My Pek Kio Heritage Tour

Tour Info

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Date
Every first Saturday and Sunday of the month
Time
8:30am to 11:30am. Please arrive at 8:15am, 15 minutes before the start time for registration.
language
English
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Start
Little India MRT Station (Exit B Street Level)
End
Farrer Park MRT Station
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Difficulty Level

1/5

  • Expect three hours of walking
  • It is compulsory for a parent/guardian to accompany any child of/under the age of 12
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What should I bring
  • Wear suitable shoes and comfortable clothes that covers your shoulders and knees (as we will be entering places of worship).
  • Bring along hand sanitizer, insect repellant, a bottle of water, and an umbrella.
  • If you have earphones with a standard 3.5mm audio jack, please bring them along (for radio guides during the tour).
  • Asthmatic individuals are encouraged to bring their inhaler.

Description

Embark on the My Pek Kio Heritage Tour and journey through the evolution of Pek Kio, transitioning from plantations to a charming “Little England.” Delve into the neighbourhood’s rich sporting history, visiting sites that have made significant contributions to Singapore’s sports heritage.

Participants will be able to listen to captivating stories of past and present residents of the neighbourhood, and explore centuries-old places of worship that showcase the diverse cultural and religious tapestry of Pek Kio.

Site 1: LTA Office (Former Kandang Kerbau Hospital)

KK Hospital, also known as Kandang Kerbau Hospital, has a rich history dating back to its establishment in 1860. Initially, it was segregated into two sections, serving both Europeans and locals, with the local women’s ward known as the Lock Hospital.

During World War II, it transformed into an emergency general hospital under Japanese occupation, and after the war, it resumed its role as a maternity hospital. In 1953, the hospital expanded to accommodate the increasing demand for maternity services, and the construction was carried out by the Samsui women.

In 1966, KK Hospital achieved a remarkable milestone by delivering a record number of 39,835 babies in a single year, which equates to more than 109 babies per day. This extraordinary feat earned the hospital a place in the 1968 Guinness Book of Records for delivering the world’s largest number of babies in a single maternity facility within a year. Today, KK Hospital remains Singapore’s largest maternity facility and continues to play a crucial role in delivering approximately one-third of all babies born in the country.

Although KK Hospital has relocated, some of its original buildings remain and have been repurposed into offices used by the Land Transport Authority (LTA). Participants will have the opportunity to listen to the captivating story of KK Hospital’s evolution over the years, offering insights into the history of medical progress in Singapore.

Site 2: Farrer Park Athletic Grounds (Singapore's First Race Course)

Farrer Park Athletic Grounds’ origins began from being Singapore’s first Race Course. The Race Course’s rich sporting history dates back to its origins as the Singapore Sporting Club’s racecourse in 1842, marking the birth of horse racing in Singapore. Over the years, it evolved into a versatile sporting venue, hosting polo matches, golf, cricket, and horse racing events. Notably, the Royal Singapore Golf Club, established in 1891, found its early home here. The racecourse was also a significant site in the history of aviation, witnessing Singapore’s first aircraft took flight from the race course in 1911.

During World War II, it played a different role, being used as a site to persuade British Indian forces to join the Indian National Army. Post-war, Farrer Park remained a vibrant sporting hub, hosting various sports and nurturing a new generation of athletes, including renowned footballers and swimming legend Ang Peng Siong. It was also the site of various important political rallies in Singapore, where the People’s Action Party campaigned on its grounds on August 15, 1955 for self-government.

Site 3: Farrer Park Swimming Complex

Farrer Park Swimming Complex was designed by British architect Crocker. Constructed in 1957, it was envisioned as a state-of-the-art public pool that could rival the grandeur of Mount Emily and Yan Kit in size and amenities.

The complex was a marvel in its time, featuring cutting-edge water pumps and valves sourced all the way from London. This iconic complex has seen the likes of legendary swimmers like Ang Peng Siong, Singapore’s very own national swimmer, and the fastest swimmer globally in 1982. Ang Peng Siong first learnt swimming at the pool, with his father, Ang Teck Bee, serving as a lifeguard at the pool.

Built at a cost of $145,000, the complex was the first public pool with mixed bathing. Its 165 by 75-foot pool, containing 556,000 gallons of water, accommodated 750 swimmers per session. However, the swimming complex was earmarked for demolishment in 2018 and had been fully demolished by 2023.

