The Singapore River Bridges – Cavenagh, Anderson and Elgin Bridges – were accorded the highest level of protection, as part of the National Heritage Board’s (NHB) ongoing efforts to preserve and safeguard Singapore’s built heritage.
Symbols of Growth
The Cavenagh, Anderson and Elgin Bridges illustrate Singapore’s growth as a trading port and city. The bridges connected Singapore with the world as they facilitated trade and transport links that were necessary for the growth of Singapore in the 19th century.
Together, the bridges eliminated the need for boatmen to ferry passengers across the river by linking the south bank of the river with the north – serving the critical function of connecting the mercantile and commercial side with government offices located on the north bank of the river.
The Singapore River Bridges also represent the progressive technological advancements in bridge construction from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries. Cavenagh Bridge’s use of cast iron in 1869, Anderson Bridge’s use of steel in 1909, and Elgin Bridge’s use of reinforced concrete in 1929 showcase the rapid development in new materials, industrial technology and shipping trade.
If you wish to learn more about the bridges, here are some historical and architectural facts:
Cavenagh Bridge (Facts)
- It was named after Sir William Orfeur Cavenagh, the governor of the Straits Settlements at that time.
- It is the oldest surviving bridge across the Singapore River
- Served as a key link from Commercial Square (Raffles Place today) to the government quarter. Prior to the construction of Cavenagh Bridge, a temporary wooden footbridge with turnstiles provided people with a means of crossing near this site.
- It is one of the two remaining bridges in the world built with the “Ordish-Lefeuvre system” as a modified cable-stayed bridge – the other is Albert Bridge (1873) in London which is no longer using this system fully.
- The cast-iron structure was manufactured and shipped out from Glasgow, Scotland.
- There are antique signs at the end of the bridge, prohibiting “any vehicle of which the laden weight exceeds 3 cwt and to all cattle and horses”
- Steel plates emblazoned with the engineers’ names
- It has the Cavenagh family crest
- Hanging lamps and the bridge’s “tie-backs”
Anderson Bridge (Facts)
- Supplement the capacity of Cavenagh Bridge which was unable to cope with the increased vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
- It was named after Sir John Anderson, the Governor of the Straits Settlements and High Commissioner of the Federated Malay States
- A variant of the Pratt truss bridge with a gentle arch, bearing a close resemblance to the old Victoria Bridge over the Brisbane River.
- Diagonal structural members and steel latticework
- Rusticated granite pedestrian archways and fluted piers
- Bronze lamps
- Stone with the inscription facing Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall. This was from Aswan, Egypt.
Elgin Bridge (Facts)
- The first footbridge to be built in Singapore (in c.1820s).
- The present Elgin Bridge is the 5th bridge and 2nd “Elgin Bridge” to be built on the site
- It was the only bridge that linked the north and south banks of the Singapore River until Coleman Bridge was constructed.
- Later, a wooden drawbridge replaced this footbridge. It was known as Presentment Bridge, also known as Jackson Bridge.
- In 1844, a new timber footbridge replaced the Presentment Bridge but was demolished by 1862.
- In 1862, an iron bridge was brought in from Calcutta to replace the 1840s bridge. This was the first Elgin Bridge.
- In 1925, it was proposed that Elgin Bridge be rebuilt as it had become overly congested and had also started to show signs of subsidence.
- The bridge linked the Chinese community on the south side of the river to the Indian merchants on the north side. The roads on either side of the bridge – North and South Bridge Road – were named with reference to the bridge.
- The first Elgin Bridge was modified to accommodate the increasing vehicular traffic and the introduction of the steam tramway.
- The bridge was named after Lord James Bruce Elgin, Governor-General of India from 1862 to 1863.
- This bowstring/arch bridge’s structural frame was constructed in steel and encased in concrete. Its construction was described to be an engineering achievement in Singapore at that time. The bridge’s foundation had to be sunk to a depth of 80 feet below water due to the soil conditions.
- Cast iron lamps on the ends of the bridge
- Bronze plaques engraved with the lion symbol of the city
NHB’s Milestones Through Monuments programme
Minister Fu also launched NHB’s new Milestones Through Monuments programme that the public can participate in to relive and experience moments of Singapore’s history at the National Monuments. She announced that a new tranche of S$15 million will be made available to help eligible monument owners co-fund upcoming restoration projects under the National Monuments Fund.
Its inaugural edition will kick off with the Singapore River Bridges given Singapore’s Bicentennial from 15 to 28 October 2019.
The installations on each of the three Singapore River Bridges include:
Supersized origami boats on Cavenagh Bridge – inspired by the many boats that plied the Singapore River in the past.
A reconstructed tram on Anderson bridge which features the various modes of transport that used to run across it.
A past and present juxtaposition of the iconic Singapore River along Elgin Bridge
Currently, there are 31 non-profit and religious National Monuments that qualify for the grant:
- Abdul Gaffoor Mosque
- Al-Abrar Mosque
- Alkaff Upper Serangoon Mosque
- Armenian Church of St Gregory
- Cathedral of the Good Shepherd
- Chesed-El Synagogue
- Church of Our Lady of Lourdes
- Church of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- Church of St Peter and St Paul
- Church of St Teresa
- Hajjah Fatimah Mosque
- Hong San See
- Jamae Mosque
- Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery (Former Siong Lim Temple)
- Maghain Aboth Synagogue
- Nagore Dargah Indian Muslim Heritage Centre
- Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church
- Singapore Yu Huang Gong (Former Keng Teck Whay)
- Sri Mariamman Temple
- Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple
- Sri Thendayuthapani Temple
- St Andrew’s Cathedral
- St George’s Church
- St Joseph’s Church
- Sultan Mosque (Masjid Sultan)
- Tan Si Chong Su
- Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church
- Thian Hock Keng (Chong Wen Ge & Chong Hock Pavilion)
- Tou Mu Kung
- Ying Fo Fui Kun
- Yueh Hai Ching Temple
The criteria of eligibility include that the monument to be owned and managed by a non-profit or religious organization; the organisation has the ability to finance the works before applying for contribution from the NMF; and the public has access to the National Monument.
For more information about NHB and the Preservation of Sites and Monuments Division (PHB), visit here.