St Andrew's Cathedral
St Andrew’s Cathedral, located at 11 St Andrew’s Road, is an Anglican cathedral located next to the City Hall Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) station. Named after the patron saint of Scotland, it is the oldest Anglican house of worship in Singapore and was gazetted as a national monument in 1973. Designed by Lieutenant-Colonel Ronald MacPherson, the construction of the cathedral was carried out by Indian convict labourers.
St Andrew’s Cathedral is the second church building on the site of the original Church of St Andrew, a location selected by Stamford Raffles in 1823.1
St Andrew’s Church
The foundation stone of the original church was laid on 9 November 1835. The building was designed by George D. Coleman and construction was completed in 1836.2 The church was named after the patron saint of Scotland because initial financial support came from the local Scottish community.3 The first church service was held on 18 June 1837 and was conducted by its first chaplain, Reverend Edmund White. The building was subsequently consecrated on 10 September 1838 by Bishop Daniel Wilson of Calcutta.4
The original church had a unique church bell donated by Maria Revere, the wife of American Consul Joseph Balestier. Carved on the bell were the words “Revere Boston 1843”, which led to it being known as the Revere Bell.5 In 1842, John Turnbull Thomson added a tower and spire to the church building. Unfortunately, no lightning conductor was installed and the spire was struck twice by lightning, once in 1845 and again in 1849. As a result of the damage caused by the lightning, the building was considered unsafe and closed by 1852. It was eventually demolished.6
it is believed that the land on which the church was built was donated by Singapore’s first Arab settler, Syed Sharif Omar bin Ali Al-Junied, who was a trader and landowner.7
St Andrew’s Cathedral
On 4 March 1856, the foundation stone of the present building was laid by the Right Reverend Daniel Wilson, Lord Bishop of Calcutta. Built between 1856 and 1864, the building owes its English gothic influence to its designer, MacPherson, who was an executive engineer and superintendent at the Public Works Department (PWD). The detailed work was done by John Bennet, a civil and mechanical engineer, who also designed the Raffles Lighthouse. Construction was carried out by industrially trained Indian convict labourers supervised by Major J. F. A. McNair, while W. D. Bayliss was the superintendent.8
The structure is 68.58 m long and 35.5 m wide, and consists of a nave with north and south aisles, crossed by a transept providing side porches.9 The building features chunam plaster, a mixture made from shell lime, egg white, coarse sugar, and water in which coconut husks had been steeped. After drying, the plastered walls and columns were polished with rock crystal or rounded stones and dusted with fine soapstone powder, giving the building a remarkably smooth and glossy surface.10
The first service was held on 1 October 1861 and the church building was consecrated on 25 January 1862 by the Right Reverend George E. L. Cotton.11
In 1870, the church was consecrated as a Cathedral Church of the United Diocese, by Archdeacon John Alleyne Beckles.12 In 1889, a peal of bells named St Matthew, St James, St John, St Paul, St Peter, St Thomas, St Bartholomew and St Andrew, were presented in memory of Captain J. S. M. The Revere Bell was removed and placed in a Public Works Department store.13 The north transept was added in 1952 and the south transept in 1983.14
In the days before Singapore fell to the Japanese in February 1942, the cathedral was turned into an emergency hospital.15 Casualties of the frequent bombings were sent to the cathedral for treatment when the hospitals were overcrowded. Church services in the cathedral resumed after the Japanese surrendered in 1945.16
Church dedications and memorials
The cathedral and its grounds contain several memorials and dedications. The stained-glass windows in the apse are dedicated to Raffles, John Crawfurd, and Major-General W. B. Butterworth.17 The window at the cathedral entrance was erected in memory of its designer and architect, MacPherson, while a monument to him stands in the church grounds.18 Tablets on the north wall, and on one of the pillars on the left aisle, commemorate victims of the 1915 sepoy mutiny in Singapore.19 The War Memorial Wing is dedicated to servicemen who died in World War II. It was opened in 1952 by General Sir Gerald Templer, High Commissioner to Malaya, accompanied by Malcolm MacDonald, Commissioner General in Southeast Asia. The wing also has a plaque listing the names of fallen Malayan Civil Service (MCS) members.20
Quiet Places Project
To accommodate a growing congregation, the Quiet Places Project was initiated in 2003 for the construction of an extension. The S$12.5-million extension, named Cathedral New Sanctuary, had to be built mainly underground, as preservation requirements of the gazetted cathedral meant that the existing building and its grounds could not be modified. Prior to the commencement of the construction in May 2004, local archaeologists were allowed time to dig in the area for possible artefacts. The extension was completed in November 2005 and includes a worship hall that can seat 800 people, a prayer hall, chapel and visitors’ centre.21
9 Nov 1835: Laying of the foundation stone of Church of St Andrew.22
10 Sep 1838: Building is consecrated.
1852: Building is declared unsafe and closed.