Site 4: Road Names at Cambridge Estate

The history of ‘Little England’ has a history that stretches back to the 1930s. Single-story homes were a prominent feature of this area, lining streets like Cambridge Road, Norfolk Road, and Dorset Road, while mud tracks, such as Hertford Road, Carlisle Road, and Truro Road, crisscrossed the neighbourhood.

In the mid-20th century, Little England was a favoured residence for affluent Europeans and Chinese, drawn by its accessibility due to their private automobiles. Around the early 1950s, the British government initiated a public housing project in Kampong Java, leading to the construction of double-story flats along Kent Road, a precursor to the housing diversity seen in the neighbourhood today.

Most notably, Little England was also ‘infamous’ for its recurrent flooding, owing to its low-lying terrain next to the Kampong Java Canal. Hear more about what life was like living in Little England from long-time residents during the tour!

Site 5: Parish of Christ Church

Founded in 1856, the Parish of Christ Church traces its origins to the St. Andrew’s Church Mission, which aimed to serve the Tamil and Chinese communities, as well as the local population. However, in 1938, the government requisitioned the church, leading to the construction of two separate churches for the Tamil and Chinese communities.

The current site in Dorset Road was acquired for the construction of Christ Church, completed in 1941. Post-World War II, the parish continued its ministries and expanded its services, eventually achieving Parish status. Today, the Parish of Christ Church stands out as a church serving congregations with diverse linguistic backgrounds, including Hindustani and Malayalam.

Site 6: Kim Mui Hoey Kuan

Kim Mui Hoey Kuan traces its origins to the Fuji Temple, originally built by early Chinese migrants from Kim Mui county along Smith Street. This two-story temple was dedicated to Chen Yuan and the Gods of Fude and Zheng. In 1927, it was officially renamed Kim Mui Hoey Kuan, marking its establishment as a clan association.

With the acquisition of its original land by the Singapore Improvement Trust in 1955, the clan association relocated to Club Street. It eventually settled in its current premises on Keng Lee Road in 1986. Since then, Kim Mui Hoey Kuan has been consistently working to involve younger generation members in association activities and to maintain the connection between its members and their ancestral home in Kim Mui. Participants can anticipate an exclusive tour of the former Fuji Temple, situated on the building’s third level!

Site 7: Singapore Baptist Church

In 1959, the first constitution was drafted to establish a new Mandarin-speaking church. Choosing the name Singapore Baptist Church, the church was officially registered and recognized by the government in 1960. The inaugural service took place on January 1, 1961.

Initially, the church conducted worship services at 33B Cambridge Road, a residential house. However, by 1964, the growing congregation required a dedicated building. A plot of land was found at 1 Cambridge Road, purchased in 1967 with assistance from the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board. The church moved into its current building on December 12, 1969.

In 1973, this church made history by becoming the first bilingual Baptist church in Singapore, offering services in both Mandarin and English. Their commitment to growth and community was further underlined in 1987 when they expanded with a new Educational Building. Today, they continue to thrive, partnering with institutions like the Singapore Bible College and the Baptist Theological Seminary.

Site 8: Masjid Tasek Utara

Masjid Tasek Utara, a quaint single-storey mosque located at the junction of Bristol Road and Carlisle Road, stands out with its traditional village-style architecture.

Established in 1907, it initially served as a small surau for the villagers from Tasek Utara Kampong, eventually expanding its outreach to include residents of the Cambridge and Pek Kio estates due to the growth of public housing in the area.

Despite its size, the modest white building with the grey-tiled roof houses all the components for a Muslim place of worship, such as prayer rooms and an area of ablution. The current building is a relic of what it used to be. The original building was a simple, functional prayer space sheltered by a central, low-pitched roof. Additional sheltered spaces were added as time progressed.

Today, the mosque continues serving the employees of the Land Transport Authority and KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, as well as residents of Farrer Park and Serangoon Road who continue to visit for their Friday prayers.

Site 9: Cambridge Road Market

The Cambridge Road Market used to be situated in the Tasek Utara Estate, along Cambridge Road. It was originally constructed in the 1950s to cater to the growing community. However, over time, it became disorderly as illegal hawkers started setting up their stalls all over the area. In response to this situation, in 1958, the Singapore City Council decided to expand and improve the market by providing permanent stalls for selected hawkers.

