Elgin Bridge

Singapore Infopedia


Elgin Bridge spans the Singapore River and joins North Bridge Road to South Bridge Road.1 Built in 1862, the bridge was named after Lord James Bruce Elgin, the Governor-General of India (1862–1863) and eighth Earl of Elgin.2 The bridge functioned until January 1927, when it made way for the construction of the present Elgin Bridge, which opened on 30 May 1929. 

The earliest bridge to span the Singapore River was erected between 1822 and 1823, at the site where Elgin Bridge now stands.4 Constructed under the direction of Lieutenant Philip Jackson, the wooden footbridge was called Presentment Bridge and was also known as Monkey Bridge.5 It provided the only crossing over the river until 1840, when Coleman Bridge was constructed further upstream.6

After many repairs between 1827 and 1842, Presentment Bridge was demolished and replaced in 1844 with a wooden footbridge designed by J. T. Thomson. It was then renamed Thomson’s Bridge.7 In 1845, the bridge was widened and modified to accommodate carriages.8

In 1862, Thomson’s Bridge was replaced by an iron bridge imported from Calcutta.9 Built by the engineer George Lyon, the structure was named Elgin Bridge, in honour of Lord Elgin, the Governor-General of India.10 Elgin Bridge was widened and strengthened in 1886 to accommodate tramways.11 
Elgin Bridge was closed on 23 December 1926 and dismantled in January 1927 for reconstruction to keep up with the volume of vehicle and pedestrian traffic.12 The new structure was designed by municipal bridge engineer, T. C. Hood, who also supervised its construction.13 Two years were spent laying the foundations of the bridge, which involved sinking six caissons into the river bed.14 The steel framework of the bridge was fabricated in Glasgow and assembled on the North Bridge Road side, before being towed over the river as one complete structure on 30 October 1928.15

Officially opened to traffic on 30 May 1929, the present Elgin Bridge is the fourth to be built on the same site.16 It is supported by three arches with slender hanging columns carrying the deck. It has steel frames encased in concrete. The bridge’s cast-iron lamp posts and roundels were designed by Italian sculptor Cavalieri Rodolfo Nolli.17

Elgin Bridge was restored in 1989 as part of the master plan to beautify the Singapore River.18 Two pedestrian underpasses on both ends of the bridge were opened in 1991 and 1992.19 Elgin Bridge was given conservation status by the Urban Redevelopment Authority on 3 December 2009.20  In August 2019, it was announced that Elgin Bridge, Cavenagh Bridge, and Anderson Bridge would be collectively gazetted as a National Monument.21 

Variant names
Chinese names: thih tiau-kio, in Hokkien, and thit tiu-khiu, in Cantonese, both mean iron suspension bridge.22


Vernon Cornelius-Takahama

1. Ray Tyers and Siow Jin Hua, Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & Now (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993), 7. (Call no. RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
2. “Municipal Council,” Straits Times, 26 July 1862, 1 (From NewspaperSG); Wan Meng Hao and Jacqueline Lau, Heritage Places of Singapore (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2009), 13. (Call no. RSING 959.57 WAN-[HIS])
3. Municipality, Singapore, Administration Report of the Singapore Municipality for the Year 1927 (Singapore: Fraser & Neave, Limited, 1928), F–2 (Call no. RCLOS 363.61095957 SIN); Municipality, Singapore, Administration Report of the Singapore Municipality for the Year 1929 (Singapore: Fraser & Neave, Limited, 1930), F–2 (Call no. RCLOS 363.61095957 SIN)
4. R. Powell, “The Axis of Singapore: South Bridge Road,” in Beyond Description: Singapore Space Historicity, ed., Ryan Bishop, John Phillips and Wei-Wei Yeo (London: Routlege, 2004), 125 (Call no. RSING 307.1216095957 BEY); Lee Kip Lin, EIC Letters, vol. 1 ([s.n.]: [n.p.], n.d.), 11, 17, 20, 41 (Call no. RDLKL 959.5703 EIC)
5. Colin Cheong, Framework and Foundation: A History of the Public Works Department (Singapore: Times Editions, 1992), 50. (Call no. RSING 354.5957008609 CHE)
6. Walter Makepeace, Gilbert E. Brooke and Roland St. J. Braddell, One Hundred Years of Singapore, vol. 1 (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1991), 323. (Call no. RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
7. Cheong, Framework and Foundation, 51; Charles Burton Buckley, An Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore, vol. 2 (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1984), 571, 630 (Call no. RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS]); “Untitled,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), 15 April 1847, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
8. Cheong, Framework and Foundation, 51.
9. Cheong, Framework and Foundation, 51.
10. Buckley, Anecdotal History of Old Times, 733; “Municipal Council.”
11. Cheong, Framework and Foundation, 51; The Municipality,” Straits Times Weekly Issue, 3 April 1886, 6; “Municipal Engineer’s Report for October,” Straits Times Weekly Issue, 13 December 1886, 12; “The Municipality,” Straits Times Weekly Issue, 31 January 1881, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
12. Municipality, Singapore, Administration Report of the Singapore Municipality for the Year 1926 (Singapore: Fraser & Neave, Limited, 1927), 6 (Call no. RCLOS 363.61095957 SIN); Municipality, Singapore, Administration Report of the Singapore Municipality for the Year 1927, F-2;Elgin Bridge,” Straits Times, 24 December 1926, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
13. “The New Elgin Bridge Nearing Completion,” Malayan Saturday Post, 3 November 1928, 36; “Elgin Bridge Across,” Straits Times, 30 October 1928, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
14. “Elgin Bridge Reconstruction,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 25 August 1927, 9; “Elgin Bridge Problem,” Straits Times, 24 October 1928, 11. (From NewspaperSG)
15. “Elgin Bridge Across”; “Singapore’s Bridges,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 31 October 1928, 11. (From NewspaperSG)
16. Municipality, Singapore, Administration Report of the Singapore Municipality for the Year 1929, F-2; Facelift for Elgin Bridge,” Straits Times, 10 March 1988, 21. (From NewspaperSG)
17. Cheong, Framework and Foundation, 513; Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 7.
18. Ministry of Culture, Singapore, Singapore (Singapore: Ministry of Culture, 1990), 165 (Call no. RSING 959.57 SIN); “Bridges to the Past along the Singapore River,” Straits Times, 5 October 1986, 1; “Facelift for Elgin Bridge,” Straits Times, 10 March 1988, 21. (From NewspaperSG)
19. “2 Underpasses for Elgin Bridge,” Straits Times, 10 September 1992, 21. (From NewspaperSG)
20. “Singapore River Bridges,” Urban Redevelopment Authority, accessed 13 October 2016.
21. “Three Singapore River Bridges and the Padang to Be Gazetted as National Monuments,” Today, 3 August 2019. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
22. H. W. Firmstone, “Chinese Names of Streets and Places in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula,” Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 42 (February 1905): 142. (Call no. RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS)

The information in this article is valid as of September 2019 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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