Lighthouses have been faithfully serving as beacons of light since the 1900s, guiding ships and mariners eager to anchor at Singapore's harbours.
Starting next month, visitors will get the opportunity to view and learn about some of Singapore's historic lighthouses in the Lighthouse Trail, organised by the National Heritage Board (NHB) as part of this year's Singapore HeritageFest. Participants of the trail will have a chance to view the former Fullerton Lighthouse from the bus, sail past the Sultan Shoal lighthouse, and explore the Raffles lighthouse, which is usually out of bounds to the public.
We look back at the three lighthouses featured in the upcoming trail.
1) Raffles Lighthouse
The Raffles Lighthouse was named after, and dedicated to the memory of, Sir Stamford Raffles, who founded Singapore in 1819. It is located on Pulau Satumu, formerly known as Coney Island, and is the southernmost islet of SIngapore. Standing 23km southwest of Singapore, it is on the South Channel Sea passage and marks the western entrance to the Singapore Strait.
On May 24, 1854, the Raffles Lighthouse Foundation Stone and the Raffles Lighthouse Memorial Tablet were laid by William J. Butterworth, governor of the Straits Settlements. After a masonic ceremony and a celebration with much military fanfare, building started with the help of Indian convicts and other labourers, who served as stone-cutters, blasters and labourers. The lighthouse began operations on Dec 1, 1855 and is still in operation today.
Designed by John Bennet, a civil and mechanical engineer, the structure is a round granite tower with a lantern and gallery attached to a two-storey keeper's house. The entire structure is painted in white and stands a mere 9.1m above sea level. Mr. Syed Hassan, who currently resides in the tower and helps to maintain it, is the oldest lighthouse keeper in Singapore.
The lighthouse is accessible only by boat, and visitors are only allowed to view it from a distance due to an exclusion zone that surrounds the tower. It will, however, soon be open to the public as part of the NHB's Lighthouse Trail.
2) Sultan Shoal Lighthouse
The Sultan Shoal Lighthouse was built in 1895, and is located on the island of Selat Jurong, in the Western Anchorage of Singapore. The tower is painted white and the roof of the keeper's house is painted red. It has a mix of Oriental and Victorian design, oddly resembling a two-storey bungalow growing out of the sea.
The lighthouse was one of the key beacons that guided ships approaching Singapore from the West at a time when pirate attacks were rife. There were two loaded rifles with fixed bayonets as well as three swords in the keeper's office for resisting pirate attacks in its early days. The tower was rebuilt in 1931 to accommodate the installation of more modern lighting equipment.
The lighthouse was automated in 1984 and is currently unmanned.
3) Fullerton Lighthouse
The now-decommissioned Fullerton Lighthouse is situated atop a small white concrete structure on the roof of the Fullerton building. Standing 47.9m above sea level, it is visible to ships 48.3km away.
In 1958, the S$33,000 structure took over the defunct 103-year-old Fort Canning Lighthouse in guiding ships and mariners into the harbour. But its function was hampered in 1980 by the construction of towering buildings at Marina Centre on reclaimed land and the strong lighting background at the waterfront. Its function was taken over by the Bedok Lighthouse, located on top of a block of flats in Marine Parade (now atop Lagoon View condominium in Bedok) and which started operations in 1978.
The Fullerton Lighthouse was acquired by the then Sentosa Martime Museum as a working exhibit. It has since moved to a new location as an artifact near Harbourfront Towers opposite Sentosa.