St George's Church

St George’s Church is an Anglican church located at Minden Road, off Holland Road, on the grounds of what were once the Tanglin Barracks.1 Built between 1910 and 1913 as a garrison church, the distinctive red brick building has a rich history dating back to the British colonial presence in Singapore. The church was gazetted as a national monument on 10 November 1978.

History
The Tanglin Barracks were established in 1861 to house British troops.3 Without a church nearby, services were held privately in the barracks.4 Between 1870 and 1890, a church was built within the grounds of the barracks, although the exact date and location are unknown.5 From 1871, a colonial chaplain conducted authorised services within the barracks.6

Standing on what was once a nutmeg plantation owned by Colonial Treasurer William E. Willans, the current St George’s Church was built to replace that former one.7 Construction began in 1910,8 and the church was completed and in use by September/October 1911.9 The new church was known as St George’s Garrison Church in its early years.10 The Reverend H. G. Marshall was the military chaplain stationed in Singapore from November 1911 to September 1914, followed by Reverend Basil Coleby Roberts from 1915 to 1919.11

During World War II, the Japanese used the premises as an ammunition depot.12 and the Chaplain’s Quarters became home to one of the Japanese commandants. The chaplain did not survive his incarceration as a prisoner-of-war (POW). The officers and men of the allied forces were interned in Changi and other POW camps. St George’s Church was restored following the war.13 A re-dedication ceremony was held on Remembrance Sunday, 10 November 1946.14

When British forces withdrew from Singapore on 25 October 1971, St George's Church was transferred to the Anglican Diocese of Singapore, thus becoming a civilian church.15 In 1973, it became a parish church in its own right.16 Bruce Winter served as its first full-time clergyman until 1978 when he was replaced by Bob Robinson.17

Features
St George’s Church was designed by William Henry Stanbury, a member of the Royal Engineers and a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects.18 Built with a seating capacity of 650, it is a fine example of classical Romanesque architecture.19 The style is reflected in the squat, compact shape of the church with its stone-vaulted naves and an absence of a tower or spire. It is also built suitable for a tropical colonial setting, with unplastered bricks and walls with gaps to allow sunlight and air to filter through.20

The bricks themselves form the detailing on the church, including the egg-and-dart moulding and dentil moulding. The egg-and-dart moulding detail refers to rows of eggs with arrowheads carved into the brick. “Dentil” meaning teeth in Latin, refers to the arches of bricks in the walls that create openings for air to flow through.21

Prior to the fall of Singapore to Japanese troops in 1942, the chaplain had packed away the church’s original stained glass windows for fear that they would be destroyed in the fighting. The chaplain died during the war, and an intensive search after the war failed to produce any clues to the whereabouts of the windows.22 Arthur Lane, a member of the Manchester Regiment stationed at a camp at the 10th milestone on Changi Road, reported witnessing the burial of the windows together with a collection of valuables in a pit at the back of the camp shortly before the fall of Singapore to the Japanese.23 In February 1992, a team led by Lane excavated a site along Upper Changi Road but did not find the windows. The location of the glass windows remains unknown.24

In the early 1950s, a church sub-committee commissioned Gordon M. Webster of Glasgow, Scotland to design and make a new set of stained glass windows.25 On 10 July 1955, new windows bearing the image of Christ and the badges of various regiments were installed and unveiled.26 The central panel of glass shows the figure of Christ with his right hand raised in benediction, and holding a Bible in his left hand.27 The words "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" appear at the base. The left window shows the badges of, among others, the Gurkha Regiment, the King’s African Rifles, and the Malay Police, while the right displays the badges of the Malay Regiment, Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps, and the Arms of Singapore.28

The church’s lych gate was built in 1942 by members of the British 18th Division Royal Engineers interred at Changi for the Changi Camp Cemetery. When the graves were exhumed and moved to Kranji War Cemetery, the gate was moved to St George’s Church.29 With the withdrawal of British forces from Singapore in 1971, the gate was sent to Britain and located at the Queen’s Division Depot at Hertfordshire, England. A replica of the gate now stands as the original gate did in front of the church.30



