Exploring Labrador & Alexandra with My Community

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.

The remains of the stone-faced walls of the old Fort Pasir Panjang that were constructed in 1886.

The remains of the stone-faced walls of the old Fort Pasir Panjang that were constructed in 1886.

Fort Pasir Panjang, - with military emplacements, pill boxes, ammunition stores and living spaces for soldiers - was one of eleven coast artillery forts built by the British in the 19th century to defend Singapore’s waters.

Fort Pasir Panjang, – with military emplacements, pill boxes, ammunition stores and living spaces for soldiers – was one of eleven coast artillery forts built by the British in the 19th century to defend Singapore’s waters.

The casemate at Labrador served as an ammunition store and a shelter for soldiers stationed at the fort.

The casemate at Labrador served as an ammunition store and a shelter for soldiers stationed at the fort.

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.

A volunteer guide with My Community stops to point out a Gelam tree. This tree is used in traditional medicine to treat ailments such as asthma and rheumatism. Kampong Glam (Kampong Gelam) is believed to have been named after the Gelam tree.

A volunteer guide with My Community stops to point out a Gelam tree. This tree is used in traditional medicine to treat ailments such as asthma and rheumatism. Kampong Glam (Kampong Gelam) is believed to have been named after the Gelam tree.

A Malayan water monitor creeping at the Berlayer Creek. Berlayer Creek comprises three types of natural habitats including mangroves, rocky shore and mudflats and is home to a myriad of flora and fauna.

A Malayan water monitor creeping at the Berlayer Creek. Berlayer Creek comprises three types of natural habitats including mangroves, rocky shore and mudflats and is home to a myriad of flora and fauna.

Labrador was one of five designated nature reserves when the Nature Reserve Ordinance was enacted in 1951.

Labrador was one of five designated nature reserves when the Nature Reserve Ordinance was enacted in 1951.

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.

A replica of Long Ya Men at Labrador. The original Long Ya Men was destroyed by Straits Settlement Surveyor, John Thomson, in 1848 to widen the channel for larger vessels to sail through.

A replica of Long Ya Men at Labrador. The original Long Ya Men was destroyed by Straits Settlement Surveyor, John Thomson, in 1848 to widen the channel for larger vessels to sail through.

The disused 1930 Berlayer Beacon was shifted to this present-day location. It was originally situated on an outcrop at the southernmost end of Labrador Park and served as a navigational guide.

The disused 1930 Berlayer Beacon was shifted to this present-day location. It was originally situated on an outcrop at the southernmost end of Labrador Park and served as a navigational guide.

Anglers at the shoreline of the Labrador promenade.

Anglers at the shoreline of the Labrador promenade.

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.

An Art Deco-styled bungalow constructed in 1933 by the Public Works Department.

An Art Deco-styled bungalow constructed in 1933 by the Public Works Department.

The former Officers’ Mess for Gillman Barracks at 10 Hyderabad Road, which housed offices for the Dental Health Education Unit in 1973 and later the Institute of Dental Health in 1975. Today the compound is occupied by the S P Jain School of Global Management but the gates of the former Institute of Dental Health remain.

The former Officers’ Mess for Gillman Barracks at 10 Hyderabad Road, which housed offices for the Dental Health Education Unit in 1973 and later the Institute of Dental Health in 1975. Today the compound is occupied by the S P Jain School of Global Management but the gates of the former Institute of Dental Health remain.

This country cottage-styled house at 394 Alexandra Road was believed to be a family home for an official of the former Malayan Railway. According to the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the band of brick skirting around the building base and its chimney gives an impression of the 1930s country cottage.

This country cottage-styled house at 394 Alexandra Road was believed to be a family home for an official of the former Malayan Railway. According to the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the band of brick skirting around the building base and its chimney gives an impression of the 1930s country cottage.

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.

Mr Ng Moey Moey, 79 years old, stands at the site of the former Archipelago Brewery Company. He worked in the brewery’s boiler room for 38 years. The brewery was Singapore’s second brewery when it opened in 1933 and produced the popular Anchor Beer, which outsold Tiger Beer then. Mr Ng shared that he was happy to work at the brewery because of its employee welfare and good work culture.

Mr Ng Moey Moey, 79 years old, stands at the site of the former Archipelago Brewery Company. He worked in the brewery’s boiler room for 38 years. The brewery was Singapore’s second brewery when it opened in 1933 and produced the popular Anchor Beer, which outsold Tiger Beer then. Mr Ng shared that he was happy to work at the brewery because of its employee welfare and good work culture.

ABC Birds Centre, one of the pioneering business occupants at Alexandra Village, which borrowed its inspiration in name from the former Archipelago Brewery Company.

ABC Birds Centre, one of the pioneering business occupants at Alexandra Village, which borrowed its inspiration in name from the former Archipelago Brewery Company.

Mr Zeng, a traditional craftsman who runs Chun Mee Lee Rattan Furniture at Alexandra Village. He is a second-generation owner who has been operating at Alexandra since 1979.

Mr Zeng, a traditional craftsman who runs Chun Mee Lee Rattan Furniture at Alexandra Village. He is a second-generation owner who has been operating at Alexandra since 1979.

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.

The passionate volunteers behind My Community.

The passionate volunteers behind My Community.


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