My River Valley Heritage Tour

Tour Info

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Every third Saturday and Sunday of the month
8:30am to 11:30am. Please arrive at 8:15am, 15 minutes before the start time for registration.
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Fort Canning MRT Station (Exit B – Street Level)
Mohamed Sultan Road
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Difficulty Level


  • 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.


Do you know who Oxley Road was named after? Do you know about all the different communities that contributed to Singapore’s economic development, and how they all gathered in River Valley?

My River Valley Heritage Tour explores the rich multicultural and multireligious landscape of the River Valley neighbourhood. This will take us through many shophouses, places of worship and other landmarks around the Singapore River. Our tour does not just focus on the great historical figures that gave rise to many of these places, but also on the everyday people and communities that breathe life into these places.

Site 1: Fort Canning

Fort Canning Hill, known as Bukit Larangan (Forbidden Hill) in Malay, is one of the few features in Singapore that has stood the test of time. It was once considered sacred by the indigenous Malay community as it was the seat of royalty for the Malay kingdom in the 14th century and also housed the tombs of old Malay kings. Excavation digs in the 1980s found a variety of pottery fragments from the 14th to 19th century, indicating that the hill had been a site of thriving activity in Singapore’s early history.

Fort Canning Hill was renamed Government Hill with the establishment of British rule in Singapore. In 1822, Raffles ordered a wooden bungalow called Government House to be built on the hill, which served as the residence for colonial governors until the construction of a fort in the 1850s. Raffles also established a botanical garden on the hill and a Christian cemetery for Europeans. The cemetery was moved twice before being fully occupied. A noteworthy person buried there is Esther Farquhar Bernard, the maternal great-great-great-great-grandmother of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and a memorial plaque dedicated to her still exists on the hill.

As Singapore’s colony developed, the defence of the island became increasingly important. In 1859, Government House was demolished and part of the hill was levelled to construct a fortification called Fort Canning in 1861. The fort was named after Viscount Charles James Canning, the Governor-General and later first Viceroy of India. Fort Canning was built to defend Singapore from sea attacks, oversee the security of the town centre and provide a refuge for the European community in case of social disturbances. The fort, along with smaller forts on neighbouring hills and a refuge area around government buildings and town hall, formed a “quasi-military cantonment” for the defence of Singapore. As a result, Government Hill was referred to as Fort Canning Hill.Bottom of Form

Fort Canning became a significant site during the Battle of Singapore during the World War II. A secret bunker was constructed between 1936 and 1941 as the command centre for British military operations in Malaya during the war. The British commander of Singapore, Lt-General Arthur Percival, moved his headquarters to the bunker on February 11, 1942, and it was in this bunker that he decided to surrender the colony to the Japanese on February 15, 1942. The bunker has been turned into a tourist and educational site called the Battlebox, which presents the history and lessons of WWII in Singapore to the public.

Site 2: Former National Theatre & Van Kleef Aquarium

Imagine a time before the convenience of streaming your favourite shows on a computer or television. In the past, Singaporeans would leave their homes in search of entertainment and venues that catered to their interests. Two such popular places in the Fort Canning area, bordered by River Valley Road, were the National Theatre and the Van Kleef Aquarium.

Site 2A: National Theatre

The National Theatre was a public theatre used for performances, cultural activities, and international conferences. The theatre was funded by public donations and government funds, and was the largest theatre in Singapore at that time. It was announced in 1959 by then-Minister for Culture S. Rajaratnam as an important project as an “affirmation of the people’s will to build a national monument based on a loyalty to Singapore and to no other.” Initially planned to be built at Kallang Park, it was eventually constructed at King George V Jubilee Park due to firmer land. Fundraising for the project was successful with $420,000 raised in donations by the public within four months of the announcement.

The National Theatre was a popular public venue in Singapore during the 1960s. It was opened on 8 August 1963 to host the opening ceremony of the Southeast Asia Cultural Festival although construction was not fully complete. The theatre was designed by local architect Alfred Wong and was known for its structural cantilever and large seating capacity of 3420. A fountain was added to the front of the theatre in 1965 and officially opened by then-Deputy Prime Minister Toh Chin Chye in 1966. The $140,000 fountain comprised of a trapezium-shaped water pool reinforced by a crescent-shaped bowl that consisted of 10 jet nozzles capable of shooting water up to a height of 40 feet.

