Coleman Bridge

Singapore Infopedia

by Cornelius, Vernon


Coleman Bridge spans the Singapore River and links Hill Street with New Bridge Road.It is named after the designer of the first Coleman Bridge built in 1840, George D. Coleman (b. 1795, Drogheda, Ireland–d. 27 March 1844, Singapore). Coleman was the first Government Superintendent of Public Works and served in Singapore as surveyor, planner and architect.Three other Coleman Bridges (built in 1865, 1886 and 1990 respectively) have since replaced that first structure. The latest and biggest Coleman Bridge was completed in 1990 as part of the New Bridge Road Widening Scheme.3

First bridge
The first Coleman Bridge was a brick structure consisting of nine arches. The 20-foot-wide bridge was completed in 1840 and had cost $8,690 to build.4  New Bridge Road was created in 1842 after Coleman’s “new bridge” was built over the Singapore River, linking the new road to the existing Hill Street.5

Second bridge

The first bridge was replaced in 1865 by a timber bridge costing about $10,000. However, it was not well constructed and was replaced again in 1886. The 1865 wooden bridge was initially named Canning Bridge in honour of Lord Charles John Canning,6 but the Municipal department later renamed it back to Coleman Bridge. In an 1885 Singapore Free Press newspaper article, it was reported that “in the Harbour Rules, Mr [Thomas] Braddell, then Attorney-General, called [the bridge] Coleman Bridge”, and the Coleman Bridge name had stuck since then. Indeed, the 1867 edition of The Straits Calendar and Directory had stated in the “Port Rules” section that the harbour limits of the Port of Singapore was “including the mouth of the Singapore River as far as the second or Coleman’s Bridge”. Still, the bridge was just as often called Canning Bridge back then.7

Third bridge

The third Coleman Bridge, constructed in 1886, had three lanes and was built to meet increased traffic between the north and south of town. The structure was once one of Singapore’s most elegant bridges with pontoons in the water, octagonal piers painted white and brown holding up the bridge, and graceful wrought-iron gas lamps rising from the octagonal piers.8

Latest and biggest
The latest and biggest Coleman Bridge was completed in 1990 as part of the New Bridge Road Widening Scheme to ease traffic congestion and to allow for better bus routing. The Coleman Bridge widening project was undertaken in two phases. Under the first phase completed in September 1987, a new bridge was built next to the old one. Traffic was then diverted to the new bridge and work started to replace the old bridge with a new one. Building the new bridge required a much deeper and larger foundation to be sunk into the Singapore river bed. This new twin-bridge with four lanes each was built by the Public Works Department, and strove to retain the architectural and decorative features of the 1886 iron bridge, such as the ornate columns, lamp posts, railing and arched support. Two underpasses were also built under the bridge on both sides of the river so that pedestrians could stroll by the Singapore River from its mouth to Hill Street without interruption.9


Vernon Cornelius

1. Streetdirectory Pte Ltd., Coleman Bridge, n.d., map.
2. T. H. H. Hancock, Coleman’s Singapore (Kuala Lumpur: Pelanduk Publications, 1986), 1–2, 66, 87. (Call no. RSING 720.924 COL.H)
3. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 88–89 (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA]); Jalelah Abu Baker “Know More About Singapore’s New Jubilee Bridge and Older Iconic Bridges,” Straits Times, 6 April 2015. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website) 
4. Hancock, Coleman’s Singapore, 21; “Untitled,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), 23 January 1845, 3; “Untitled,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), 22 April 1847, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
5. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 269; Hancock, Coleman’s Singapore, 38–39.
6. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 62.
7. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 88–89; Jane Beamish and Jane Ferguson, A History of Singapore Architecture: The Making of a City (Singapore: G. Brash, 1985), 75–77 (Call no. RSING 722.4095957 BEA); Charles Burton Buckley, An Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1984), 716 (Call no. RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS]); “As It Was in the Singapore Free Press, for the Week Ending July 25, 1885,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 27 July 1935, 4; “Untitled,” Straits Times, 20 October 1883, 2 (From NewspaperSG); The Straits Calendar and Directory (Singapore: Straits Times Press, 1887), 131. (From BooKSG)
8. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 88–89; Beamish and Ferguson, History of Singapore Architecture, 75–77 (Call no. RSING 722.4095957 BEA); “Yes Indeed, This Is Coleman Bridge,” Straits Times, 5 February 1994, 22 (From NewspaperSG); Dhoraisingam S. Samuel, Singapore’s Heritage: Through Places of Historical Interest (Singapore: Elixir Consultancy Service, 1991), 86. (Call no. RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS])
9. “Two-Way Hill Street When Coleman Bridge Is Widened,” Straits Times, 12 August 1989, 22; Rav Dhaliwal, “New Coleman Bridge to Go Up,” Straits Times, 2 October 1985, 36 (From NewspaperSG); Abu Baker, “Know More About Singapore’s New Jubilee Bridge and Older Iconic Bridges,” Straits Times6 April 2015. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)

The information in this article is valid as at 2017 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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