Situated on the eastern fringe of the city centre, Aljunied broadly refers to the areas surrounding Aljunied Road, which connects Geylang Road and MacPherson Road, and Upper Aljunied Road, which extends from the MacPherson Road junction to Upper Serangoon Road.1
Maps of 19th-century Singapore show the Aljunied area as largely undeveloped.2 It is possible that the area took its name from Aljunied Road. The road was named in 1926 after Syed Ali bin Mohamed Aljunied of the Aljunied family.3 Syed Ali was the son of Syed Omar bin Ali Aljunied, one of the earliest Arabs to arrive in Singapore after a British trading post was established on the island in 1819. Members of the Aljunied family were prominent businessmen, community leaders and philanthropists.4 The extension of Aljunied Road from MacPherson Road to Serangoon Road was officially named Upper Aljunied Road in 1929.5
Little was written about the early history of the Aljunied area; by 1931, however, the area had undergone some development with a newspaper article mentioning the presence of a plantation off Aljunied Road.6
During the Japanese Occupation of Singapore (1942–45), the Japanese airforce built hangars in the Aljunied area for repairing airplane engines. The area was chosen for its large number of coconut trees, which provided good camouflage for the hangars. The people residing there were driven out by the Japanese, who considered the area a protected military site.7 A map produced during the Occupation years shows numerous structures on both sides of Aljunied Road.8
Villages and squatters
In the early postwar years, Aljunied remained a rural area populated by squatters living in attap (palm frond) houses.9 The villages included Geylang East village, which had a population of about 30,000 people by 1960, Kampong Aceh and Kampong Aljunied.10
One of the major squatter colonies was established in the area by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT), as part of its $2-million squatter resettlement scheme in 1953. Under the scheme, SIT rented out the land, which was divided into plots, to squatters resettled from other areas.11 Although much of the land was acquired by the Singapore government for urban development since the 1950s, there were still squatter colonies in several parts of Aljunied up to 1980.12
Prior to 1953, there were few housing estates in the eastern side of Singapore. The SIT, responsible for public housing at the time, focused its energies in the city area, as well as in the western areas such as Queenstown, Alexandra and Bukit Timah.13
One of the earliest housing estates in the east was built in Aljunied in 1953. The estate was part of SIT’s low-rental scheme (formerly known as the Squatter Resettlement Scheme), which relocated squatters from areas being cleared for redevelopment.14 The scheme was extended to the victims of the fire that broke out on 16 July 1963 at Lorong 3 Geylang.15
In December 1953, two months after another severe fire had occurred in Geylang, the government announced the provision of more emergency housing for squatters in the area. A 120-acre plot of land between Aljunied Road and MacPherson Road was earmarked for a housing scheme that would provide 1,250 homes and 300 flats in three-storey blocks, with 50 shops and three markets.16
The Upper Aljunied Housing Estate, comprising seven blocks of high-rise flats, was built in the 1960s. Located near Upper Aljunied and Macpherson roads, most of the estate’s residents in the 1970s were middle-income earners such as clerks, teachers and small-time businessmen.17
The MacPherson Homes and Happy Avenue estates were among the early private housing estates found in the Aljunied area. Built in the 1960s, these two housing estates comprised two-storey terrace houses. Prior to the construction of these estates, the area was home to vegetable and pig farms as well as banana and coconut plantations.18
Urban planning boundaries
Under the 1955 masterplan, Aljunied Road was zoned as an urban planning district, flanked by Toa Payoh, Paya Lebar, the Jalan Eunos Malay Settlement and Geylang.19 The area was then regarded as “a fast growing residential suburb” with about 24,100 residents in 1953.20
Since 1994, Aljunied has been a subzone in the Geylang planning area.21
Between 1959 and 1988, Aljunied was a single-member constituency (SMC). Aljunied made its debut as an electoral division in the 1959 general election. S. V. Lingam of the People’s Action Party (PAP) won the three-way contest with 49.4 percent of the votes and became the first member of Parliament (MP) for Aljunied.22
In 1967, the Aljunied electoral division, which by then had 38,421 eligible voters, was subdivided into three electoral divisions – Aljunied, MacPherson and Potong Pasir – because of its large electoral size.23 In the 1968 general election, PAP’s Mohd. Ghazali bin Ismail was uncontested and became the MP for Aljunied.24 In 1972, Chin Harn Tong (also known as Chee Han Tong) succeeded Mohamed Ghazali as MP after winning a three-way contest in that year’s general election.25
In 1988, the Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC) comprising Aljunied, Kampong Kembangan and Kampong Ubi was formed.26 The PAP team of Chin, Wan Hussin Zoohri and George Yeo emerged victorious in the 1988 general election.27
In 2011, the incumbent PAP team lost the Aljunied GRC to the opposition Workers’ Party (WP). Led by Secretary General Low Thia Khiang, the WP team won 54.7 percent of the votes to defeat the PAP team led by Yeo, who was then the minister for foreign affairs.28
As of 2015, the Aljunied GRC comprises part of the Bedok North and Bedok Reservoir Road estates.29 Even though the constituency has retained the Aljunied name, the electoral boundaries of the constituency have changed over the years.30
Officially established on 30 December 1988, the Aljunied Town Council was among the first nine town councils to be formed in Singapore. The town council took over the running of Housing and Development Board estates in the area.31
Aljunied MRT station
The Aljunied MRT station is part of the east-west line of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system that connects Joo Koon to Pasir Ris. The first phase of the eastern line, which included Aljunied, started operations on 18 November 1989.32
