Park. Retrieved 2016, August 10 from National Parks Board website: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/~/media/nparks-real-content/gardens-parks-and-nature/diy-walk/diy-walk-pdf-files/sculpture-trail-at-fcp.pdf



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
Faber, Charles Edward
Colonial administrators--Singapore--Biography
Civil engineers--Singapore--Biography
Colonial administrators
Science and technology>>Construction>>Buildings
Science and technology>>Construction>>Architectural structure
Personalities>>Biographies>>Colonial Administrators