4 Mar 1856: Laying of the present building’s foundation stone.
25 Jan 1862: Church is consecrated.
1870: St Andrew’s Church is consecrated as the Cathedral of the Diocese.23
28 Jun1973: Cathedral is gazetted as a national monument.24
Vernon Cornelius-Takahama & Joanna HS Tan
1. S. Pugalenthi, Singapore Landmarks: Monuments, Memorials, Statues & Historic Sites (Singapore: VJ Times International, 1999), 93. (Call no. RSING 959.57 PUG-[HIS])
2. Lee Geok Boi, The Religious Monuments of Singapore: Faiths of Our Forefathers (Singapore: Landmark Books, 2002), 52. (Call no. RSING 726.095957 LEE)
3. Pugalenthi, Singapore Landmarks, 93.
4. Charles Burton Buckley, An Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore, 1819–1867 (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1984), 289. (Call no. RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
5. Lee, Religious Monuments of Singapore, 55.
6. Lee, Religious Monuments of Singapore, 52.
7. Cheong Suk-Wai, “Arab Trader’s Role in S’pore Landmark,” Straits Times, 24 September 2015, 16. (From NewspaperSG)
8. Gretchen Liu, In Granite and Chunam: The National Monuments of Singapore (Singapore: Landmark Books & Preservation of Monuments Board, 1996), 173–74. (Call no. RSING 725.94095957 LIU)
9. Frank G. Swindell, A Short History of St. Andrew’s Cathedral (Singapore: Author, 1922), 6. (Call no. RRARE 283.5951 SWI; Microfilm NL7461)
10. Liu, Granite and Chunam, 174.
11. Swindell, Short History of St. Andrew’s Cathedral, 7.
12. Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 372. (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
13. “Cathedral Bells Silent for First Time in Fifty Years,” Straits Times, 29 March 1936, 28; “Notes of the Day,” Straits Times, 15 April 1937, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
14. “Our Beginning,” St. Andrew’s Cathedral, accessed 28 September 2016.
15. St. Andrew’s Cathedral (Singapore), St. Andrew’s Cathedral: A Living Church (Singapore: St Andrew’s Cathedral, Diocese of Singapore, 2006), 21. (Call no. RSING 283.95957 SAI)
16. Pugalenthi, Singapore Landmarks, 97.
17. Swindell, Short History of St. Andrew’s Cathedral, 9–10.
18. Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 372.
19. Gan Ee Bee and Chew Meilan, Singapore Interpretation: The Heritage Story (Singapore: Neumind International Pte Ltd, 2015), 68. (Call no. RSING 959.57 GAN-[HIS])
20. Kevin Blackburn and Karl Hack, War Memory and the Making of Modern Malaysia and Singapore (Singapore: NUS Press, 2012), 76. (Call no. RSING 940.53595 BLA-[WAR])
21. Gan and Chew, Singapore Interpretation, 68; Tan Hui Yee, “New Wing to Ease Space Squeeze at St Andrew’s,” Straits Times, 24 November 2003, H3. (From NewspaperSG)
22. Lee, Religious Monuments of Singapore.
23. Swindell, Short History of St. Andrew’s Cathedral, 21–23.
24. “Saints Andrew’s Cathedral,” National Heritage Board, accessed 28 September 2016.
“Extension to St Andrew’s Cathedral,” The Singapore Architect, 233 (June–July 2006), 32–43. (Call no. RSING 720.5 SA)
Preservation of Monuments Board Singapore, Report (Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, 1972–1973), 9. (Call no. RSING 722.4095957 PMBSR)
Preservation of Monuments Board Singapore and Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), St Andrew’s Cathedral Preservation Guidelines (Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board and Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1992). (Call no. RSING 363.69095957 SAI)
Robins Woods, St. Andrew’s Cathedral Singapore: A Short History for Members and Visitors (Singapore: Straits Times Press, 1958). (Call no. RCLOS 283.95957 WOO-[RFL])
“Saints Andrew’s Cathedral,” National Heritage Board, accessed 4 November 2010.
St. Andrew’s Cathedral (Singapore), The Courier: St Andrew’s Cathedral Annual Rreport (Singapore: Author, 19--). (Call no. RCLOS 283.5957 SAI)
Wan Meng Hao and Jacqueline Lau, Heritage Places of Singapore (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2009), 104–05. (Call no. RSING 959.57 WAN-[HIS])
The information in this article is valid as at 2017 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.