Singapore River Bridges – Our Nation’s 73rd National Monument

The Singapore River Bridges – Cavenagh, Anderson and Elgin Bridges – were gazetted and accorded the highest level of protection, as part of the National Heritage Board’s (NHB) ongoing efforts to preserve and safeguard Singapore’s built heritage. Following their collective gazette, the bridges will continue to be used for daily business, even as they are protected from the future redevelopment.

The gazette was officiated by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), who said, “The gazette is especially meaningful as it takes place during Singapore’s Bicentennial. The Singapore River Bridges have witnessed the progress of our nation over the past two centuries. As we preserve these tangible markers of our identity, we should also pass on the stories and memories of these bridges to our younger generation. This is part of Our SG Heritage Plan to safeguard Singapore’s tangible heritage while promoting greater awareness and appreciation of our National Monuments.” 

At the event, Minister Fu also launched NHB’s new Milestones Through Monuments programme that the public can participate in to relive and experience moments of Singapore’s history at our National Monuments. She also announced that a new tranche of S$15 million will be made available to help eligible monument owners co-fund upcoming restoration projects under the National Monuments Fund.

Singapore River Bridges – Why The Significance

Recognised as the three most historic and architecturally impressive bridges spanning the Singapore River, the Cavenagh, Anderson and Elgin Bridges illustrate Singapore’s growth as a trading port and city. With their strategic locations at the mouth of the Singapore River, the bridges symbolically connected Singapore with the world as they facilitated trade and transport links that were necessary for the growth of Singapore in the 19th century. Together, the bridges eliminated the need for boatmen to ferry passengers across the river by linking the south bank of the river with the north – serving the critical function of connecting the mercantile and commercial side with government offices located on the north bank of the river. This also allowed people to move conveniently between the two districts.

The Singapore River Bridges also represent the progressive technological advancements in bridge construction from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries. Built decades apart, Cavenagh Bridge’s use of cast iron in 1869, Anderson Bridge’s use of steel in 1909 and Elgin Bridge’s use of reinforced concrete in 1929 showcase the rapid development in new materials, industrial technology and shipping trade. They are also a testament to how Singapore was part of the larger, global story of the industrial revolution and technological advancement.

As the structures of all three bridges were manufactured in Britain before they were shipped to Singapore, the bridges indicate Singapore’s relationship of trade and collaboration with Britain back then. The Cavenagh and Anderson bridges were also designed by prominent British engineers in consultation with their counterparts here. This relationship is reflected in the gazette date of 15 October 2019, to commemorate 200 years since the founding of Singapore as a trading post by Sir Stamford Raffles, and in celebration of the diplomatic ties between the United Kingdom and Singapore. The date of 15 October was also chosen as it harks back to 15 October 1965 when Singapore officially became a Commonwealth nation.

Singapore River Bridges – New Milestones Through Monuments Programme

In conjunction with the gazette of the Singapore River Bridges, NHB also launched its new Milestones Through Monuments programme, which aims to showcase the roles our National Monuments played during significant periods in Singapore’s history, and raise greater awareness of our iconic national treasures. Its inaugural edition will kick off with the Singapore River Bridges given Singapore’s Bicentennial commemoration this year, and take place from 15 to 28 October 2019. It will offer specially commissioned installations on the Singapore River Bridges that will cast the spotlight on the newly gazetted bridges, and invite Singaporeans on a journey to relive and rediscover moments of Singapore’s history through our National Monuments.

The specially commissioned installations on each of the three Singapore River Bridges include: supersized origami boats on Cavenagh Bridge, inspired by the many boats that plied the Singapore River in the past, which showcase the stories of early immigrants in Singapore; a reconstructed tram on Anderson bridge which features the various modes of transport that used to run across it; and a past and present juxtaposition of the iconic Singapore River along Elgin Bridge.

The installations on Cavenagh and Anderson Bridges are done by creative director Danny C. Wijaya, while the installation on Elgin Bridge is presented by local artist Yip Yew Chong. Gavin MacLellan, the great-great-grandson of Walter MacLellan (the co-founder of Glasgow-based engineering firm P&W MacLellan which manufactured the cast-iron structure of Cavenagh Bridge back in the day), will also be giving a talk on the history behind the impressive structure and how it represents the technological advancement of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Singapore River Bridges  – New Tranche of National Monuments Fund Funding

As NHB continues to safeguard and commemorate our tangible heritage, a key aspect of this work includes partnering National Monument owners and the community to upkeep our National Monuments. Hence, to further support eligible monument owners, a fresh tranche of funding for restoration projects will be made available through the National Monuments Fund (NMF), as announced by Minister Fu. The new tranche of S$15 million – the third since the NMF was first launched in 2008, will be dedicated to the NMF’s Restoration Fund1 category to support restoration works at National Monuments.

Administered by NHB’s Preservation of Sites and Monuments (PSM) division, the NMF aims to aid eligible monument owners – namely non-profit or religious National Monuments – in the restoration and maintenance of our built heritage. First introduced in 2008 with S$5 million, the NMF was given a second round of funding in 2015 amounting to S$11.77 million to better serve the evolving needs of Singapore’s National Monuments and their owners. This will be the third tranche to the grant, and its largest to date.

Minister Fu added, “Singapore’s heritage belongs to every Singaporean. We hope our communities will join us in playing a part to preserve and promote our heritage. Through the National Monuments Fund, the Government will continue to support restoration efforts and work together with monument owners to ensure that these landmarks of our heritage will continue to be well-preserved for the future.”

All images used in the article are credited to NHB Singapore

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