Residents recalled that the Cambridge Road Market was iconic for Pek Kio, with hundreds of hawker and sundry stalls. It was also a popular spot for gathering and meetups between friends because of its central location in the neighbourhood.

Regrettably, the original Cambridge Road Market was demolished in the early 1980s. However, in the late 1980s, a new market, the Pek Kio Hawker Centre and Market, was built at the junction of Cambridge Road and Owen Road, quickly becoming popular. Even today, many long-time residents affectionately refer to it as the Cambridge Road Market.

Site 10: Pek Kio Community Centre

After World War II, Community Centres were established on the outskirts of the city in villages and satellite towns to provide relief aid to underprivileged Singaporeans. Initially known as Owen Estate Community Centre, Pek Kio Community Centre (CC) opened in a two-story shophouse at 148 Cambridge Road on August 14, 1954, serving residents from Owen, Durham, Norfolk Estates, and Tasek Utara.

In 1962, the CC relocated to a new building adjacent to the Cambridge Road Market and officially became Pek Kio CC on March 29, 1963. Back then, Pek Kio CC was a popular hub for residents in the area as they frequently gathered there to participate in their favourite hobbies such as bodybuilding.

Today, Pek Kio CC continues its role as a community focal point where the residents of Pek Kio gather for shared interests and activities, upholding its historical legacy as a vibrant and unifying center for the community.

Site 11: Sing/Joo Avenue

The Sing/Joo Avenue neighborhood holds a unique character, being home to many residential temples. This trend of residential temples in the Sing/Joo area began to rise in the 1980s. However, this posed challenges because these unauthorised temples within residential homes often caused disturbances with their rituals and noise. Many of these temples could be found along Sing Joo Walk. Over time, some former residents moved out, and parts of the area were repurposed into workers’ dormitories.

Today, it’s a quiet neighborhood, still retaining these residential temples that stand as a testament to its distinctive history. Learn more about residential temples during the tour with Mr Lam, the proprietor of a residential temple along Sing Joo Walk!

Site 12: Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple

The Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple has a rich history dating back to 1851 when a group of Indian men purchased land from the English East India Company to build a Hindu temple in the area. Originally named the Narasinga Perumal Kovil, the temple was dedicated to Narasimha, an avatar of Vishnu.

In its early days, the temple had a main hall and a large pond where devotees would bathe. Renovations in the 1960s led to the temple being renamed the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple, honoring Srinivasa, a source of light and prosperity in Sanskrit. The temple’s ornate architecture is a result of these renovations, including a gopuram sponsored by P Govindasamy Pillai in 1975, and it was declared a National Monument in 1978.

Site 13: Leong San See Temple / Mee Toh School

Leong San See Temple, known as the “Dragon Mountain Temple,” is a prominent Buddhist temple situated in Singapore’s Little India. Founded in 1917 as Leong San Lodge, it was dedicated to Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, in memory of the original Leong San Temple in China.

The temple’s architecture mirrors a Chinese palace, adorned with ornate dragon motifs and a radiant pearl. Originally a simple lodge, it has evolved over the years with renovations in 1930, 1962, and 1970, reflecting its current grandeur.

The temple also founded Mee Toh School, initially founded within the temple in 1954, focusing on Mandarin education. The Mee Toh School was popular among residents living nearby, although the school shifted to its new location at Punggol in 2004.

Notably, Golden Mile Complex’s famous 4-faced Buddha shrine was relocated to the Leong San See temple after the Complex was set for demolishment.

Site 14: Sakaya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple

The Sakaya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple has a rich history dating back to 1927 when the Venerable Vutthisasara, a Thai monk, erected a temporary shelter on Race Course Road to house a Buddha statue he brought to Singapore.

The temple’s name, Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya, pays homage to Buddha, also known as Shakyamuni or Siddhartha Gautama. The temple is an impressive 15 meters tall and hosts a massive 300-ton Buddha statue, encircled by an unending chain of lights, earning it the popular moniker, the “Temple of a Thousand Lights.”.

Apparently, the temple also houses a replica of Buddha’s footprint crafted from ebony and mother-of-pearl, as well as a fragment of bark from the original Bodhi tree beneath which Buddha attained enlightenment.

Participants may also anticipate a visit to the Sleeping Buddha statue located under the main Buddha statue!