Exploring Labrador & Alexandra with My Community
My Community has recently launched the Labrador & Alexandra tour – adding another strong place and community heritage narrative to their growing list of well received tours including the Commonwealth & Holland Village, Dawson & Alexandra, and Tanglin Halt & Alexandra heritage tours. Labrador & Alexandra centres on tales leading to the fall of Singapore and follows the advancement of the Imperial Japanese Army from the Labrador battle to the devastating Alexandra Hospital massacre during World War II.
The four-hour-long tour covers wide-ranging themes from natural history, military and maritime history to early modern industry in Singapore. Participants trek across four hills and visit remnants of military installations, maritime replicas and relics, and witness first-hand how adaptive reuse has transformed former military barracks and housing into a contemporary arts hub and a for-lease-only black-and-white bungalow estate.
Participants first trek through the remains of Fort Pasir Panjang that have been dwarfed by the green cover at Labrador Nature Reserve. The fort was a defence battery constructed to defend the western entrance to Keppel Harbour, one of the contributing factors to early Singapore’s entrepot trade success. Labrador was a strategic vantage point of the western anchorage and some of the southern islands. Plans to fortify its coast began as early as in 1843. By 1878, military installations including bunkers, underground tunnels and gun batteries were built.
Labrador was one of the five designated nature reserves legally protected under the Nature Reserve Ordinance 1951 – the predecessor of the existing National Parks Act. Besides its depository of war relics, Labrador is also home to rich biodiversity with 60 recorded bird species, 19 fish species and 14 true mangrove plant species.
For 700 years, Keppel Harbour was synonymous to the development of Singapore’s maritime economy. Labrador & Alexandra presents two navigational markers of different eras. The 7.5 metre replica of Long Ya Men (or Dragon’s Teeth Gate) stands close to a disused 1930 Berlayer Beacon. Long Ya Men (first documented by Chinese maritime explorer Wang Da Yuan) was originally a pair of granite outcrops that was used by many sailors as a gateway to Keppel Harbour. The comparatively modern Berlayer Beacon emitted signal lights and served as a navigational guide for ships and boats approaching the harbour.
Lesser-known and less accessible than Gillman Barracks, Alexandra Barracks was constructed in the early 1900s to provide military facilities and accommodation. Officers’ accommodation was built to the west at Alexandra Park while military facilities were built on the east of Alexandra Road. Earliest houses in the estate were dated to the 1900s and were occupied by high-ranking military officials and later senior medical staff of the Royal Army Medical Corps who worked at the Alexandra Military Hospital.
Industry was boosted in Singapore with the construction of the Alexandra Industrial Estate between 1930 and 1959. It was one of the first two industrial estates planned by the British to generate employment and reduce Singapore’s reliance on entrepot trade. Labrador & Alexandra brings participants to the last-standing structure of the former Archipelago Brewery Company, Singapore’s second brewery. Highlights include encounters with former long-serving employees at the industrial estate and long-time business owners and residents at the neighbouring Alexandra Village.
Labrador & Alexandra is a heritage tour that is organised by My Community and supported by the National Heritage Board and Lee Foundation. As a civic group that champions community heritage, My Community presents a blend of researched history, sociocultural memories and rich personal stories from businesses and residents.
Interested participants can register for the free guided Labrador & Alexandra tour on the second and fourth Saturday of each month, at www.myqueenstown.eventbrite.sg.