St George's Church



Singapore Infopedia

by Cornelius, Vernon, Tan, Joanna Hwang Soo

Background

St George’s Church is an Anglican church located at Minden Road, off Holland Road, on the grounds of what were once the Tanglin Barracks.1 Built between 1910 and 1913 as a garrison church, the distinctive red brick building has a rich history dating back to the British colonial presence in Singapore. The church was gazetted as a national monument on 10 November 1978 for its historical and architectural significance.2

History

The Tanglin Barracks were established in 1861 to house British troops.3 Without a church nearby, services were held privately in the barracks.4 Between 1870 and 1890, a church was built within the grounds of the barracks, although the exact date and location are unknown.5 From 1871, a colonial chaplain conducted authorised services within the barracks.6

This church was replaced by the current St George’s Church, which stands on what was once a nutmeg plantation owned by Colonial Treasurer William E. Willans.7 Construction began in 1910, and the church was completed and in use by around September–October 1911.8 The new church was known as St George’s Garrison Church in its early years.9 The Reverend H. G. Marshall was the military chaplain stationed in Singapore from November 1911 to September 1914, followed by Reverend Basil Coleby Roberts from 1915 to 1919.10

During World War II, the Japanese used the premises as an ammunition depot,11 and the Chaplain’s Quarters became home to one of the Japanese commandants. The chaplain died during his incarceration as a prisoner-of-war (POW). The officers and men of the allied forces were internned in Changi and other POW camps. St George’s Church was restored following the war.12 A re-dedication ceremony was held on Remembrance Sunday, 10 November 1946.13

When British forces withdrew from Singapore on 25 October 1971, St George's Church was transferred to the Anglican Diocese of Singapore, thus becoming a civilian church.14 In 1973, it became a parish church in its own right.15 Bruce Winter served as its first full-time clergyman until 1978 when he was replaced by Bob Robinson.16

Features
St George’s Church was designed by William Henry Stanbury, a member of the Royal Engineers and a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects.17 With a seating capacity of 650, the church is built in the style of classical Romanesque architecture, which is reflected in the squat, compact shape of the church with its stone-vaulted naves and an absence of a tower or spire.18 It is also built suitable for a tropical setting, with unplastered bricks and walls with gaps to allow sunlight and ventilation.19 The bricks form the detailing on the church, such as the dentil (“teeth” in Latin) moulding on the arches that resembles a set of teeth.20

Prior to the fall of Singapore to Japanese troops in 1942, the chaplain had packed away the church’s original stained glass windows for fear that they would be destroyed in the fighting. The chaplain died during the war, and an intensive search after the war failed to produce any clues to the whereabouts of the windows.21 Arthur Lane, a member of the Manchester Regiment stationed at a camp at the 10th milestone on Changi Road, reported witnessing the burial of the windows together with a collection of valuables in a pit at the back of the camp shortly before the fall of Singapore to the Japanese.22 In February 1992, a team led by Lane excavated a site along Upper Changi Road but did not find the windows. The location of the glass windows remains unknown.23

In the early 1950s, a church sub-committee commissioned Gordon M. Webster of Glasgow, Scotland to design and make a new set of stained glass windows.24 On 10 July 1955, new windows bearing the image of Christ and the badges of various regiments were installed and unveiled.25 The central panel of glass shows the figure of Christ with his right hand raised in benediction, and holding a Bible in his left hand.26 The words “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” appear at the base. The left window shows the badges of the Gurkha Regiment, the King’s African Rifles, and the Malay Police, among others, while the window on the right displays the badges of the Malay Regiment, Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps, and the Arms of Singapore.27

The church’s lych gate was built in 1942 by members of the British 18th Division Royal Engineers interred at Changi for the Changi Camp Cemetery. When the graves were exhumed and moved to Kranji War Cemetery, the gate was moved to St George’s Church.28 With the withdrawal of British forces from Singapore in 1971, the gate was sent to Britain and is located at the Queen’s Division Depot at Hertfordshire, England. A replica of the gate now stands in place of the original gate in front of the church.29



