Alkaff Lake Gardens

The Alkaff Lake Gardens was located off MacPherson Road, at what is now the Sennett Estate and Cedar Girls’ Secondary School.1 The Japanese-styled garden was developed by Syed Shaik Alkaff of the Alkaff family.2

The Alkaff family
The Alkaffs were a prominent Arab family of merchants and property developers.3 They owned holiday bungalows in Pasir Panjang and Pender Road, as well as the famous Hotel de L’Europe, and Alkaff Arcade at Raffles Place.4

The Alkaffs are most remembered for their lavish home, Alkaff Mansion, and the Masjid Alkaff Mosque.5

Prewar years
The Alkaff Lake Gardens was the first Japanese garden built in Singapore. Syed Shaik Abdul Rahman Alkaff of the Alkaf family hired a Japanese landscape expert to develop the garden, which was opened to the public in 1929.6

The 10-acre garden became a place of attraction for both visitors and residents.7 It had a lake for rowing boats, neatly landscaped paths, and picnic tables under shady trees.8 Visitors could also rent tea houses.9

Chinese merchant Tan Aik Kee of Nanyang Amusement Co. managed the park in the mid-1930s, adding to the gardens Guangzhou-styled boathouses and stalls with refreshments and games.10

World War II
The garden was requisitioned by the British military during World War II, following which the Singapore Volunteer Field Ambulance Corps used it as their headquarters. A huge Red Cross sign was laid on the grass and recognised by the Japanese air force who did not bomb the site. The garden, however, was bombed and shelled after the corps moved out.11

The garden remained closed to the public during the Japanese Occupation (1942–45). An armed guard was posted outside of the garden, and it was unclear what the site was used for during the period.12

Postwar years
After the war, the Alkaffs decided to return to their core business of trading, and thus sold away much of their property.13

In 1949, the Sennett Realty Company bought over Alkaff Lake Gardens for $2 million to develop the Sennett Estate. Because of public calls to preserve the park, some parts of the gardens remained after the housing project was completed. However, in 1964, the lake was filled and artificial hills were levelled to make way for the Willow Avenue Secondary School.14 The school was constructed on the main site of the garden and closed in 1991 owing to decreasing enrolment. The site has been occupied by Cedar Girls’ Secondary School since 1994.15

In 2015, the Housing Development Board launched new residential projects in Bidahari Park, which included a new Alkaff Lake named after the original Alkaff Lake Gardens.16

Gary Maurice Dwor-Frecaut

1. Ray K. Tyers and Siow Jin Hua, Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & Now (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993), 199 (Call no. RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS]); Dhoraisingam S. Samuel, Singapore’s Heritage: Through Places of Historical Interest (Singapore: Dhoraisingam S. Samuel, 2010), 19. (Call no. RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS])
2. Samuel, Singapore’s Heritage, 19.
3. G. Uma Devi, et al., Singapore’s 100 Historic Places (Singapore: Archipelago Press; National Heritage Board, 2002), 118. (Call no. RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
4. Samuel, Singapore’s Heritage, 19.
5. Devi, et al., Singapore’s 100 Historic Places, 118.
6. Devi, et al., Singapore’s 100 Historic Places, 118; Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 199; Winnie Tan, “This Was Once Singapore’s Largest Planned Housing Development: A History of Sennett Estate,” BiblioAsia 18, no. 2 (July–September 2022).
7. Roy Ferroa, “S’pore’s Forgotten Park,” Singapore Free Press, 20 April 1948, 2 (From NewspaperSG); Tan, “A History of Sennett Estate.”
8. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 199; Devi, et al., Singapore’s 100 Historic Places, 118.
9. Ferroa, “S’pore’s Forgotten Park.” 
10. Tan, “A History of Sennett Estate”; “Brighter Alkaff Gardens,” Straits Times, 17 September 1935, 12; “Alkaff Gardens Becoming a Popular Park,” Straits Times, 23 February 1936, 17(From NewspaperSG)
11. Ferroa, “S’pore’s Forgotten Park.”
12. Ferroa, “S’pore’s Forgotten Park.” 
13. Devi, et al., Singapore’s 100 Historic Places, 118; Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 199.
14. “On the Margin,” Straits Times, 21 July 1950, 6; “More Open Spaces —Not Less!” Straits Times, 26 July 1950, 6 (From NewspaperSG); Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 199.
15. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 199; Sandra Davie, “Some Schools In Older Housing Estates to Close,” Straits Times, 17 December 1990, 24; Leong Chan Teik, “Ng Teng Fong — in Dentist's Chair — Donates $17,000 for Clock,” Straits Times, 1 July 1994, 2; “Cedar Girls Move to New School Building They Worked Hard For,” Straits Times, 10 November 1994, 24(From NewspaperSG)
16. Yeo Sam Jo and Janice Heng, “New Bidadari Homes to Sit amid Lush Gardens,” Straits Times, 16 November 2015, 2(From NewspaperSG)

The information in this article is valid as of August 2023 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.



Historic sites--Singapore
Streets and Places
Parks and gardens