The National Theatre was a popular public venue for performances and cultural activities in Singapore, hosting international acts and important national events before its closure in 1986. The building was in poor condition and unsafe, and plans for an expressway led to its demolition. Today, a smaller-scale replica of the theatre’s iconic diamond-shaped façade remains at Fort Canning’s Jubilee Park.

Site 2B: Van Kleef Aquarium

The Van Kleef aquarium, named after Dutch businessman Karl Willem Benjamin van Kleef, was proposed in 1922 by the Natural History Society of Singapore due to the colony’s close proximity to the rivers and access to the fishes. A site on the slope of Fort Canning hill, later known as King George V Jubilee Park, was chosen to be the site of the aquarium. Upon van Kleef’s death in 1930, he bequeathed the net proceeds of his estate, a sum amounting to $130,000, to the municipal commission with the purpose of “embellishing the town”. The aquarium naturally took on Van Kleef’s name when it was opened.

Construction began in 1940, but was delayed by the Japanese Occupation. It finally opened in 1955, featuring nearly 6,500 fish of over 180 varieties, including a swamp tank with mudskippers from Southeast Asia. It was an immediate success, drawing 150,000 visitors in its first three months and was considered the best aquarium in Southeast Asia by 1964.

While the aquarium was popular in its early years, it unfortunately faced increased competition from other attractions in the 1980s such as the Singapore Zoo and Jurong Bird Park. A $750,000 renovation in 1986 failed to attract more visitors and the aquarium closed in 1991, with the building being demolished in 1998.

Site 3: Sri Thendayuthapani Temple

The Sri Thendayuthapani Temple is one of the oldest Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Murugan, also known as Sri Thendayuthapani, and is commonly referred to as the Chettiar Temple. It started as a simple shrine and was consecrated in 1859 by the Chettiar community as a religious and social space, as well as commercial space for the community to gather. The Nattukottai Chettiar Chamber of Commerce was established within the temple ground in 1928. The temple also had three houses for Chettiars bachelors, and a cattle shed in the temple compounds to rear cows for milk used in prayer.

The temple is designed in a South Indian architectural style, with a five-tiered gopuram (the entrance tower of a Hindu temple) that was one of the tallest and most elaborate across Southeast Asia at the time of completion. The temple also features typical of Chettiar architecture such as the glass panels with engravings of Hindu deities, a tradition in Chettiar temples.

Today, the temple is most famously known for being an integral part of the annual Tamil-Hindu festival Thaipusam, in January or February, as it is the end point for the procession of up to 50,000 devotees. The temple’s role in Thaipusam goes beyond simply providing the location for kavadi carriers and their family to lay down their kavadi. It also provides complimentary meals to over 140,000 devotees throughout the day. In 1981, the temple’s first building was demolished, and a new temple was built and consecrated in 1983, where then-President Devan Nair was the guest- of-honour. It was re-consecrated again in 2009 after renovation works were conducted. The Sri Thendayuthapani Temple was gazetted as a national monument on 20 October 2014.

Site 4: Teochew Building

The Teochew Building is associated with the Teochew community in Singapore and is home to two Teochew associations, Ngee Ann Kongsi and Singapore Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan. The building was constructed in 1963 on the site of the Tuan Mong School, which was a primary school established by Teochew clan leaders in 1906. When the Teochew Building was opened in 1963, Tuan Mong High School occupied the top three floors of the building. The ground floor was occupied by both the offices of the Ngee Ann Kongsi and Singapore Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan. In addition, the Ngee Ann College, predecessor to Ngee Ann Polytechnic, was also established in May that year by the Ngee Ann Kongsi and housed in the building.

The building serves as a beacon of Teochew culture as the two associations organize exhibitions and cultural activities to preserve and promote Teochew and Chinese arts, customs, beliefs and heritage.

The architecture of the building is typical of the Chinese-style, with elements such as the upturned roof eaves and balcony balustrade adorned with Oriental motifs.