Geylang Chinese Methodist Church
Founded in 1905 as a gospel house in Geylang, the first church building was constructed in 1917 at the corner of Lorong 23 Geylang and Geylang Road.33 In 1927, the church moved 100 yards (about 92 m) to its current address, 52 Aljunied Road, when the government acquired the previous site for the building of Aljunied Road.34 The church building also housed Geylang Methodist Girls’ School from 1924 until 1984 when the school moved to its present site at 2 Geylang East Central.35 That year, Geylang Methodist Girls’ School became co-ed and split into Geylang Methodist Primary and Secondary Schools.36
Canossaville Children’s Home
The Canossaville Children’s Home located off Aljunied Road provides residential care for at-risk girls between the ages of six and 12. It also runs a student-care centre for primary school children, including those with special needs or from low-income families.37
The home was founded in 1941 as a convent and orphanage by a Catholic order, the Canossa Sisters. The orphanage was known as Our Lady’s Orphanage.38 The convent also ran a private Chinese school, which later became the Canossa Convent Primary School.39
Mount Vernon Crematorium
Built next to a Hindu cemetery, the Mount Vernon Crematorium at Upper Aljunied Road was opened in 1962 as Singapore’s first government-operated crematorium.40 It was announced in 2003 that the crematorium would be closed and replaced by new facilities at Mandai. The cleared site was to be used for new housing developments.41
Bidadari Cemetery used to be located at the junction of Upper Aljunied Road and Upper Serangoon Road. It has since been cleared for development.42
Kallang Basin Industrial Estate
By the mid-1950s, there were plans to provide for an industrial zone in the area to the west of Aljunied Road and south of MacPherson Road.43 Land was reclaimed from the basins of Kallang and Whampoa rivers, and developed in the late 1960s into the Kallang Basin Industrial Estate. Consisting of factories for light and medium industries, it became Singapore’s second largest industrial estate after Jurong. The estate also included low-cost housing.44
Mount Vernon Cantonment
The Gurkha camp, located at Mount Vernon off Upper Aljunied Road, was built in the 1950s. Complete with amenities such as a kindergarten, mini-mart and Nepalese temple, the cantonment, which remains out of bounds to the public, serves as a residential and training area for the Gurkhas of the Singapore Police Force and their families.45
1. Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd., Singapore Island & City Map ([Hongkong]: Periplus Editions, 2009). (Call no. RSING 912.5957 PER); Mighty Minds Singapore Street Directory (Singapore: Mighty Minds Pub., 2015), maps, 90,112. (Call no. RSING 912.5957 MMSSD-[DIR])
2. National Archives of Singapore, “Plan of Singapore Town and Adjoining Districts from Actual Survey by John Turnbull Thomson, Government Surveyor, Singapore,” 1846, survey map, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. SP004423_1); Survey Department, Singapore, “Map of the Island of Singapore and Its Dependencies,” 1885, topographic map, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. TM000003)
3. S. Durai Raja-Singam, Malayan Street Names: What They Mean and Whom They Commemorate (Ipoh: Mercantile Press, 1939), 80. (Call no. RQUIK 959.5 RAJ)
4. Tommy Koh, et al. eds., Singapore: The Encyclopedia (Singapore: Editions Didier Millet, 2006), 28. (Call no. RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
5. “Municipal Affairs,” Straits Times, 13 December 1929, 19. (From NewspaperSG)
6. “First Singapore Assizes,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 5 January 1932, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
7. Soh Guan Bee, oral history interview by Low Lay Ling, 30 September 1983, transcript and MP3 audio 29:37, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 000310), 69–72.
8. Survey Department, Singapore, Syonan – Map Showing Police Division C, 1943, survey map, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. SP001571)
9. “Kampong Men Must Find New Homes,” Singapore Free Press, 8 October 1949, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
10. Pangkat Kosta Samosir, oral history interview by Michele Lim, 6 November 2010, transcript and MP3 audio 53:39, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 003562); “Heroine of Nine at Fire,” Straits Times, 11 July 1956, 1; “Geylang Residents Form 45-Man Fire-Fighting Squad with Govt. Aid,” Singapore Free Press, 28 Novembr 1960, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
11. “Now They Can Feel Like Real Citizens,” Straits Times, 2 May 1953, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
12. “End of Squatters by 1990: Teh,” Straits Times, 8 June 1980, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
13. See annual reports of the Singapore Improvement Trust from 1948 to 1959. Singapore Improvement Trust, Annual Report (Singapore: Singapore Improvement Trust, 1948–1960). (Call no. RCLOS 711.4095951 SIN-[RFL])
14. Singapore Improvement Trust, The Work of the Singapore Improvement Trust 1952 (Singapore: Singapore Improvement Trust, 1953), 40 (Call no. RCLOS 711.4095951 SIN-[RFL]); Singapore Improvement Trust, The Work of the Singapore Improvement Trust 1953 (Singapore: Singapore Improvement Trust, 1954), 31. (Call no. RCLOS 711.4095951 SIN-[RFL])
15. Singapore Improvement Trust, Work of the Singapore Improvement Trust 1953, 54; “$2,000,000 of Your Money is Being Spent,” Singapore Free Press, 21 July 1953, 3; “Cheap Houses for All If the Fire Victims’ Settlement Succeeds,” Straits Times, 30 July 1953, 8; “50 Houses for Victims of Fire in 6 Weeks,” Straits Times, 19 July 1953, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
16. “15,000 in Shacks to Get Break,” Singapore Free Press, 11 December 1953, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
17. Chua Siew Keng, “Where Modern Living Finally Catches Up with Kampong Life,” Straits Times, 27 January 1971, 18. (From NewspaperSG)
