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Revitalised Singapore River Walk
Learn about the Singapore River, its evolution and its socio-economic history by taking a walk on the Singapore River Walk trail.
The 2.8km trail, which stretches from Collyer Quay to Robertson Quay, was recently refreshed with new and updated markers, made possible with support from the American Express Foundation.
The self-guided walk takes about 1.5 hours to complete and features 14 heritage markers that detail the history of each site. The sites comprise historic buildings, places of worship and bridges.
• Collyer Quay – Clifford Pier & Customs House
Collyer Quay was once a gateway to Singapore for maritime travellers before they set foot at Clifford Pier which opened in 1933. Clifford Pier also served as a departure point for boats to the Southern Islands until 2006. Completed in 1969, Customs House housed officers who kept a look-out for smugglers from its 23m high watchtower.
Cavenagh Bridge, with Boat Quay in the background, 1950s, from the National Museum of Singapore Collection
• Cavenagh Bridge
The oldest bridge across the Singapore River to have survived in its original form is named after Governor Sir William Orfeur Cavenagh. Located between Empress Place and the Fullerton Building, it linked colonial offices to the financial district.
• Raffles Place – Change Alley, Market Street & Masjid Moulana
Established as Singapore’s main mercantile district in the 1820s, Commercial Square was renamed Raffles Place in 1858. At nearby Market Street, Chettiar bankers provided working capital for businesses, and Muslims gathered for prayers at Masjid Moulana Mohamed Ali, founded in the 1950s. The latter became Singapore’s only underground mosque upon moving to UOB Plaza’s basement in 1994.
Raffles Place, 1910s, from the National Museum of Singapore Collection
• Boat Quay
The first stretch of the Singapore River to be developed, Boat Quay originated with Singapore’s first land reclamation project to build an embankment. This part of the river, known as the “Belly of the carp”, brimmed with traditional cargo boats until the Singapore River clean-up was completed in the 1980s.
• Elgin Bridge
This bridge stands on the site of the first one built across the Singapore River in 1819. The original Elgin Bridge, completed in 1862, was named after Lord Elgin, Viceroy of India. The present structure was built in 1929.
• Coleman Bridge
Named after its designer George Dromgold Coleman, this is the second bridge across the Singapore River. The original Coleman Bridge was first built in 1840, replaced in 1865 and again in 1886. The present bridge is a reconstruction from 1991.
• Clarke Quay – River House, The Cannery & Whampoa’s Ice House
Developed in the late 19th century, Clarke Quay is known for its distinctive warehouses and traditional buildings. It was named after Governor Sir Andrew Clarke. Important landmarks in the area include the River House from the 1880s, The Cannery (1891), and a replica of Whampoa’s Ice House (1854).
• Read Bridge
Named after William Henry Macleod Read, the bridge was originally built in 1889 and was converted into a pedestrian bridge in 1991.
Read Bridge at Boat Quay, Singapore, early 1908
• Former Thong Chai Medical Institution
A rare surviving example of secular Chinese architecture, it originally housed a clinic established in 1867 by seven Chinese merchants to provide free medical care to the needy. It was declared a National Monument in 1973.
• Masjid Omar Kampong Melaka
First built in 1820 and named after its builder Syed Sharif Omar bin Ali Aljunied, it is Singapore’s oldest mosque and place of worship. It was rebuilt in 1855 and remained until the 1980s.
• Tan Si Chong Su Temple & Clemenceau Bridge
A National Monument built in 1883 by prominent Hokkien merchants belonging to the Tan clan, the temple is also known as Po Chiak Keng (Hokkien for “protection of the innocent”). Clemenceau Bridge was first built in 1940 and named after French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau. It replaced Pulau Saigon Bridge and was rebuilt into a vehicular bridge in the 1990s.
• Ord Bridge
Completed in 1886, the bridge was named after Sir Harry St George Ord, Singapore’s first governor after the island became a Crown Colony in 1867. It linked River Valley Road to Magazine Road where ammunition was once stored. It was also known as Green Bridge because of its colour and Toddy Bridge as there were many toddy (palm liquor) shops nearby.
• Alkaff Bridge
Shaped like a tongkang (traditional river boat), the bridge was built in 1997 and named after Alkaff Quay, a former riverside warehouse complex owned by the Alkaffs, a prominent Yemeni-Arab family of landowners and philanthropists.
• Robertson Quay
In the past, boatyards and warehouses dominated Robertson Quay, which was probably named after Dr Thomas Murray Robertson. It was redeveloped in the 1990s into a modern neighbourhood with housing, eateries, hotels and arts facilities.
Photos courtesy of National Heritage Board and National Archives of Singapore