Sailors' Home

Singapore Infopedia


The Sailors’ Home in Singapore was a seamen’s lodging from the mid-19th to early 20th centuries. It became well known because novelist Joseph Conrad described his stay there in his novels, The Shadow-LineThe End of the Tether, and Lord Jim.1 The home was established on High Street in 1851. By 1925, it had become known as the Connell House, located on Anson Road.2

The Sailors’ Home in Singapore was set up to provide board and lodging to seamen on shore. The suggestion to set up the home was brought up by some philanthropists, and discussion on its establishment commenced on 22 April 1851, according to Charles Buckley.3 However, an entry in the Singapore Directory and Almanac of 1856 noted that the home had been established in 1850.4 A fancy-dress fundraising ball for the home was held on 15 May 1851. Single tickets were sold at $5, and family tickets at $7.50.5

The Sailors’ Home was established on High Street.6 Then resident councillor in Singapore, Thomas Church, was its president.7

As the number of seamen stopping at Singapore grew, the home’s premises on High Street became insufficient. In 1857, it was relocated to a bigger building formerly occupied by businessman-turned-American-consul, Joseph Balestier. Balestier’s estate, which included 220 acres (0.89 sq km) of cane plantation and facilities such as a boiling house, distilleries and stables, outhouses and godowns, had been put up for sale in 1848. The building was expanded in 1877.8

The cost of lodging at the Sailors’ Home was $1.15 per person for officers and $0.75 for seamen.9 The home was known as Rumah Khlasi in Malay.10

Connell House
By 1892, Sailors’ Home had moved to a two-storey house at the corner of North Bridge Road and Stamford Road (opposite St Andrew’s Cathedral), on the site of the present Capitol Building. After the house was sold in 1924, proceeds from the sale were pooled together with another sum of money to acquire a three-acre site at 1 Anson Road. The sum had been left behind for the home by the late Matthew Connell, an engineer of the British Merchant Navy.11

The new building on Anson Road was completed by 1925, and it was named Connell House after its benefactor.12

Marsita Omar & Nor-Afidah Abd Rahman

1. George L. Peet, Rickshaw Reporter (Singapore: Eastern University Press, 1985), 129. (Call no. RSING 070.924 PEE)
2. G. Uma Devi, et al., Singapore's 100 Historic Places (Singapore: Archipelago Press, 2002), 39. (Call no. RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
3. Charles Burton Buckley, An Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1984), 546, 578. (Call no. RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
4. The Singapore Almanack and Directory for the Year 1856 (Singapore: Straits Times Press, 1856), 38. (From BookSG)
5. Buckley, Anecdotal History of Old Times, 546, 578.
6. Buckley, Anecdotal History of Old Times, 546, 578.
7. Singapore Almanack and Directory, 38.
8. Buckley, Anecdotal History of Old Times, 546, 578.
9. G. M. Reith, Handbook to Singapore: With Map and a Plan of the Botanical Gardens (Singapore: The Singapore and Straits Printing Office, 1892), 59. (From  BookSG)
10. Reith, Handbook to Singapore, 59.
11. Devi, et al., Singapore's 100 Historic Places, 39.
12. “New Name over Old,” Singapore Standard, 16 June 1953, 4 (From NewspaperSG); Devi, et al., Singapore's 100 Historic Places, 39.

The information in this article is valid as at April 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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