Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Night Heritage Walk at Singapore Night Festival

Singapore Night Festival is coming. It will occur during the last 2 Fridays and Saturdays of this month. 7pm to 2am.
"The eighth installation of the iconic alternative night-time extravaganza of arts, culture and revelry returns to the Bras Basah.Bugis precinct with free spectacular performances, light installations and a multitude of activities for all to enjoy! In celebration of Singapore’s 50th birthday, visitors can look forward to an exciting line-up that will transform the festival grounds into a constellation of glittering local and international acts against the night sky."
                 ~ quoted from Singapore Night Festival website.

I strongly recommend the Night Heritage Walk. Fort Canning offers a beautiful captivating view at night if you were to climb on top of the hill. Be sure to bring along a strong torchlight and insect repellent. Do go as a group for safety reason as Fort Canning at night is pretty dark. If you have keen on the heritage of Fort Canning, this is one opportunity to go as a group. You may want to sign up here. Below is recollection of the trail I had taken last year. I used flashlight to capture only 2 of the structures because they are too dark to be seen.

History of Fort Canning

Fort Canning Hill was originally known as Bukit Larangan, which means “Forbidden Hill” in Malay. The locals believed the hill was the site of burial grounds and palaces built by the ancestral kings of the 14th century, and thus were forbidden to ascend the hill. When Raffles arrived, he set up his residence and the government house on the hill, as it provided a clear view of the port city. This gave the hill the name “Government Hill”.

In 1859, a decision was made to convert the hill into a military site. A fort was built, and named after Viscount Charles John Canning, Governor-general of India. “Fort Canning” subsequently became synonymous with the hill. The decision to surrender Singapore to the Japanese on 15th February 1942 was made here at the Battle Box but all the bad decisions prior to surrender were made at the headquarter at Sime Road Camp before the Allied army retreated to Fort Canning.

Now, most of the fort is gone. Only remnants remains. The place is now a park for visitors to enjoy.

Fort Canning Green

Did you know Fort Canning Green used to be a cemetery? It is the second cemetery site on Fort Canning. It used to have up to 600 graves. Some are prominent people such as George Dromgold Coleman, the first Government Superintendent of Public Works in Singapore. (He designed numerous buildings in Singapore, including the Armenian Church and the second Telok Ayer Market. Coleman Street was named after him.) Many of these graves were exhumed. Today, Fort Canning Green is a venue for celebrations, playing host to concerts, theatre productions and festivals. 

12 gravestones relocated from Bukit Timah Hill Cemetery.

One of the Gothic Gates constructed in 1846, entrance of the Fort Canning Green. There are 2 of them on the ground. The letters “IHS” were inscribed onto both gates. They stand for “Iota Heta Sigm”, the first three letters of the Greek word for “Jesus”.

Right to Left: Former Fort Canning Centre (now Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris), Memorial to James Brooke Napier and Cupolas. The Cupulas are designed by George Coleman too.
Interested to see the evidence that the site was a cemetery? Look at the walls surrounding Fort Canning Green. See whether you can find the headstone of George Coleman.
Majority of the gravestones, memorial and inscription plaques had been removed and set in the cemetery’s walls.

Silhouette of tree against the evening sky
Keramat Iskandar Shah

This keramat belongs to  Iskanda Shah, also known as Parameswara, the fifth and last Raja of Singapura. According to the Sejarah Melayu (the Malay Annals), he was the great-great-grandson of Sang Nila Utama, the founder of the Kingdom of Singapura (Singapore's previous name). When the kingdom of Majapahit launched an attack on Singapura. Iskandar Shah fled to Malacca, where he founded a new settlement and became its first ruler. As he had died at Malacca,  It is believed that his body is never buried on this ground.
The keramat
9-Pound Cannon  and the South Battery

This is one of the pair of 9-pound cannons, which was part of a series of artillery installed in Fort Canning. However, they were never used in combat. Instead, the cannon was fired 3 times a day to announce the time at 5 am, 1pm and 9pm. It was also used as an alarm system for town fires. The fort was demolished in 1907.

The Lighthouse, Time Ball, Flag Staff and Raffles House (Maritime Corner)
Pardon me for only showing you the lighthouse, because only the photo of it came out best. All these are replica, it's a pity the original are no longer here. Look at the captivating scenery I have took.

Before land reclamation took place, Fort Canning Hill was near the shoreline and was very visible from the sea. A lighthouse was built in 1902 to guide ships into the harbour along Singapore River. The lighthouse ceased operations in 1958 when high-rise buildings in the vicinity blocked it from view. It was replaced by an electric-powered light on top of the Fullerton Building, but that light has ceased operation since 1979 with more reclamation and developments in the southern coastline of Singapore. The lighthouse moved to the top of condominium in Bedok. Even that will cease operation soon. Another lighthouse is built on top of No. 3 Marine Terrace to take over it. This continues the list of lighthouses built on Singapore mainland. The other 4 lighthouses are offshore.

The original flagstaff was a wooden structure, and was erected in 1825. The flagstaff provided numerous signals and information, such as the arrival of ships and the conditions on the ships.

The Time Ball was originally erected on Fort Canning to keep time. It would be raised at 12:55pm daily, and then dropped at 1pm. This allowed everyone living in the vicinity to synchronise their clocks and watches with the time announced by the Time Ball.

The residence for Sir Stamford Raffles, known as Raffles House, was built here. In the past, it had a clear view of the settlement around Singapore River. It was subsequently known as Government House. The House is opened for functions and events. I had seen a wedding taken place at this very building with my family. 

Part of Singapore River can be spotted here

Wall sculpture
Fort Gate, Fort Wall and Sally Port

Perhaps the most fun part of the trail is climbing up the fort gate and walking through Sally Port. At
least, that was how I feel.

In 1859, a decision was made to convert the hill into a Fort. It was completed in 1861, and included a strong wall that surrounded the summit of the hill. A moat also ran around the wall. Today, the moat has completely disappeared, together with most of the Fort Wall. Only the Fort Gate and a fragment of the wall remain today.

If you want, you may want to try pushing the any one of the gate doors. They are pretty heavy. You can also climb up the narrow stair way to the top of the gate and have a view from the top.

There used to be 3 sally ports where troops could escape from enemies undetected. However, only one remains. This is located near the fort gate. It is slightly disappointing to me because I had imagine it to be a long, mysterious tunnel. haha...
Top of Fort Gate
All in all, the night experience in Fort Canning is fun. Do register with NParks if you are interested. Sending the link here again for your easy reference. Details of Singapore Night Festival can be found here.

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  1. Very nice series of photos.
    Thank you for sharing at


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