Site 5: Former Tank Rd Station

The former Tank Rd station was Singapore’s first official railway station, opened in 1903, and was located where the former Rediffusion studio stood. The railway line, named Singapore Railway, ran from Tank Rd to Kranji with stops at Newton, Cluny, and Bukit Timah in between.


On the first day of operations, 557.5 passengers reportedly took the train. Before the establishment of the Singapore Railway, the only railway line was a small 5km track that connected the town center from Telok Ayer St to the harbours at Tanjong Pagar. The railway line was expanded a few times over the course of its history and was taken over by the Federated Malay States Railways in 1912, which allowed for passenger access to peninsula Malaya through Johore by steam ferries across the Straits of Johore.


With increased accessibility and convenience of transport came heavier traffic flow, but the former Tank Rd station was ill-equipped to handle the increasing demand for services. There were plans to expand the railway, which ultimately did not come to fruition. Instead, a new and modern railway station, Tanjong Pagar railway station, was built and opened in 1932, leading to the decommissioning and demolition of the Tank Rd station in the 1930s. The Tank Rd-Bukit Timah railway tracks now form part of the Green Corridor managed by NParks. A painting of the former Tank Rd station can be found on the walls of the Church of the Sacred Heart.

Site 6: Church of the Sacred Heart

In 1910, the Church of the Sacred Heart was established to serve the growing Cantonese-speaking Catholic population in the late 19th and early 20th century. A suitable location for the new church, an abandoned soy sauce factory, was found with the help of Fr Vincent Gazeau.

The early benefactors of the church were Lowe Keok Ching, Chan Teck Hee, and Chong Kin Tian, who made generous donations to the purchase of the land and construction of the church building. The building was designed by the French priest-architect, Father Louis Lambert, and is representative of the European churches that are styled according to the French Baroque aesthetics.

On 15 February 1945, the day the British surrendered Singapore to the Japanese, the church was hit by falling Japanese bombs. This resulted in the destruction of the ceiling, fittings, and pews. There were no casualties, however, as the morning mass commemorating the Lunar New Year that day had already concluded. Not much is known about the reconstruction of the church after WWII but in 1969, the church went through its first major renovation and a Parish Hall was added. Likewise, in 2008, the church went through a second round of major renovations to build a 7 and a half storey building and a columbarium that could serve the community’s needs.

Site 7: Chesed-El Synagogue

The Chesed El-Synagogue is one of two Jewish synagogues in Singapore, built in 1905 by Jewish businessman Manasseh Meyer on his Belle Vue estate at Oxley Rise. It was built in response to the growing number of Jewish migrants to Singapore in the late 18th century, which reached 500 by 1902, and the inability of Maghain Aboth to accommodate all of them. The name Chesed-El, in Hebrew, means “bountiful mercy and beauty of God.” The synagogue serves as a focal point for communal events such as social gatherings and religious festivals. It was gazetted as a national monument in 1998.

The building was designed by Swan and McClaren, who were also responsible for other works like the Victoria Memorial Hall and Singapore cricket club, the architecture of the synagogue is in the Palladian style, evident by the arches, large arched windows, and Corinthian columns on the façade of the building. The floor of the platform that houses the ahel (‘ark’ in Hebrew), the holiest place in every synagogue, has also retained its original mosaic tiles from when it was built more than a hundred years ago.

During the Japanese Occupation, the building was used as a storage for ammunition, and the synagogue faced issues such as dwindling number of devotees and lack of funding after the war. It underwent major renovations in 2001 and 2016 and is supported by the government as a recipient of the National Monuments Fund. Today, the structural integrity and main features of the synagogue still hold true to the original plans and designs.

Site 8: 38 Oxley Rd

The bungalow at 38 Oxley Rd is famously known as the residence of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. It was built around 1898 on land owned by Straits Settlement surgeon Thomas Oxley and commissioned by Dutch merchant Hermann Cornelius Verloop. The Lees were believed to have moved into the bungalow at 38 Oxley Rd after WWII. The bungalow sits on a 1,120.5 sq m plot of freehold land, adheres to the style of the Anglo-Indian bungalow with several modifications done to suit Singapore tropical climate. 38 Oxley Rd is connected to several key moments in Singapore history, such as the formation of the People’s Action Party (PAP) in 1954, the basement of the bungalow was the de-facto headquarters of the PAP. The study room was where Mr Lee frequently worked on his speeches and documents, encapsulated in a 14cm red box that is today, symbolic of the hard work he put into running Singapore as well as his achievements. While the future of the bungalow remains contended between Mr Lee’s children, Mr Lee’s daughter, Dr Lee Wei Ling continues to live in the bungalow.