Authors
Vernon Cornelius and Joanna HS Tan



References
1. “Saint George’s Church,” National Heritage Board, accessed 3 March 2017; “Beauty Amidst Quiet Dignity,” Straits Times, 13 December 1981, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
2. National Heritage Board, “Saints George’s Church”; Edmund Teo, “Three More Religious Buildings Preserved,” Straits Times, 13 November 19789; Amelia Teng, “Church with Two Beginnings,” Straits Times, 8 November 2011, 6; Rachel Au-Yong, “A Sanctuary in War and Peace,” Straits Times, 2 February 2017, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
3. David Jones and Anna Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years: Saint George’s Church (Singapore: Straits Times Press, 2012), 14. (Call no. RSING 283.5957 JON)
4. Teng, “Church with Two Beginnings.”
5. National Heritage Board, “Saints George’s Church”; “Beauty Amidst Quiet Dignity”; “The Tanglin Barracks,” New Nation, 29 October 1971 9 (From NewspaperSG); Teng, “Church with Two Beginnings.”
6. National Heritage Board, “Saints George’s Church.”
7. J. B. Hattendorf and Peter Keys, “Story of St George’s Church, Tanglin,” Straits Times, 16 February 19852; Teng, “Church with Two Beginnings”; Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 14.
8. Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 16.
9. National Heritage Board, “Saints George’s Church.”
10. Bishop Coleby Roberts,” Malaya Tribune, 19 August 19274; “St. Andrew’s Cathedral,” Straits Times, 4 September 19148 (From NewspaperSG); Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 20.
11. Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 23; National Heritage Board, “Saints George’s Church”; “Beauty Amidst Quiet Dignity”; “Church with Two Beginnings.”
12. Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 23; “Church with Two Beginnings.”
13. Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 23; National Heritage Board, “Saints George’s Church.”
14. Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 32; Hattendorf and Keys, “Story of St George’s Church, Tanglin”; “Church with Two Beginnings.”
15. National Heritage Board, “Saints George’s Church.”
16. Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 34, 38.
17. Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 65; National Heritage Board, “Saint George’s Church”; Hattendorf and Keys, “Story of St George’s Church, Tanglin.”
18. Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 65–66; National Heritage Board, “Saint George’s Church.”
19. Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 66; “Church with Two Beginnings.”
20 Lee Geok Boi, The Religious Monuments of Singapore: Faiths of our Forefathers (Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, 2002), 60.
21. National Heritage Board, “Saint’s George’s Church”; “The Church with Missing Windows,” Straits Times, 27 July 20027 (From NewspaperSG); Teo, “Three More Religious Buildings Preserved,” “Beauty Amidst Quiet Dignity”; Hattendorf and Keys, “Story of St George’s Church, Tanglin.”
22. Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 79; Phan Min Yen, “Mystery Dig by Foreign Group at Changi,” Straits Times, 6 February 19923. (From NewpaperSG)
23. Phan, “Mystery Dig by Foreign Group at Changi.”
24. National Heritage Board, “Saint’s George’s Church”; Hattendorf and Keys, “Story of St George’s Church, Tanglin”; “Church with Two Beginnings.”
25. Hattendorf and Keys, “Story of St George’s Church, Tanglin”; Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 79.
26. Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 79.
27. National Heritage Board, “Saint’s George’s Church”; Jones and Teo, Celebrates One Hundred Years, 79.
28. National Heritage Board, “Saint’s George’s Church”; “Lych Gate Given a Permanent Home,” Straits Times, 12 December 19525 (From NewspaperSG); Teng, “Church with Two Beginnings.”
29. Teng, “Church with Two Beginnings.”



Further resources
Urban Redevelopment Authority for Preservation of Monuments Board, St George’s Church Preservation Guidelines (Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, 1992), 2 vols. (From PublicationSG)



The information in this article is valid as of September 2021 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic. 


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The information on this page and any images that appear here may be used for private research and study purposes only. They may not be copied, altered or amended in any way without first gaining the permission of the copyright holder.

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