Fort Canning Park through the years

Fort Canning Hill has undergone multiple phases of development and many changes of use throughout history.
Fort Canning Hill has undergone multiple phases of development and many changes of use throughout history.PHOTO: SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS

SINGAPORE - New gardens, a heritage museum and reproductions of historical features will be introduced at Fort Canning Park from March.

Fort Canning Hill, which offers sweeping views of the city, has undergone multiple phases of development and many changes of use throughout history.

1. The hill was believed to have been the seat of royalty for the Malay Kingdom in the 1300s and it was known as Bukit Larangan or Forbidden Hill.

Early colonial personnel had found sandstone foundation blocks along the hill's slope, which indicated the presence of what would once have been a large palatial building. These remnants dated back to the 14th century.

The hill is also home to a keramat or shrine that was named after the last king of Singapura - Sri Sultan Iskandar Shah. He spent three years as king of Singapura before the island was invaded by the Majapahit empire at the turn of the 15th century.

When Singapura fell, Iskandar Shah fled to Johor and eventually founded Malacca. The settlement waned as Malacca became the leading port in the region.

2. When the British arrived, Major-General William Farquhar climbed up the hill and hoisted the Union Jack.

It was on this hill that Sir Stamford Raffles built his first residence.

His house subsequently became the residence of colonial governors.

 

The home called Government House and the hill in turn was renamed Government Hill although people also referred to it as Singapore Hill, Bukit Tuan Bonham or Sir Bonham's Hill after governor Sir Samuel George Bonham, and Bukit Bendera, which means Flag Hill.

3. Europeans were buried on the hill in the 19th century.

4. Government House was demolished in 1859 to make way for the construction of an artillery fort. This was completed two years later by 400 Chinese coolies.

Named Fort Canning after Viscount Charles John Canning, the Governor-General and the first Viceroy of India, it was used as a military base by the British, Japanese and Singapore's armed forces.

5. In 1972, the site was re-named Central Park.

It served largely as a recreational site. Apart from the swimming pool, it housed the defunct Van Kleef Aquarium and National Theatre.

It was also home to a skating rink and the former army barracks, the Fort Canning Centre of today, housed 25 squash courts, which made it the world's largest squash centre in the 1970s.

In 1981, the authorities renamed it Fort Canning Park again.

SOURCE: NATIONAL LIBRARY BOARD; NATIONAL PARKS BOARD; JEROME LIM