Book on old buildings tells story of Singapore legal system

Allied prisoners of war leaving Changi Prison in 1945. The prison is included in Legal Legacies: The Storeys Of Singapore Law, which traces the development of Singapore's legal system through pictures and drawings of court buildings, police stations
Allied prisoners of war leaving Changi Prison in 1945. The prison is included in Legal Legacies: The Storeys Of Singapore Law, which traces the development of Singapore's legal system through pictures and drawings of court buildings, police stations and other buildings of early Singapore.PHOTO: STATE LIBRARY OF VICTORIA
The former Hill Street Police Station.
The former Hill Street Police Station.PHOTO: COURTESY OF NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF SINGAPORE
The old Hill Street Police Station now houses the Ministry of Communications and Information.
The old Hill Street Police Station now houses the Ministry of Communications and Information.ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG
Outram Prison.
Outram Prison.PHOTO: COURTESY OF NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF SINGAPORE
A monument on Outram Prison is located at Exit A of Outram MRT to show where the prison once stood.
A monument on Outram Prison is located at Exit A of Outram MRT to show where the prison once stood.ST PHOTO: LEE JIA WEN
Located at 71 High Street, the old Polar Cafe was once frequented by judges and lawyers.
Located at 71 High Street, the old Polar Cafe was once frequented by judges and lawyers.PHOTO: COURTESY OF NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF SINGAPORE
The cafe at High Street was near the Supreme Court and Parliament house. In its place now is High Street Plaza.
The cafe at High Street was near the Supreme Court and Parliament house. In its place now is High Street Plaza.ST PHOTO: LEE JIA WEN

In 1826, Scottish merchant John Argyle Maxwell had a home built between High Street and the Singapore River in an area designated for government buildings.

But he never got to use it as a residential building. Instead, he rented it out in June 1827 as Singapore's first courthouse, and served as a magistrate as well. That first courthouse still stands today, and now serves as The Arts House.

These historical facts are told in a new book that links the legacy of Singapore's legal system with the historical buildings here.

Published by Academy Publishing of the Singapore Academy of Law, the book includes pictures of court buildings, police stations and prisons of early Singapore, including the now-defunct Pulau Senang settlement for secret society gangsters.

Legal Legacies: The Storeys Of Singapore Law, which can be bought on the Singapore Academy of Law's online store for $35, also includes rare architectural drawings of key structures.

The authors, in introductory remarks, say the book, the second in a series, is more than just about bricks and mortar. "These buildings record the development of Singapore's legal system from a colony to a city state."

The buildings include the former Parliament House in Empress Place and old Caldwell House, where Chijmes in Victoria Street is located today.

A spokesman added: "We are probably not aware of its history. The book takes the reader back into the history of these buildings and places, providing glimpses of some of the original building plans, archival photos from private and public collections in Singapore and overseas, and stories of what it was like to live and work there."

The first volume, titled Legal Legacies: The Story Of Singapore Law, was published in 2011.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 11, 2018, with the headline 'Book on old buildings tells story of S'pore legal system'. Print Edition | Subscribe