Stamford Raffles’s landing in Singapore

Stamford Raffles landed in Singapore on 28 January 1819. Travelling on the Indiana with a squadron that included the schooner Enterprise, he anchored at St John’s Island at 4.00 pm on 28 January 1819 and met with Temenggong Abdul Rahman.1 The site on the Singapore mainland where Raffles landed is today marked with the statue of Raffles, which is located by the Singapore River behind Parliament House.2

The event
According to a 13 February 1819 letter written by Raffles, a delegation from Singapore boarded the Indiana on 28 January, enquiring about his intentions.  Raffles consulted them, asking if the Dutch had authority over the main island, and noted that only the Temenggong held fort there. Later that same evening, Raffles and William Farquhar went ashore and visited the Temenggong.3 They returned the next morning on the 29th, planted the Union Jack, and continued their discussions with the Temenggong.4 Raffles named his landing location South Point.5

The Temenggong, a vassal of Sultan Hussein, was consulted and a provisional treaty was agreed upon. Thereafter, the British flag was planted upon Singapore shores, troops were dispatched and instructions left for a fort to be built at what is now known as Fort Canning Hill. Sultan Hussein (Tunku Long) arrived on 1 February, whereupon the trio agreed on a treaty on 6 February. Raffles departed Singapore on 7 February, leaving Farquhar in charge of the inchoate settlement.6


19 Jan 1819: Raffles leaves Penang aboard the Indiana, under the command of Captain James Pearl, to establish a new settlement south of Malacca.7
27 Jan 1819:
 The Indiana rendezvous with the Discover and the Investigator with Farquhar on board, surveying the possibility of the Karimun islands as new British sites. After discussion, they decide against it and head towards Singapore.8

28 Jan 1819: The Indiana and Enterprise anchor at St John’s Island. Raffles and Farquhar meet the Temenggong.9
30 Jan 1819: A draft agreement is penned between the Temenggong and the British, and the Union Jack is raised with little ceremony.10
1 Feb 1819: Sultan Hussein (Tunku Long) arrives from Riau.11
6 Feb 1819:
 The Singapore Treaty is signed between Raffles, the Sultan and the Temenggong, with commanders from the accompanying seven ships witnessing the event. Farquhar is appointed Resident and Commandant under the authority of Raffles, the Lieutenant-Governor of Bencoolen. The Union Jack is officially raised. This date is recognised as the official founding of Singapore.12 Co
ntroversy has arisen, however, from Raffles’s mistake in recording the date of his first landing as 29 February 1819, in his “Statement of the Services of Sir Stamford Raffles” – a date that does not exist because 1819 was not a leap year.13

Variant interpretations
Wah Hakim’s interpretation
Wah Hakim, a 15-year-old eye-witness to the events, testified that in the morning, Raffles arrived in the company of Farquhar who wore a helmet, and a Sepoy who carried a musket. They were entertained with fruits, including rambutans, at the Temenggong’s home, leaving at about 4.00 pm that afternoon.14 The British then left, returning 12 days later, but they remained by the shore, living in makeshift attap huts. Tunku Long was found fishing in the Straits of Rhio by two princes, Raja Ombong, the former’s kinsman, and Enche Wan Abdullah, both of whom were paid 500 pounds for their effort. Upon his arrival, the Tunku conducted negotiations with Raffles at the Temenggong’s residence first, and later at Raffles’s, which was located in Padang Senar.15

Temenggong’s interpretation
The Temenggong’s letters, however, testified that there were at least nine vessels that brought the British: seven ships, one kura-kura and one ketch, although Munshi Abdullah highlighted in the Hikayat Abdullah that there were four ships instead. Accounts from the Temenggong and Munshi Abdullah also differed on who conducted the negotiations. The former noted that Farquhar left for Malacca soon after, leaving Raffles to do the negotiations.16

Munshi Abdullah’s interpretation
Munshi Abdullah recorded that it was only Farquhar who first landed on 29 January 1819, without Raffles. The controversy was discussed by C. A. Gibson-Hill in the article “The Date of Munshi Abdullah’s First Visit to Singapore”. Gibson-Hill concurred that Raffles might have remained on board the Indiana, sleeping, during that first visit to Singapore.17

Captain Crawford’s interpretation

Another interpretation is that Captain J. G. F. Crawford commanded the Investigator, the H. C. vessel that surveyed Singapore waters upon the initial landing of Raffles and Farquhar.18

Cho Clan Archives
Another version recorded in the Cho Clan Archives claims that Raffles had his ship’s carpenter, Chow Ah Chi, a Toi San Cantonese from Penang, lead the way in posting the East India Company’s flag on Singapore island. Chow reportedly landed on the banks of the Rochor River, and Raffles consequently followed his vanguard’s route and probably landed at the Kallang Basin, rather than the shores of the Singapore River.19

Bonny Tan

1. Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles: Book of Days, (Singapore: Antiques of the Orient, 1993), 67. (Call no. RSING 959.57021092 SIR-[HIS]); Joan Hon, Tidal Fortunes: A Story of Change: The Singapore River and Kallang Basin (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1990), 7. (Call no. RSING 959.57 HON-[HIS]); Clifford Edward Witting, Raffles of the Eastern Isles (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1984), 483–501. (Call no.: RSING 959.570210924 RAF.W-[HIS])
2. Ray K Tyers and Siow Jin Hua, Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then and Now (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993), 2. (Call no. RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
3. Witting, Raffles of the Eastern Isles, 484–485.
4. John Sturgus Bastin, The Founding of Singapore 1819 (Singapore: National Library Board, 2012), 40, 47. (Call no. RSING 959.5703 BAS) 
5. Hon, Tidal Fortunes, 7.
6. Witting, Raffles of the Eastern Isles, 483–501.
7. Book of Days, 67.  
8. Book of Days, 66.  
9. Book of Days, 67; Hon, Tidal Fortunes, 7; Witting, Raffles of the Eastern Isles, 483–501.
10. Book of Days, 67.  
11. Witting, Raffles of the Eastern Isles, 487.
12. Witting, Raffles of the Eastern Isles, 495; Book of Days, 71.  
13. Tan Sri Dato Mubin Sheppard. (Ed.). Singapore 150 Years, ed. Tan Sri Dato Mubin Sheppard (Singapore: Times Books International, 1982), 86. (Call no. RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS]); Thomas Stamford Raffles, Statement of the Services of Sir Stamford Raffles (Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1978), 53. (Call no. RSING q325.3410959 RAF)
14. Witting, Raffles of the Eastern Isles, 484.
15. Sheppard, Singapore 150 Years, 75.
16. Sheppard, Singapore 150 Years, 79, 113.
17. Sheppard, Singapore 150 Years, 112.
18. Sheppard, Singapore 150 Years, 112.
19. Hon, Tidal Fortunes, 7.

The information in this article is valid as at January2019 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.

Heritage and Culture
Geography and Travels
Colonial administrators--Singapore
1819-1826 Founding and early years