- Fort Canning
Fort Canning (zh-cp|c=福康宁|p=Fúkāngníng, Malay: "Bukit Larangan") is a small
hillin the southeast portion of the island city-stateof Singapore, within the Central Areathat forms Singapore's central business district. Although small in physical size, it has a long history intertwined with that of the city-state due to its location as the highest elevation within walking distance to the city's civic district within the Downtown Core.
The hill was recorded as Bukit Larangan prior to the arrival of
Stamford Rafflesin 1819, which means "Forbidden Hill" in Malay. Raffles was told of how local settlers were wary of ascending the hill as they believed it was the site of palaces built by their ancestral kings. The Keramat Iskandar Shahat the foot of the hill was believed to be the resting place of the last Malay king of the island, and was venerated by Muslims.
When some of the vegetation was removed, ruins of ancient brick buildings were revealed, validating these folk legends. Little could be known from these ruins, however, or that of the hill's ancient history. Contemporary archaeological
excavationhas, however, built up more evidence of its role, and that of Singapore as a whole. Relics were uncovered on the hill suggesting the existence of a regional trading hub prior to their destruction by invading foreign forces since the 14th century, and the possible site of the hill as the centre of this trading post.
ettlement and fortification
Impressed by the historic significance of the hill, and the commanding view it offered over the colony he had established, Raffles built his first residence on the hill. A keen
botanist, he also built Singapore's first botanical gardenthere in 1822. The residence served as the colony's governors, thus subsequently earning the name Government Hill.
By late 1859, increased security concerns led to the hill taking on a military role with the demolition of the governor's residence, and the building of a
fortwith an arms store, barracks and a hospital. The fort was named Fort Canning after Viscount Charles John Canning, who was then Governor-Generaland the first Viceroy of India. Government Hill was thus named after the fort, and has remained so ever since even after the end of its military role more than a century later.
British Army, the fort served as the headquarters of the Singapore Base Districtuntil the spread of World War IIinto the Asia Pacificin 1941. In February 1942, Lieutenant-General Arthur Ernest Percivalestablished his command post of the Malayan Commandat the fort in his ill-fated attempts to defend the island from the invading Japanese forces. The Japanese also used the fort for its military until the end of the occupation in 1945, whereby the British army resumed control. The bunker is now a visitor attraction known as The Battle Box.
As the island moved towards self-determination, the British handed over control of the fort to the Singaporean military in 1963, and was home to the headquarters of the
4th Malaysian Infantry Brigadeuntil December 1966 when it was in turn handed over to the Singapore Armed Forces. The SAF proceeded to build the Singapore Command and Staff Collegeon the fort, which officially opened on 13 February 1970.
Fort Canning today
parkoverlooking Orchard Roadand set in the heart of the Civic and Cultural District of Singapore, Fort Canning offers a variety of recreationalactivities, historical, educational, entertainmentand culturalexperiences. The park also serves as an important green lung for Singapore's downtown city area. The unique blend of historical relics, lush greenery and expansive lawns has made Fort Canning a hub of cultural and artisticactivity. It has been a venue of choice for staging a myriad of outdoor events and activities like theatre carnivals, artfestivals, starlight cinemasand "Ballet Under the Stars" performances. WOMAD, Singapore's largest musicfestival, has been a regular feature of the park's calendar of events since 1998. The Fort Canning Tunnelpasses directly under the hill.
* Spice Garden: The garden is a
replicaof the first experimental botanic gardenin Singapore established by Sir Stamford Raffles. Raffles had noble ambitions for Singapore's agriculturaldevelopment, and had sent from Bencoolenspices like cloveplants and nutmegseeds to be planted in the garden.
* Gothic Gates: These imposing and sombre gateways in gothic style lead the visitor into Fort Canning Green, where a
Christian cemeteryused to stand. Built in 1846, these gates have since become a landmarkof Fort Canning Hill. The letters above both gates - IHS - standing for "Iota Heta Sigm", the first three letters of the Greek word for Jesus.