Site 9: Shophouses at Kim Yam Rd, Tong Watt Rd, and Md Sultan Rd

According to URA, River Valley constitutes a secondary settlement, which are areas that were developed between the 1900s and 1960s as a result of outward movement of the population from the city centre. Within the River Valley precinct, there are a sizeable number of shophouses that have been conserved by URA due to their importance in the “early trading activities of Singapore which was centred on the Singapore River.” The shophouses mostly served the owners and workers of the godowns along the river. These were mainly congregated along Md Sultan Rd, Tong Watt Rd, and Kim Yam Rd.

Tong Watt Rd was named after Tan Tong Watt (1861 – 1907), a Hokkien landowner who owned this street. It was named in 1897 at the owner’s request. As for Kim Yam Rd, it derived its name from Wee Kim Yam (1855 – 1914), the eldest son of Chinese businessman Wee Ah Hood. The younger Wee was a founding member of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and contributed actively in public affairs such as serving on the Tan Tock Seng Hospital Committee and Po Leung Kuk.


Conservation status for the houses in these areas were obtained on 25 October 1991. The conservation process saw the exterior façade of these shophouses preserved but their interior structures were redecorated and reinforced for adaptative reuse. Most of the shophouses now serve either a residential or commercial function. For instance, Md Sultan Rd had a bustling nightlife scene in the 1990s and early 2000s, with up to 19 bars and clubs in 2002.244 The ones along Tong Watt Rd and Kim Yan Rd are mostly residential today, while the ones along Md Sultan Rd house niche shops and food and beverage establishments.

Site 10: Singapore Buddhist Lodge

The Singapore Buddhist Lodge was founded in 1933 under its former name, Singapore Buddhist Sutra Distribution Centre. A year later, the founding members, including Venerable Dao Jie and Venerable Zhuan Dao among others, officially established the Singapore Buddhist Lodge at 26 Blair Rd after raising sufficient funds and making the necessary preparations. The association soon found itself moving several more times over the next few years – in 1939, they moved to River Valley Rd and then to Tong Watt Rd in 1942 – until settling at its current location at Kim Yam Rd in 1946. The buildings that stand on the compound of the Singapore Buddhist Lodge were built in 1970 and rebuilt again in 1995. The former was generously funded by prominent Chinese businessman and philanthropist, Lee Kong Chian.

Apart from the promotion of Buddhist culture and theology in Singapore, the Singapore Buddhist Lodge is also known for their devoted commitment to society and charity. The Lodge distributes annual scholarships to needy students and red packets (hong bao) during Chinese New Year to underprivileged families. In the spirit of religious harmony and cooperation, the Lodge also collaborates with associations from other faiths, such as Jamiyah Singapore and the Hindu Endowments Board, to provide students with bursaries.

In 1984, plans to construct a $5.7 million recreation centre that aimed to encourage bonding between the young and elderly were conceptualised. The plan was in line with the government policy of encouraging the aged to live and be integrated with the community for as long as possible. In the same year, the Lodge had also opened their library to the public, regardless of race or religion, so as to popularise courses on Buddhism and render moral education accessible to the public. Today, the Lodge is still active in its contributions to making society a better place, be it through the promotion of Buddhist teachings or its selfless charitable ventures.

Site 11: Hong San See Temple

The Hong San See Temple is a Chinese Daoist temple along Md Sultan Rd. The name “Hong San See” means “Phoenix Hill Temple” in Hokkien. Apart from this name, the temple is also referred to as Chwee Long Tao Hong San See as a means to differentiate itself from other Hong San See temples in Singapore. The term chwee long tao (‘water tap’ in Hokkien) refers to a well that existed along Md Sultan Rd in the early 20th century. This well was the main water source for the villages nearby. The history of the temple dates back to 1836 when it was founded by Chinese migrants, led by Neo Lim Kwee, from Nan’an county in Fujian, China. The original temple was located at Tras St and its main deity was Guang Ze Zun Wang (‘The Lord of Filial Peity’ in Mandarin). He is said to be very effective at answering devotees’ prayers, which explains the popularity of the temple over the years. Hong San See was consequently named after Guang Ze Zun Wang’s main temple in Shishan, Nan’an.

