Monday, February 11, 2013

Places around P.E.E. (10) - Fuyong Estate.

Recently, one of my blog readers emailed me after coming across my Rail Mall article.
She wanted to know if I had any old photos of Fuyong Estate where Rail Mall is located and where she is presently living.

My biggest surprise when I replied to her was when I realised that she lives in the house that is next to the one where I used to live. She would have been my immediate neighbour had I not moved away! But then, that was years ago, while she just moved in recently. She loves the ambience of the small estate but unfortunately is having some issue with soil movements, perhaps due to the underground MRT tunnels being dug beneath or from some other causes.

She was hoping I might have some photos of the area behind Rail Mall which borders her house.
If you have been to Rail Mall, you would know that there is a service road that runs behind Rail Mall. The road divides the estate from the shopping arcade.

I told her that during my time at Fuyong Estate, there was no road behind those rows of shophouses that would later be converted to become Rail Mall. There was only a footpath wide enough for, believe it or not, the night soil carrier to perform his cleaning operations each day. The service road was created to serve Rail Mall in recent years.

Fuyong Estate was built in the 1950s starting with the row of Worker's Houses fronting Upper Bukit Timah Road.
Being the nearest private housing development to Princess Elizabeth Estate, it was seen as the upmarket neighbourhood to aspire to. It comprised single-storied bungalows, semi-detached houses, a few rows of terrace houses and some doubled-storied semi-detached units. In all, about a hundred houses in the estate.
These were served by several shophouses consisting of provision shops, laundry, hairdressers, charcoal shops, and other sundry shops. These all fronted Upper Bukit Timah Road. The shophouses were converted to Rail Mall in 1995.

Heritage photos of Fuyong Estate taken in the late 1970s. 
(From National Library Board's PICAS database)

Fuyong Estate was built by the philanthropist Mr Lee Kong Chian in the mid 1950s. Lee Kong Chian also donated the adjacent land at Fuyong Estate to the Salvation Army for building a children's home called the Lee Kuo Chuan Home for Children. Today this has become the Salvation Army Paisehaven Nursing Home.
The roads within Fuyong Estate are known as Jalan Asas meaning Fundamentals, Jalan Tumpu (Focus), Jalan Siap (Preparedness), Jalan Tekad (Strength and Willpower) & Jalan Uji (Challenge or Test).

When my parents moved from Princess Elizabeth Estate to Fuyong, I was really happy because I had an entire bedroom for myself. This was not possible in our previous small S.I.T. flat. I also vaguely remembered that the house was priced about $7K at that time. Even then this was a princely sum. Recently I read that houses there now sold for over $1m! Maybe we shouldn't have moved away that soon?

The KTM railway bridge is located beside Chua Eng Say Road beside Fuyong Estate.

There were also 2 kampongs that grew as an annex to the estate. One was a Malay kampong at Lorong Chamar that was built behind Fuyong on the higher elevation of the hill slopes. The other was a Chinese village that was known as Kampong Chia Eng Say. This was located between Fuyong and the Singapore Granite Quarry. Both these kampongs were demolished and the squatters re-settled by the government years ago.

An old Chinese kampong house at Chia Eng Say Road.

  Recent photos of Fuyong Estate


  1. Hello James,

    Thanks for your marvellous efforts in maintaining this blog. It makes reminiscences even more colourful.

    As a former PEES alumnus (Edmund Wee, Mohammed Anuwar [Asiah’s {the kindergarten teacher’s} brother] & Subash Chandran were classmates), and as an ex-resident of Fuyong Estate and Hillview, I'd been following this blog off & on for the last year and a bit and have found it very very interesting and at time hilarious.

    My parents & siblings were lived within Fuyong Estate itself when I was born in 1952 and whilst the estate was being built. As a one-time resident of Fuyong Estate (during the period 1952 till 1978), I think I should jump in here and add and/or clarify some of the details regarding Fuyong Estate:

    1. Fuyong Estate was actually built by Lee Kong Chian, not Chia Eng Say. (A distant relation of Chia Eng Say intimated that he was accidentally shot dead during WW2, whilst attempting to evacuate Singapore, before the fall of Singapore to the Japanese);

    2. the roads within Fuyong Estate actually did not have their names until sometime in the 60s. This is borne out by the fact that my birth certificate gave an address as "76-XX Bukit Timah Road 9 m/s, Singapore". In fact, there were no proper roads within the estate until the 60s - a testament to the good work of our first generation leaders. The roads were strewn with construction debris and were nothing more than pot-holed muddy tracks. It was only round about the time when we became self-governing that proper bituminised roads were constructed.

    [In fact, I vaguely recall watching bulldozers ploughing up the slopes of the elevated areas to prepare the roads and the area for the construction of the houses that now make up the Jalan Siap & the Jalan Tekad side of Jalan Asas. After the mud-packed roads were bulldozed (and before construction works started), I also remember going along with my elder siblings to watch some (British forces?) rally drivers coming by to race around those newly made roads.]

