Friday, October 12, 2012

Factories around P.E.E. (6) - Castrol.

If you lived at Princess Elizabeth Estate or at the later Hillview HDB Estate, there was one prominent landmark that you could never miss. It was situated by the Hillview Circus (roundabout). Cars or vehicles driving by this place will have to slow down due to the very steep incline that is Hillview Road. Thus, you were given a clear view of this landmark as you passed the site.

This was the Castrol lubricant manufacturing factory with its huge distinctive silver oil storage tanks.

The storage tanks appear to be painted a dark colour but most everyone remember it in its silver livery.
(Photo taken in 1973.)
The Castrol plant was set up in 1963 with the encouragement of the Economic Development Board. Those were the years of frenzied factory building with great economic incentives given to major brands that wished to set up factories in Singapore.

It was originally called Castrol (Far East) Pte Ltd and was the first major overseas subsidiary of the British Castrol company which specialised in machine and engine lubricants.
The factory was opened in 1963 by Dr Goh Keng Swee amidst great flourish with the first drum of lubricant marked for shipment to Kobe, Japan.

As a young lad, I thought that the factory was an oil refinery due to the unmistakable oil storage tanks located there. It was only much later that I learnt that Castrol only manufactured lubricants for engines and that this plant at Hillview was its major manufacturing facility outside of Europe.

Castrol operated its factory from 1963 until 1993 when the Hillview area was rezoned from an industrial area to a condominium residential zone.  The factory then relocated to new premises at Jurong Industrial Estate.

Unless you are now in your 70s and lived at Princess Elizabeth, you probably would not have known the previous occupant of the Castrol site. The original factory that stood on that Colonial Industrial Estate site was the Hong Kong Rope Manufacturing Company.

Today, the site is occupied by the Glendale Park and Hillview Park Condominium complexes.

The old Castrol site at Hillview Ave. The condo is Glendale Park.
Note Hillview Circus in the foreground - one of the last remaining roundabouts in Singapore.
I sincerely hope that the authorities will not convert this circus in their zeal for 'progress'.


  1. My grandfather used to work at the factory till he retired. The company was very generous with their staff. There were workers quarters there for the staff, my whole family stayed at the quarters. I wasn't even born yet till 1985.

  2. Ghazali IsmailMarch 20, 2013

    My dad used to be the personal chaffer for the MD in Castrol and we lived in the staff quarters. In fact, my birth certificate was listed as c/o Castrol Quarters :) I was born there! We lived there until the relocation in 1993. I had so many fond memories growing up there, with the generous staff christmas parties, dinner & dances and having the whole factory as my playground.
    I think there is a typo error with the Castrol photo as it cannot be in 1973 as the new offices were already built and also the Dairy Farm condo which was built I think in the mid 80s only.
    Thanks for sharing this, I remember every hooks and corners of Castrol...

  3. My father who is now 88 was MD at Castrol Far East 1971 to 1977 approx. We had two wonderful Drivers called Ismail and Osmond. We would love to hear from anyone who remembers us or their families who remembers their happy times at Castrol. My father was so happy to read these comments.reply

  4. Hello Anon,
    By any chance would you have and would like to share some of your dad's old pictures taken at Castrol? I am sure many of the readers here would love to remember scenes of the place.
    Reading the previous comment from Ghazali Ismail above, I guess his father was your company driver. Hopefully Ghazali will respond and you can make contact again but it's already been posted since 2013. Keep your fingers crossed.