Apart from being a place of worship, the Hong San See Temple also serves as a communal space for its devotees and the clan members from the Lam Ann Association. This began from its early days of establishment, when Hokkien migrants that first arrived in Singapore would immediately head to the temple to meet their relatives living in Singapore. The temple also became a place where festivals and weddings would be held, as well as somewhere that offered them help should they ever require it.

The Hong San See Temple was originally located at Tras St but was evicted in 1907 due to a road widening project. The temple’s management committee, led by Lim Loh, used the compensation fee to purchase land at Md Sultan Rd and construct the current temple, which was completed in 1913. The temple is managed by the Lam Ann Association, and it was declared a national monument in 1978. In 2006, the temple underwent a $3 million restoration project that was supported by clan members, temple devotees and the Lee Foundation. The project was so successful that in 2010, the temple became the first building in Singapore to receive the Award of Excellence in the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.

The building adheres to traditional Fujian architectural style and features include curve ridges on the roof, upturned ‘swallow-tail’, axial planning and sculptures like dancing dragons and phoenixes on the roof. The jian nian (‘cut and paste’ in Mandarin) technique was used in the architecture where colourful small ceramic tiles are pieced together to form a larger mosaic figure.

Site 12: Former Chung Cheng High School

The school Chung Cheng High School was founded in 1939 by several prominent Chinese businessmen and philanthropists, including Aw Boon Haw and Lim Boon Keng. It was originally named Chung Cheng Boy’s High School, after the Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-Shek, and admitted only male students. Apart from having prominent Chinese pioneers backing the school, the first school supervisor was Lim Bo Seng, the businessman who would become one of Singapore’s most famous war heroes. The school was temporarily closed during WWII and after it reopened, it allowed female students to enrol and changed its name to Chung Cheng High School.

It purchased land at Goodman Rd in 1947 to build a new campus to accommodate the increasing number of students, which then became known as Chung Cheng High School (Main). The original campus at Kim Yam Rd became Chung Cheng High School (Branch) and was later relocated to Guillemard Rd in 1969.

The branch campus of Chung Cheng High School was the site of several student protests and political activities in the late 1940s and mid-1950s. These protests included students being warned for flying the Nationalist Government flag, anti-National Service riots, and a reputation for being a hotbed for leftist movements. This led to a ban on certain associations, a two-week protest by students, and violent riots that spread across the country. Even after the resolution of the riots, the school’s involvement in political movements continued, with six teachers facing retrenchment in 1958 for being a security risk.

In 2003, the school made plans to move to a new campus in Yishun to expand and upgrade its facilities. The school was renamed Chung Cheng High School (Yishun) after it moved to its new location in 2006. The main campus at Goodman Rd became a SAP school in 1979 and two buildings, the Administration Building and the Entrance Arch, were gazetted as National Monuments by the National Heritage Board in 2014.

Site 13: Warehouses and godowns along the Singapore River

The godowns along the Singapore River were essentially warehouses that stored cargo and goods from the boats that passed through the Singapore River. The godowns, along with shophouses and trading houses, at Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay were integral to the economy of Singapore because they stored the goods from the ships in Singapore Habour. These godowns occupied the area from the harbour all the way to Kim Seng Bridge. Coolies manually unloaded the cargo from lighter boats, that also served as a bridge between the riverbanks, and moved them into the godowns. The godowns were typically two to three stories high, with shops and offices operation from the ground floor while coolies and immigrant families lived on the upper floor.

The godowns belonged to European companies like Boustead & Company, Hartenburgh, Lazarus & Sons, as well as Adamson Gillfelland and East Asiactic Company. Prominent Chinese merchants such as Whampoa, Tan Kim Seng, and Yeo Kim Swee also owned several godowns along the Singapore River.