* Fort Canning Green: The frequent outdoor
concerts and carnivals now held at Fort Canning Green belie the fact that the area was once a graveyardfor some 600 Christian graves. The only graves left are at the far end of the Green (near the DramaCentre). Some tombstones that were removed were set into the walls surrounding Fort Canning Green.
* Cupolas: The
cupolas, designed by George Drumgoole Coleman, were probably places of rest. The word 'cupola' means a small dome-shaped roofor ceiling. George Coleman was a talented architectwho left his mark on the urban landscape of Singapore. He was Raffles' consultant on Singapore's first town plan. As Superintendent of Public Works, he oversaw projects of land reclamationand construction of roads and landmarks such as the Armenian Church.
* James Brooke Napier Memorial: Dedicated to
James Brooke Napier, the infant son of William Napier, who was Singapore's first LawAgent, and Maria Frances Napier, the widow of George Coleman. The memorial was the largest erected in the cemetery, reflecting the status of William Napier.
* Fort Canning Centre: The Fort Canning Centre used to be the
barracksof the British Army. The British Army chose Fort Canning as its headquarters of its defence bases in the 1920s to protect British interests in Southeast Asia. It is now the home of the Singapore Dance Theatre.
* Underground Far East Command Centre (
The Battle Box): During the Second World War, Lieutenant General Arthur Ernest Percival(Commander of British Forces) used the underground bunkersat Fort Canning as his commanding base.
* Sally Port: The sally port is a small hidden door that leads into or out of a
fort, allowing occupants to escape from the fort undetected. Fort Canning had at least three sally ports but only one remains today.
* Fort Wall and Gate: Raffles, in a letter to
William Farquharin 1819, on the suitability of building a fortresson Government Hill: " "…On the hill overlooking the Settlement, and commanding it and a considerable portion of the anchorage, a small Fort, capable of mounting 8 or 10 pounders and of containing a magazine off brick or stone, together with a barrack for the permanent residence of 30 European artillery, and of temporary accommodation of the rest of the garrison in case of emergency."
* 9-Pound Cannon: One of a pair of
cannons that was meant to shoot 9-pound cannon balls. Playing a decorative role rather than a defensive one, the cannon was fired three times a day at 5 a.m., 1 p.m., and 9 p.m. to announce the hour. It was also fired as a saluteand warning of town fires. Next to the cannon is South Battery, the site at which the main battery of guns was mounted to defend Singapore in the 19th century.
* Raffles' House: Raffles built his house on Government Hill on his third and last visit to Singapore. "We have lately built a small bungalow on Singapore Hill where, though the height is inconsiderable, we find a great difference in climate. Nothing can be more interesting and beautiful than the view from this spot. The tombs of the Malay Kings are close at hand, and I have settled that if it is my fate to die here I shall take my place amongst them: this will at any rate be better than leaving my bones at Bencoolen…" - Raffles in a letter to
William Marsdenin 1823.
* Keramat Iskandar Shah: Keramat Iskandar Shah is a sacred place dedicated to Iskandar Shah (also known as
Parameswarabefore he converted to Islam), the last ruler of 14th century Singapore before he fled to Melakato escape an attack from the Siamese. Although named after him, scholars thought that the keramat could not be Iskandar Shah's tombas he had died in Melaka.
* Archaeological Excavation Site: In 1984,
archaeologist John Miksicand his team began an archaeological excavation that continues until today. Among the artefacts recovered were porcelain, earthenwareand glassshards. These artefacts show that there could have been a Malay kingdom on Fort Canning Hill, with possibility of glass and goldworkshops.
Fort Canning Reservoir
* [http://www.mindef.gov.sg/imindef/about_us/history/birth_of_saf/v03n02_history.html Military history of Fort Canning]
* [http://www.nparks.gov.sg/park37.asp Fort Canning Park]
* [http://newshub.nus.edu.sg/ke/0104/articles/sghistory.htm Digging up Singapore's history]
* [http://itclub.vs.moe.edu.sg/cyberfair2003/landmarks/fortcanning.html Historical landmarks]
* [http://www.spi.com.sg/haunted/ghoulish_trial/main02.htm The Ghoulish Trail]
* [http://www.singaporedancetheatre.com/ Singapore Dance Theatre at the Fort Canning Centre]
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