Authors

Vernon Cornelius & Joanna HS Tan



References
1. “Saint George’s Church,” National Heritage Board, accessed 3 March 2017; Beauty Amidst Quiet Dignity,” Straits Times, 13 December 1981, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
2. National Heritage Board, “Saints George’s Church”; Edmund Teo, “Three More Religious Buildings Preserved,” Straits Times, 13 November 1978, 9; Amelia Teng, “Church with Two Beginnings,” Straits Times, 8 November 2011, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
3. David Jones and Anna Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years: Saint George’s Church (Singapore: Straits Times Press, 2012), 14. (Call no. RSING 283.5957 JON)
4. Teng, “Church with Two Beginnings.”
5. National Heritage Board, “Saint’s George’s Church”; “Beauty Amidst Quiet Dignity”; “The Tanglin Barracks,” (1971, October 29). New Nation, 29 October 1971,  9 (From NewspaperSG); Teng, “Church with Two Beginnings”; “About Us,” St George’s Church, accessed 3 March 2017.
6. National Heritage Board, “Saints George’s Church.”
7. J. B. Hattendorf and Peter Keys, “Story of St George’s Church, Tanglin,” Straits Times, 16 February 1985, 2; Teng, “Church with Two Beginnings”; Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 14.
8. Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 16.
9. Saint George’s Church, “Our History.”
10. National Heritage Board, “Saint’s George’s Church.”
11. “Bishop Coleby Roberts,” Malaya Tribune, 19 August 1927, 4; St. Andrew’s Cathedral. Straits Times, 4 September 1914, 8 (From NewspaperSG); Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 20.
12. Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 23; National Heritage Board, “Saint’s George’s Church”; “Beauty Amidst Quiet Dignity”; “Church with Two Beginnings.”
13. Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 23; “Church with Two Beginnings.”
14. Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 23; National Heritage Board, “Saint’s George’s Church.”
15. Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 32; Hattendorf and Keys, “Story of St George’s Church, Tanglin”; Saint George’s Church, “Our History”; Teng, “Church with Two Beginnings.”
16. National Heritage Board, “Saint’s George’s Church.”
17. Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 34, 38.
18. Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 65; National Heritage Board, “Saint’s George’s Church”; Hattendorf and Keys, “Story of St George’s Church, Tanglin.”
19. Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 65; National Heritage Board, “Saint’s George’s Church”; “The Basilica Tradition,” St George’s Church, accessed 3 March 2017.
20. Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 66; Teng, “Church with Two Beginnings.”
21. “A Deliberate Design,” St George’s Church, 3 March 2017.
22. National Heritage Board, “Saint’s George’s Church”; “The Church with Missing Windows,” Straits Times, 27 July 2002, 7 (From NewspaperSG); Teo, “Three More Religious Buildings Preserved,” “Beauty Amidst Quiet Dignity”; Hattendorf and Keys, “Story of St George’s Church, Tanglin.”
23. Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 66; ”Phan Min Yen, “Mystery Dig by Foreign Group at Changi,” Straits Times, 6 February 1992, 3. (From NewpaperSG)
24. Phan, “Mystery Dig by Foreign Group at Changi.”
25. National Heritage Board, “Saint’s George’s Church”; Hattendorf and Keys, “Story of St George’s Church, Tanglin”; Teng, “Church with Two Beginnings.”
26. Hattendorf and Keys, “Story of St George’s Church, Tanglin”; Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 79.
27. Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 79.
28. National Heritage Board, “Saint’s George’s Church”; Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 79.
29. National Heritage Board, “Saint’s George’s Church”; “Lych Gate Given a Permanent Home,” (1952, December 12). Straits Times, 12 December 1952, 5; Teng, “Church with Two Beginnings.”
30. Teng, “Church with Two Beginnings.”



The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Anglican church building--Singapore
Monuments--Singapore
Singapore--History--1867-1942
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Historic Buildings
Historic buildings--Singapore
Religious buildings
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Religious Buildings
Arts>>Architecture>>Religious buildings
Historic buildings