As trade along the Singapore River grew increasingly lucrative, godowns continued to grow in quantity from the mid-1800s until the late 1970s when the renewal of the Singapore River occurred, prompting a period of urban renewal. Efforts to revitalise the Singapore River saw the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) repurposing the godowns and shophouses for recreational, entertainment, and cultural activities. Today, Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay have been revitalised into bustling entertainment and commercial districts that offer quality dining options and a vibrant night life. Some of the godowns are now home to commercial developments and heritage hotels such as Riverside Point and the Warehouse Hotel respectively. While the interior are vastly different from what was observed in the past, these buildings still maintain the façade of the former godowns, sans the flashy colours that were added to inject vibrancy into the area, thus granting visitors a glimpse into what the Singapore River looked like in the past.

Site 14: Bridges along the Singapore River

Dotted along the entire 3.2m-long Singapore River are 12 bridges built across the span of modern Singapore’s history. These bridges are namely the Coleman Bridge (1840), Elgin Bridge (1862), Kim Seng Bridge (1862), Cavenagh Bridge (1869), Ord Bridge (1886), Read Bridge (1887), Pulau Saigon Bridge (1890s), Anderson Bridge (1910), Clemenceau Bridge (1940), Robertson Bridge (1998), Jiak Kim Bridge (1999), and Alkaff Bridge (1999). While each of these bridges are significant in their own right and have well-documented histories, My River Valley Heritage Tour will focus on the bridges located within the River Valley area, namely the Kim Seng, Pulau Saigon, and Robertson bridges.

Site 14A: Kim Seng Bridge

As its namesake goes, Kim Seng Bridge was constructed in 1862 by prominent Straits-Chinese merchant Tan Kim Seng, who owned properties and godowns in the surrounding area. The bridge is located at the mouth of the Singapore River, before it extends into the Alexandra canal.


In 1890, the bridge was replaced by another and is featured in early maps of Singapore as part of Kim Seng Rd, which is the road that runs across the bridge. Nonetheless, this bridge was not to last because in 1953, the City Council replaced it once again with the present bridge due to increasing traffic flow which mandated the need to prevent congestion. The new bridge is twice the size of the previous one and is made of pre-stressed concrete, therefore allowing it to hold a weight of up to 2,700 pounds/sq ft.


Site 14B: Pulau Saigon Bridge

The Pulau Saigon Bridge that we see on Saiboo St today is a modern construction. The original consisted of two separated bridges and were constructed in 1890 to connect a small mangrove marsh, known as Pulau Saigon which was also home to a village called Kampong Saigon, to the northern and southern banks of the Singapore River. By the early 1900s, the small island was bustling with activities from the warehouses and sago mills that stood there. The bridge linking Pulau Saigon to the northern bank was demolished in 1940 to make way for the Clemenceau Bridge while the other bridge remained in existence until 1986, when the land was reclaimed to join the small island to the mainland. Finally, the 43m-long Pulau Saigon Bridge of today was constructed in 1997 which allows both cars and pedestrians to access.

Site 14C: Robertson Bridge

One of the three newest bridges to be built along the Singapore River by URA to improve pedestrian connectivity, Robertson Bridge was the first of such to be constructed in 1998. The bridge received its name from Dr. Thomas Murray Robertson, a surgeon and former Municipal Councillor of Singapore who was well-loved by the local population.295 Robertson Quay was also named after this man. Dr Thomas Murray Robertson lived in the Leonie Hill House off Grange Rd, which was purchased by his father John Hutchinson Robertson when he first arrived in Singapore in 1857.

Site 15: Former River Valley High School

River Valley High School was first established as the Singapore Government Chinese Middle School in 1956 at Seng Poh Road. It was later renamed to Queenstown Government Chinese Middle School in 1957. In 1958, the school relocated yet again to River Valley Road, where it was renamed the River Valley Government Chinese Middle School.

In 1979, the school was selected to be part of the nine schools to pilot the Special Assistance Plan (SAP). Under this scheme, students of the SAP schools are required to undertake a curriculum that emphasises the learning of both English and Mandarin as a first language. At the same time, more resources were injected into the school to help students cope with the more rigorous curriculum.