    From within Fuyong Estate, my family later (@ 1955) shifted up the hill to live in the Malay kampong that fringed Fuyong Estate and which was located at the elevated area that is to the rear of the estate. This kampung’s most famous resident is Papa Rock - Ramli Sarip. It is a little known fact that A/Prof. Suresh Pillai, a lawyer hail from this kampong. It has also produce at least two other graduates. I believe the good A/Prof is also an alumnus of PEES, like his elder siblings.

    Given its elevation (it is located on the fringes of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve), in the early years, it was always plagued by low water pressure issuing out of the only two public stand pipes that supplied free water(!).

    Several of the Malay residents of the kampong hail from Batu Pahat. Sometime in the 60s, there was a malaria outbreak in the kampong. Apparently, the source was traced to a resident who has just return from a visit to Batu Pahat! It was reported then that that outbreak had broken Singapore’s malaria-free record of several years.

    As you have correctly indicated, the track that led up to and through the kampung was called Lorong Chamar. Lorong Chamar no longer exists – one of the many disappeared road/lanes of Singapore. However, bituminised remains of that road still exist behind the row of bungalows that run alongside 37 Jalan Uji. This remnant road is now bisected by a metalled road that originates at Dairy Farm Road, loops pass the MOE Dairy Farm Adventure Centre, runs parallel to a short stretch of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve Mountain Biking Train and then terminates at the former Singapore Quarry. The quarry was recently redeveloped (@ end 2010) into a bird sanctuary. Aside from Lorong Halus, it has a precious resident population of about 8 rare Little Grebes. Hopefully, this resident population would propagate, although I have not seen them in my last few visits to the place.

    1. Hi Fang and James,

      I am a resident of Fuyong Estate since 2000. Currently, I am chairing a SG50 project team in producing a book on Fuyong Estate. You may want to visit our Facebook Page at

      At this Facebook Page, I have shared some information from my research and also a number of questions. I hope you can help.

    2. In 1893, Lee Kong Chian was born in Furong village, Fujian, China (中国福建省南安县芙蓉村). He had named various places in different parts of the world after his village. Thus, he could have given the name - 芙蓉 (English translations - Fu Rong, Fu Yong, Phoo Yong, Foo Yong.) to the estate.

      Referring to a newspaper article (The Straits Times, 13 February 1955, Page 9, Homes for poor ), it mentioned that “By the end of the year, 150 low-income families in Singapore will be housed at Phoo Yong Estate off the sixth mile Bukit Timah Road.”. I believe that Phoo Yong and Fuyong are referring to the same place and 9th mile may have been mistakenly reported as 6th mile.

      The Straits Times, 3 February 1949, Page 5 RUBBER COMPANY STAFF HOUSES
      reported that Mr. Lee Kong Chian started to build houses for his staff which cost about $4500 each. If the plan was successful, he would build houses for sale. Fang mentioned that he was born in 1952 and stayed there when he was born. In the 1955 article, it was reported 61 houses were already built. The lease of the estate commences in 1947. So what was the estate during 1947 to 1949, and 1949 to 1952? When was the estate named Phoo Yong / Fuyong Estate?

    3. Hi Fang,
      I'm staying near Fuyong Estate and it's nice to know more about the estate. I've been hearing that Fuyong Estate's lands belong to Lee or OCBC, is this true? Does it mean that the owners staying in Fuyong Estate will not be able to renew their lease after 2047, and the lands will be returned to Lee & Co. or OCBC, and not back to government? Why is the renewal not possible?

  2. Hi Fang,
    Thanks for being a regular visitor to my blog and especially for the comments on the beginnings of Fuyong Estate.
    I stand truly corrected by your facts which has clarified my own misconceptions over all these years.
    I was there from around 1969 to about 1980 and then I moved back into PEE. Thanks for setting the records straight.

    Yes, Ramli Sarip was from the old kampong but I am unaware that A/P Pillai was also from that same kampong.
    The 1st Principal of PEES Mr Ponnusamy also lived at Fuyong Estate in the early years.
    I guess Lee Kong Chian had the rights to a lot of the land there as he also gave the land to the Salvation Army for the Lee Kuo Chuan Home. I will make a correction to the above blog soon.

    (Btw, would you be Nicholas by any chance?)

  3. Hi James,

    I need to make a correction here. A/P Suresh Pillai is a doctor, not a lawyer - see - and that kampung produced at least 4 other graduates. Two were from SU (the former NUS) and 2 more from Canadian universities.

    Yes, you are right. Mr. Ponnusamy lived in Fuyong estate in the last bungalow along Jalan Uji. Several of the teachers of PEES also lived in Fuyong Estate - the (recent) late Mr. Venugopalan & his wife Santha.

    By the way Santha, is Subash Chandran's (of the Mandai Zoo) sister and he hails from a family of educators. All of them lived (and Jeyan still lives) in Fuyong Estate.

    Tan Gek Eng (aka Teo Gek Eng), my form mistress in Primary 2, also lived in Fuyong before she got married. She was originally from Johore Baru - somewhere in Jalan Terbrau, if my memory serves me right.