18. Chua, Where Modern Living Finally Catches Up with Kampong Life.”
19. Master Plan: Report of Survey (Singapore: Govt. Print. Off., 1955), map, 2. (Call no. RCLOS 711.4095957 SIN)
20. Master Plan: Report of Survey, 62.
21. Urban Renewal Authority (Singapore), Geylang East Planning Area: Planning Report 1994 (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1994), 5 (Call no. RDKL 711.4095957 URB); “Planning Boundaries,” Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), accessed 11 May 2016.
22. “1959 Parliamentary Election Results,” 2 November 2015.
23. Singapore Parliament, White Paper on the Report of the Electoral Boundaries Delineation Committee on the Review of the Boundaries of the Present Fifty-One Parliament Electoral Divisions (Singapore: Printed by the Government Printer, 1967), 2. (Call no. RSING 324.5957 SIN)
24. “1968 Parliamentary Election Results,” Elections Department Singapore, accessed 11 May 2016.
25. “1972 Parliamentary Election Results,” Elections Department Singapore, accessed 11 May 2016.
26. Electoral Boundaries Review Committee Singapore, White Paper on the Report of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee, 1988 (Singapore: SNP, 1988), 21. (Call no. RSING 324.63095957 SIN)
27. “1988 Parliamentary Election Results,” Elections Department Singapore, accessed 11 May 2016.
28. “GE: Opposition Parties Reflect on Post Election Results,” Channel NewsAsia, 8 May 2011; Kor Kian Beng and Cheryl Wong, “Aljunied Win 20 Years in the Making,” Straits Times, 8 May 2011, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
29. “The Report on the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee, 2015,” Singapore Electoral Boundaries Review Committee, 24 July 2015. (Cmd 7 of 2015).
30. See the maps in various reports of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee.
31. “9 Town Councils Gazetted So Far,” New Paper, 31 December 1988, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
32. “MRT Network Map,” SMRT, 7 June 2016; “MRT Eastern Line to Start Operating on Nov 18,” Business Times, 4 August 1989, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
33. Theodore R. Doraisamy, Forever Beginning: One Hundred Years of Methodism in Singapore (Singapore: The Methodist Church in Singapore, 1985), 187, 254. (Call no. RSING 287.095957 FOR)
34. Doraisamy, Forever Beginning, 254; Geylang Methodist Chinese School, Singapore 芽笼卫理学校 (新加坡), Xīng zhōu yá lóng wèi lǐ xuéxiào niàn zhōunián jìniàn 星洲芽笼卫理学校廿周年纪念 [Singapore Geylang Methodist School 20th Anniversary Magazine] (Singapore: Sin Chew Geylang Methodist School, 1955), 53. (Not available in NLB holdings)
35. Doraisamy, Forever Beginning, 255; June Tan, “Geylang Methodist to Take in Boys,” Straits Times, 30 June 1983, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
36. Tan, “Geylang Methodist to Take in Boys.”
37. “About Us,” Canossaville Children’s Home, accessed 11 May 2016.
38. “The Canossa Convent in Geylang,” Straits Times, 22 November 1947, 5. (From NewspaperSG); “Our Story,” Canossaville Children’s Home, accessed 11 May 2016.
39. “History,” Canossa Convent Primary School, accessed 11 May 2016.
40. “Govt Builds Crematoria,” Straits Times, 12 October 1962, 8; “Over 200 Police at Cremation,” Straits Times, 21 December 1950, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
41. Shermaine Wong, “Mount Vernon Has to Go,” Straits Times, 17 February 2003, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
42. “Final Resting Place,” Straits Times, 20 May 2008, 107. (From NewspaperSG)
43. Master Plan: Report of Survey, 62.
44. William Campbell, “New Factory Site Rises in the Heart of Singapore,” Straits Times, 24 May 1969, 8; “Kallang Basin Industrial Plan to Make Area Second Jurong,” Straits Times, 16 July 1964, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
45. Jose Raymond, “Home Away From Home for Gurkhas,” Straits Times, 18 April 1999, 27; Joanne Lee, “Gurkhas Mark 50th Year,” Straits Times, 10 April 1999, 38. (From NewspaperSG)
The information in this article is valid as at 21 June 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.