In 1980, the school was renamed River Valley High School, under then-Principal Mdm Leong Fan Chin, to dispel misconceptions that the school was still a Chinese medium school. To cope with the growing school population and expanding needs of the school, River Valley High relocated for the third time to the former site of Jurong Junior College in West Coast. In 2010, River Valley High School shifted to its current location at Jalan Boon Lay in order to accommodate the school’s expanding facilities and to provide a better learning environment for students.

River Valley High School began their implementation of the Integrated Program after receiving approval from the Ministry of Education in 2006. It also kickstarted its Joint Admissions Exercise in 2009 which saw students from other secondary schools being admitted.

Site 16: Great World City

Great World City is a mixed-use development that includes retail shops, offices, and serviced apartments, built on the site of a former amusement park. It opened in 1997 and is currently undergoing a refurbishment to enhance its design and vibrancy. A retail link is also being built to connect the mall with the Great World MRT station.


The shopping mall received its namesake from the former Great World Amusement Park, which was a popular haunt for many Singaporeans growing up from the 1930s. Along with Happy World and Gay World, these three amusement parks provided leisure and entertainment for many Singaporeans, especially those from a middle or low-income background. The park sat on a 300,000 square foot land owned by Lee Choon Yung, a relative of the philanthropist and businessman Lee Kong Chian, who developed it into an amusement park for low-income families.


During the Japanese Occupation, the park was used as a camp for Prisoners-of-War (POWs) and was subsequently renamed Dai Segai, it was popular for performances, boxing matches, and gambling. After the war, the park was upgraded with new cultural programs, cinemas, and carnival rides under the Shaw Organisation, that included Bangsawan (Malay opera) and Cantonese and Peking opera.


In 1958, Great World had a grand reopening which was graced by the actress Elizabeth Taylor. The amusement park went on to become the site of several festivals and international trade fairs, as well as a favourite source of entertainment for local residents. In its heyday, the park had up to 50,000 people visiting in a night.314 With the dawn of other sources of entertainment like television and pasar malams (roadside night markets), the Great World, alongside its counterparts New World and Gay World, experienced a decline in visitorship. The park was eventually closed in 1964 but the cinemas and restaurants remained in operation until 1978.

Site 17: Former Boys’ Brigade Campus (Defunct)

The Boys’ Brigade has been established in Singapore since January 1930, when the first company was established at Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church. The organization was founded by James Milner Fraser, an architect and town planner who came to Singapore. In August 1930, the company enrolled its first 40 members, and by 1936, it had grown to the size of a battalion. The mission of the Boys’ Brigade in Singapore is to promote the spiritual and moral development of boys, through the encouragement of obedience, reverence, discipline, self-respect, and other qualities that foster manliness.


During WWII, the organization’s activities were halted and it lost 23 members to the brutality of the Japanese Kempeitai. After the war, the London headquarters donated funds for the rehabilitation of the battalion and under Fraser’s supervision, the organization was able to resume its activities. Today, the organization’s headquarters is located at 105 Ganges Avenue after shifting from its former location at Armenian Street in 1985, taking over the premises of a former primary school.

Site 18: Church of the St Bernadette

The 1950s saw a resurgence of the Catholic faith in Singapore, leading to the establishment of new parishes to serve the growing number of Catholics in the River Valley, Tiong Bahru, and Alexandra areas. The Church of St Bernadette was built on Zion Road to meet this need, and was dedicated to St Bernadette due to the coincidence of the year it was set to open in 1959, with the centenary of the apparitions of Our Lady at Lourdes to St Bernadette.


The church, designed by architect Alfred Wong, was opened with a Pontifical High Mass, a funfair, and a large attendance on March 31, 1959. The building, which cost an estimated $200,000, featured unique design elements such as three bells imported from France with the names of St Bernadette and her parents inscribed on them, and a blue neon-lit crucifix on the roof. As the population of parishioners at the Church of St Bernadette grew to 2,200 by 1960, a $22,000 parish hall was built adjacent to the main building in 1961, also designed by Alfred Wong.


In 1964, the CHIJ Kellock school was established next to the church, and remained there for 30 years until moving to a holding site in 1994. The church then took over the former school building and refurbished it into a three-storey Parish Centre at a cost of $2.08 million. Today, the church has a diverse community of parishioners, with at least 35% of them being foreigners, and continues to serve the residents of River Valley with an inclusive environment inspired by St Bernadette of Lourdes.