    As for the Chinese kampung, it is another little know fact that Kwan Peck Leng, formerly the MD of Yamaha Music School, used to live in that kampung, shortly after she settled in Singapore from Ipoh.

    No. I'm not Nicholas. Actually, I don't know of anyone going by that name living in that Kampung when I lived there.



  4. Hi James.

    Nice blog about PEE. I'm only 38 years old but a big fan.
    I grew up in 10 miles and now stay at Hume avenue. This whole stretch bring back memories.

    I hope you continue writing soon and I aspire to be like you one day. Preserving memories for the future generations. For now, I bring my 2 young boys to roam our area. The forest reserve, quarry, KTM track. It's really a beautiful place we have here.

    I've also 2 question about our area.
    1. Seems like some people have a 'bad impression' of upper bukit timah. Bad feng shui. Have you heard about this before?
    2. Fuyong estate. I count at least 3 Chinese temples in the houses. Full time prayer houses. Once a year I also see big Chinese prayer at the field besides the playground. You know anything about this?

    Heard from you sir and I'm awaiting your next article!!

    Thank you very much!

    Jonathan Ng.

    1. Hi Jonathan,

      It's wonderful that you are taking your 2 boys around and showing them the place where they are growing up.
      It will always be in their memories, and who knows, years from now, they'll write about the times when their dad did this for them and lament the 'lost' places that they grew up in!

      I have been meaning to add some articles about 10 miles (Bt Panjang) to my blog.
      My grandparents lived at the Teck Whye area and my wife and her extended family used to live all around the 10 mile village. But there is so little left and I can't seem to get good pictures of that area.
      Would you have any old photos of 10 miles?

      Regarding your questions about the feng shui of Upp Bt Timah, I must say, no, I don't know about that.
      I am not really deep into the feng shui stuff and it doesn't bother me at all.

      The Fuyong today is so different from the Fuyong of my days.
      Recently, when I went to the Singapore Quarry, I did notice a couple of houses being used as 'temples'
      I guess they have been used for a long time now. I do not know them but I do know that the field has always been used for temple activities even back in the days when the Chinese kampong was situated there. I guess its part of the tradition that grew up with that zone. It's nIce that at least this tradition is being kept..

    2. I'll go to my parents place and dig up old photos. We lived right by the KTM track crossing. Opposite the post office at near Teck Whye. My grandpa planted orchids and my dad as a boy rode his bicycle to JB to sell these orchids. I had the fortune to grow up and explored the area with my cousins. Coincidentally all boys. You can imagine the things we did together. Playing in the monsoon drain, going into Mindef during construction. Etc.
      unfortunate we moved out about 20 years ago due to KTM repossessing the place.

      You remember the cinema at 10 miles? It burned down several times. Across was the wet market. Petrol kiosk (Esso?) There's a coffee shop next to it. The noodle stall owner's relative was my nanny. Their children still operate the noodle stalls today. At the old shops opposite Mindef entrance. Near Hazel Park. I'm sure you know the good food there. And the dirty named BJ Massage and KTB. I heard the shops are due for development too. Sigh....

      My mom lived with her parents in chicken farm in CCK. Near brick land road. Did you know the kampung roads were connected, eg from near PEE C&C, cut through Gombak and towards CCK. My dad took that road in the late 70s.
      That part of Brickland looks like its due for big residential development. Sigh, another part of history gone.

    3. Oh my gosh Jon!
      Just 2 nights ago I was wondering if I would ever meet anyone who might still know or remembers Jalan Perang or someone who lived where today Brickland Road is!

      You are talking abt Jln Perang, the road that ran from CCK behind Gombak towards Hillview and PEE!
      I am doing some research about the area at Brickland/KJE and trying to see if the old hills are still there. On topo maps marked as Hill 110. That's because I am doing a video about a WW2 army unit which fought in that area against the Japanese army.

      It's continuation of my article 'Tragedy at Sleepy Valley' (Dec 2012), except that it is about the events at CCK before the Battle at Bt Batok.

      My wife used to live beside Tiong Hua Theatre at Lorong Ah Thia!
      So I know that kampong pretty well. My grandparents lived at the SIT units at Jln Teck Whye.

      I have this interest in WW2 esp of the events that happened in our area. I just did a heritage video about the Battle for Bukit Panjang and Bukit Timah for a primary school at Bt Panjang. And also one on my own about Fort Pasir Panjang. Go to YouTube and do a search. You should be able to find my videos there.

      I wait eagerly for yr old photos of 'chup kor' !

  5. Hi James,

    I am Robinson Fernandez. Thanks for posting the picture of Princess Elizabeth Estate. It used to be my playground when i was young .Now its my jogging track.
    Tracks of my childhood. There used to be a plaque in commemoration of Princess Elizabeths wedding. or sort of not sure any one has it preserves.

    Thank you again
    Have a good day.

    1. Hello Robinson,
      The plaque was moved from its original position at Elizabeth Drive to between the old PEE and the new Hillview HDB estate. However, it was probably destroyed when the Hillview Estate was demolished in 1995.
      There is a picture of it in another of my article in this blog:-