Fort Canning: Singapore’s most diverse Spice Garden

kgcanning27/ST20220825_202246394029/Ng Sor Luan/Interior of the Spice Gallery which used to be a tunnel. It is part of the enhanced Spice Garden at Fort Canning Park. Photos are Embargoed till 26 August, 4.30pm. The Straits Times
CMG20220826-Darwis01 陈渊庄/ 林慧敏/
Opening of Fort Canning Heritage Gallery and enhanced Spice Garden [Fort Canning]
Singapore Press Holdings Ltd

Sir Walter Raleigh, the well-known 17th-century British explorer and favourite courtier of Queen Elizabeth I, famously said: “Whoever commands the sea, commands the trade; whosoever commands the trade of the world commands the riches of the world, and consequently the world itself.”

The big powers then – such as the Portuguese, Dutch and British – wanted to be masters and commanders of the high seas and spice was one of the most prized commodities.

When the British arrived in 1819, they found gambier and pepper plantations already carved out on the slopes of hills near the source of the Singapore River. They also found a garden at the foot of the Forbidden Hill (today’s Armenian Street) where very old rambutan, durian, duku, and pomelo trees grew.

They set up their own experimental spice plantations on the eastern slopes of the hill in 1822, hoping to turn Singapore into a “spice island”. This small plantation still exists in the Spice Garden at Fort Canning Park.

The 3,200 sq m spice garden, which features more than 180 varieties of plants, is one of nine historical gardens launched in 2019 by the National Parks Board. It is now also Singapore’s most diverse spice garden.

There are three zones: the existing Spice Garden area, Canning Rise – which was pedestrianised in 2019 – and the new Fort Canning Spice Gallery.

Important species include gambier (Uncaria gambir) and pepper (Piper nigrum), which were the earliest commercial crops in Singapore, predating the arrival of the British in 1819.

Spice trees such as the nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) and clove (Syzygium aromaticum) are also featured in the Spice Garden, as they played an important role as the main commercial spice crops in Singapore after the first botanical and experimental garden was set up.

There is also a Spice Gallery at the foot of the Spice Garden. It is located within a pedestrian ramp and underpass with three displays of colonial-era shophouse facades, featuring units that resemble a traditional spice shop, a spice trading office and a coffee shop.

Singapore’s oldest traders of spices, nuts and dried fruit, Nomanbhoy & Sons, founded in 1914, supported the gallery through a donation. The firm started out in Malacca Street, trading in pepper from Sarawak, assorted spices from Indonesia and cloves from Madagascar and Zanzibar. From the 1950s, the company started selling to a global network that included clients in the United States and Europe.

Info: Spice Gallery is open daily from 7am to 7pm and admission is free. Go to

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