Bukit Merah: History

11 February 2007

Keppel Harbour
Keppel Harbour has a rich history dating back to the 14th century when an ancient Chinese sailor Wang Dayuan named the harbour as Long-Ya-Men (meaning Dragon's Teeth Gate) after the 2 huge pointed rocks located near Labrador Park, which resembles dragon's teeth. The PSA blasts off the 2 rocks to improve navigation in August 1848. Today, there is a replica of the rocks at the coast of Labrador Park.

Ships that visited the port included Chinese Junks, Bugis and Thai boats that brought goods such as earthenware, paper, flour, Chinese medicines, cloth, rice and spices. Most of these commodities were then exported in different directions and so began Singapore's entrepot trade much as it is today.

As entrepot trade flourished, Singapore River became overcrowded with lighters and the quays did not have enough port facilities to cope with the increased trade activities. Thus, a new deep harbour was built in 1852 at the south coast of Singapore where steamships and large sailing ships could sail to the shore without scraping the seabed. The building of wharves, storehouses, coal sheds, repair docks and its ideal location where Sentosa and Pulau Brani sheltered the harbour from strong winds and big waves make it easier and faster for ships to load and unload goods, refuel and repairs.

As it was very expensive to build and run modern port facilities, small companies with wharves at Keppel Harbour sold their wharves and dock facilities to the Tanjong Pagar Dock Company. But by the beginning of the 20th Century, the number of ships using Keppel Harbour had increased so greatly that only the government could supply the huge amount of money needed to further improved port facilities. This leads to the acquisition of Tanjong Pagar Dock Company in 1905.

In 1912, the government set up the Singapore Harbour Board to make more improvements, including land reclamation to enlarge the port area. New wharves with concrete structures, larger docks, storehouses, machine shops, railway system were also built. The use of modern machinery also increased speed of work and saved human labour, providing better and faster services in the handling of goods from ships.

Mount Faber
Mount Faber was formerly called Telok Blangah Hill. This name was changed to Mount Faber after Superintending Engineer Captain Edward Faber cut the road up to the top in 1845 to establish a signal station. Today, the road winds its way as a one-way route from Kampong Bahru Road, past several colonial houses before reaching the peak.

After the 1857 Indian Mutiny, works were carried out to turn Mount Faber into a fort, but was never completed with only some granite emplacements for guns constructed halfway up the hill.

Urbanization by Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT)
As the district is located at the immediate outskirt of the City, several estates are constructed by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT).

Henderson Estate was constructed by the SIT in 1928. This is followed by Tiong Bahru Estate in 1936. Kampong Silat Estate was built in 1948, while Delta Estate was developed in 1950 and Redhill Estate in 1951. Alexandra South Estate was constructed in 1951 while Alexandra North Estate was developed in 1952. Brickworks Estate, the last SIT estate in the area was developed in 1954.

Redevelopment by Housing & Development Board (HDB)
Estates constructed by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) generally consist of single-storey artisan terraces or low-rise blocks. This was deemed as wastage as almost all SIT estates are located within or near the edge of the City. Most of these estates were redeveloped by the Housing & Development Board in the 1960s to optimize utilisation of valuable land. Henderson Estate was redeveloped by HDB in 1966, followed by Redhill Estate in 1964 and Delta Estate in 1969.

At the same time, HDB started to cleared slums at the area and constructed new estates. Alexandra Hill Estate was developed at the end of 1960, while Covent Garden Estate was constructed in 1971. Kampong Tiong Bahru Estate was built on the fire site and completed in 1961. Similarly, Bukit Ho Swee Estate was completed within nine months from the outbreak of the infamous Bukit Ho Swee fire.

Telok Blangah New Town
Telok Blangah means Cooking Pot Bay in Malay, after the shape of Keppel Harbour. Blangah is a clay cooking pot used by southern Indians. Telok Blangah was where Bugis traders stopped off in the early 1800s to await the southwest monsoon to carry their ships back to Celebes. The Raffles' Town Plan 1823 resettled the Temenggong's Village from the north bank of Singapore River to Telok Blangah.

Telok Blangah is the 3rd New Town build by Housing & Development Board (HDB) in 1972. As proposed by the 1971 Master Plan, Telok Blangah will form a segment of the Western Technology Corridor. Telok Blangah New Town is characterized with an unique undulating natural terrain of the Southern Ridges. Plans include developing part of the town into a parkland with various tourist attractions along the ridges. Telok Blangah is also the first town in Singapore to be completely served by a closed conduit drainage system, which not only gives the environment a neater appearance but also more significantly enhance public hygiene.

Bukit Merah Amalgamated Town
Bukit Merah is an amalgamated town make up of 12 original SIT/HDB Estates, namely Henderson Estate, Tiong Bahru Estate, Kampong Silat Estate, Delta Estate, Redhill Estate, Alexandra South Estate, Alexandra North Estate, Brickworks Estate, Alexandra Hill Estate, Covent Garden Estate, Kampong Tiong Bahru Estate and Bukit Ho Swee Estate; and 1 New Town, Telok Blangah New Town.

Under the 1979 "Estate-Conglomerates Plan", small estates are amalgamated to form an amalgamated town. The plan allows better urban planning and provision of facilities commonly found in New Towns. The plan would also streamline and improve management efficiency. This is especially important as several old estates are only the size of 1 modern precinct.

As such, Redhill Estate, Henderson Estate, Brickworks Estate, Alexandra Hill Estate, Alexandra North Estate and Alexandra South Estate merge to form Redhill Town. Tiong Bahru Town incorporates Tiong Bahru Estate, Kampong Tiong Bahru Estate, Kampong Silat Estate, Bukit Ho Swee Estate, Delta Estate and Covent Garden Estate.

Under the 1985 revised "Estate-Conglomerates Plan", Telok Blangah New Town, Redhill and Tiong Bahru amalgamated towns are further streamlined to form the present Bukit Merah town.

The boundaries of some estates are reconfigured to form new neighbourhood.

After the amalgamation, several redevelopment projects are carried out in Bukit Merah.

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