Revitalised Singapore River Walk Focuses on its History as the Lifeline of Singapore

07-Oct-2015 7:19 PM

Singapore River Walk gets a new lease of life from American Express grant of US$160,000

SINGAPORE, 7 October 2015 – So loved is the Singapore River by Singaporeans it was “immortalised” in Singapore’s 1998 National Day song, “Home”. Indeed, the Singapore River holds a special place in the hearts of many Singaporeans, with many fond memories forged along its banks. More than that, it has played a vital role in the growth and development of Singapore over the years, going as far back as the 19th century. From a bustling port-of-call for early merchants, the lifeline to the different communities who lived and worked along the river, to the popular hang-out spot it is today, the importance and relevance of the Singapore River has not diminished through the years.

The Trail of Choice

2 And these are the reasons why the American Express Foundation has specifically chosen to adopt the Singapore River Walk, contributing US$160,000 to its first refurbishment in 10 years. Mr Cheng Heng Chew, Country Manager of American Express Singapore, said: “The Singapore River is an important part of the country’s history as this is where early commercial activities started for Singapore. At American Express, we feel that you can’t know where you are going unless you know where you have come from and that’s why we wanted to be part of this project of identifying and locating historic sites and buildings in Singapore. Furthermore, the Singapore River holds special memories for American Express as 90 years ago, we started operations with offices at Collyer Quay and Raffles Place – both along the river. We hope that members of the public and tourists will enjoy this new walk and be immersed in the rich history behind our Singapore River.”

3 The generous grant by American Express has facilitated further research on the Singapore River, development of new and updated site markers, as well as trail booklets and an interactive website which will be available in early 2016.

Updated Trail with a River Focus

4 Mr Tan Boon Hui, Assistant Chief Executive (Museums & Programmes), National Heritage Board, said: “The Singapore River Trail was first launched in 2005 by NHB to offer a broad storyline of the nation’s development from Sir Stamford Raffles’ landing in Singapore, to the history of the river set amidst our nation building years. A decade later, this new upgrade comes with a new name – Singapore River Walk, with a renewed focus on the river and its evolution over the years. Through new content that has been added to make the narrative richer, we are better able to learn about the river's social history and its key role in Singapore’s mercantile development. We hope the enhanced trail will reveal lesser known facts of the river and enable a renewed appreciation of its vital role over the years.”

5 The refreshed 2.8km Singapore River Walk features 14 heritage markers stretching from Collyer Quay to Robertson Quay. They comprise historic buildings, places of worship and majestic bridges, all set against the scenic backdrop of Marina Bay and the Central Business District. As visitors walk on foot from quay to quay, the refreshed storyline of the Singapore River Walk presents a flow which focuses on and ties in with the direction of the river itself – starting with the immigrants and travellers arriving at Collyer Quay, working at the godowns and warehouses built along the river by merchants such as Whampoa himself, to the tongkang and twakow vessels that ferried goods to and fro quayside.

6 Of the 14 markers, seven are new. These include the markers featuring Collyer Quay, which served as the gateway to Singapore for early maritime travellers; the Former Thong Chai Medical Institution, a National Monument which originally housed a clinic set up in 1867 to provide free medical treatment to the needy; and Masjid Omar Kampong Melaka, which was established in 1820, making it the oldest mosque and place of worship in Singapore. (Refer to ANNEX A for more information on the 14 marked sites, and ANNEX B for the map of the refreshed Singapore River Walk)

A River that Resonates

7 The Singapore River story has been enhanced with the memories and personal accounts contributed by Singaporeans under the Singapore Memory Project ( These anecdotes paint a vivid and intimate perspective of the Singapore River and its rich socio-economic history, bringing to life the memories of the community whose lives intertwined with the development of the river and its surroundings over the years.

8 Stories shared touch on the early days of the river as a trading emporium and centre of commerce, and the social activities in the area throughout Singapore’s development. These include memories of Raffles Place as a bustling shopping belt in the 1960s, early street peddlers around Clarke Quay, friends and families bidding farewell to those travelling by sea from Clifford Pier, as well as accounts of how goods were delivered to warehouses along the Boat Quay area in big tongkang vessels and the industrious coolies who toiled to keep the trade going.

9 Mr Chia Hearn Kok, who has fond memories of playing in the river as a boy in the late 1940s, shared: “I remember joining many boys to swim in the Singapore River and always having to keep our heads above the polluted waters then. One of our favourite antics was to catch a ride to the Elgin Bridge on the tongkangs that plied the river, by climbing onto the rubber tyres on its sides. At the Elgin Bridge, the braver boys would dive while the others would only jump when the all-clear signal was given. We then returned by clinging onto another tongkang moving in the opposite direction. Those were the carefree and innocent days!” Mr Chia’s memory is reflected in the bronze sculpture of children jumping into the river located on the river bank in front of The Fullerton Hotel Singapore, alluding to the river’s significance to the community.

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About the National Heritage Board
The National Heritage Board (NHB) was formed on 1 August 1993. As the custodian of Singapore’s heritage, NHB is responsible for telling the Singapore story, sharing the Singaporean experience and imparting our Singapore spirit. NHB’s mission is to preserve and celebrate the shared heritage of our diverse communities, for the purpose of education, nation-building and cultural understanding. It manages the national museums and heritage institutions, and sets policies relating to heritage sites, monuments and the national collection. Through the national collection, NHB curates heritage programmes and presents exhibitions to connect the past, present and future generations of Singaporeans. NHB is a statutory board under the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth. Please visit for more information.


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