Beach Road Police Station

by Faizah Zakaria

The Beach Road Police Station was built by the colonial government in the early 1930s.1 Part of the expansion plans of the local police force during that period, the station was one of many built in the city area and it had remained operational until 2001.2 The colonial-style building was accorded conservation status in 2002, and marked as a historic site in 2003.3 

In response to the needs of a growing population, the police force in Singapore embarked on an expansion plan during the 1920s and 1930s, with infrastructural development accompanying this growth. New buildings erected for the police included the Central Police Headquarters in South Bridge Road, as well as police stations and barracks in central urban areas such as Pearl’s Hill and Tanjong Pagar. The Beach Road Police Station was one such station.4 

Completed in 1934, the three-storey Beach Road Police Station was a colonial-style building with a white facade.5 Located along Beach Road near the Raffles Hotel, it was built on land reclaimed beyond the 1843 Beach Road foreshore line.6 Other landmarks in the area included the Alhambra and Marlborough cinemas and the headquarters of the Singapore Volunteer Corps.7

Japanese Occupation and the 1950s
During the Japanese Occupation (1942–45), the Beach Road Police Station was used by Japanese forces as a holding centre for groups of Jews, Chinese and Indians before they were interned at Changi Prison.8 Towards the end of the Japanese Occupation in 1945, the police station was used as a registration centre for the evacuation scheme to Rhio Islands.9

During the 1950s, the Beach Road Police Station was involved in quelling riots fuelled by the Maria Hertogh custody case.10

Post-independence years
After Singapore became independent in 1965, the policy of providing officers with living quarters was gradually phased out.11 The living quarters were then refurbished during the 1970s and converted into offices.12 The Geylang Police Division (also known as “C” Division) used the Beach Road Police Station as its headquarters until May 1988, when it moved to its new premises in Paya Lebar. The Central Police Division (also known as “A” Division) then moved into the Beach Road Police Station building.13 

In 1985, the Police Force announced an increase in the number of divisional-headquarters stations from 8 to 13, so that they would be more accessible for the majority of the population.14 This was in line with the adaptation and implementation of the “Koban System”, in which police stations were to be identified with housing areas.15

Of the eight divisional-headquarters stations that were already in existence in 1985, four – including the Beach Road station – were situated in old buildings that no longer suited present-day needs since they were far away from the public housing estates they served. Three new stations were thus built in Paya Lebar, Ang Mo Kio and Bedok to replace them.16 These changes took place over several years, and the Beach Road station ceased operations in 2001.17

Station building 
In 2003, the former Beach Road Police Station building became the fourth location to be marked as a historic site by the National Heritage Board.18 From 2003 to 2006, the Singapore government announced plans to lease out about 13 disused state properties to private schools, including the former Beach Road Police Station building.19

The building was subsequently repainted a bright orange, and housed the Raffles Design Institute from 2007 to 2013.20 It was also the venue for SingaPlural, the main event for Singapore Design Week, in 2015 and 2016.21

Faizah bte Zakari

1. “Spending the Colony’s Revenue,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 2 October 1931, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
2. “Big Police Programme,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 23 May 1929, 8; Alicia Yeo, “NSmen’s Memories to Be Preserved,” Straits Times, 5 September 2002, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
3. “Former Beach Road Camp,” Urban Redevelopment Authority, accessed 10 October 2016; “Growing List of Historic Sites,” Straits Times, 11 January 2003, H16. (From NewspaperSG)
4. “New Six-Storey Police Building,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 25 May 1932, 11; “Big Police Programme,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942), 23 May 1929, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
5. Colonial Office, Great Britain, Annual Report for Straits Settlement 1934 (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1935), 55 (Call no. RRARE 325.3410959 GBCOSS; microfilm NL29301); Brendan Pereira, “Beach Road police Station Closes as Staff Shift to Geylang,” Straits Times, 15 May 1988, 12; Jessica Cheam, “Makeovers Inject Life into Pre-War Buildings,” Straits Times, 6 July 2007, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
6. Survey Department, Singapore, Singapore Street Directory and Sectional Maps (Singapore: Survey Department, 1954), map 8. (Call no. RCLOS 959.57 SIN-[GBH]
7. S. Ramachandra, Singapore Landmark (Singapore: s.n., 1969), 49. (Call no. RSING 959.57 RAM-[HIS])
8. Albert Abraham Lelah, oral history interview by Daniel Chew, 24 July 1983, transcript and MP3 audio, 27:41, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 000296), 57.
9. Lim Choo Sye, oral history interview by Low Lay Leng, 21 October 1983, transcript and MP3 audio, 27:39, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 000330), 113–4
10. George Kennedy, oral history interview by Daniel Chew, 18 September 1985, transcript and MP3 audio, 27:47, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 000591), 179.
11. “$3.2 Mil Pay Boost for Junior Police Officers on April,” Straits Times, 24 March 1972, 20; “Ministries Plan to Phase Out Govt Quarters,” Straits Times, 3 February 1986, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
12. Pereira, “Staff Shift to Geylang”; Paul Jansen, “Jurong Steps into the Mainstream of Life,” Straits Times, 30 May 1980, 16. (From NewspaperSG)
13. Peer M. Akbur, Policing Singapore in the 19th & 20th Centuries (Singapore: Singapore Police Force, 2002), 109 (Call no. RSING 363.2095957 PEE); Pereira, Staff Shift to Geylang.”
14. Lai Yew Kong, “Police Plan to Build Five More Stations,” Straits Times, 5 August 1985, 15. (From NewspaperSG)
15. John Drysdale, In the Service of the Nation (Singapore: Federal Publications, 1985), 55–56. (Call no. RSING 354.59570074 DRY)
16. Lai, “Plan to Build Five More Stations.” 
17. Yeo, “NSmen’s Memories to Be Preserved.”
18. “Growing List of Historic Sites,” Straits Times, 11 January 2003, H16. (From NewspaperSG)
19. Tan Hui Yee, “From Disused State Sites to Private Schools,” Straits Times, 23 October 2006, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
20. Cheam, “Life into Pre-War Buildings”; “Singapore Design Show Expects Challenging Venue Search Next Year,” TTG Asia, 26 March 2015. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website); “Corporate Information: Milestones,” RafflesEducation, accessed 18 October 2016.
21. “Challenging Venue Search Next Year”; Natasha Ann Zachariah, “Singapore Design Week: More Than 70 Installations at SIngaPlural,” Straits Times, 5 March 2016. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)

Further resources
Evelyn Yap, “Not Quite the Golden Mile But There’s Hope,” Straits Times, 14 April 1996, 3. (From NewspaperSG)

In By-Gone Days,” Straits Times, 15 October 1914, 10. (From NewspaperSG)

Tan Ooi Boon, The Public Spirit (Singapore: National Crime Prevention Council: Public Affairs Department, Singapore Police Force, 2000). (Call no. RSING 364.40458095957 TAN)

The information in this article is valid as of 2011 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.

Public buildings
Historic sites--Singapore
Police stations--Singapore
Historic buildings