Saturday, November 19, 2016

Sixty-six years ago over Hillview

I found another old RAF aerial photograph, taken in 1950, of the area above what would become Hillview Avenue.

At the end of World War II, the British Military Administration, in order to conduct a mapping survey of Singapore Island, found that the fastest way then, given the limited resources, was to do an aerial photo mapping survey. The task was given to the RAF Photo Reconnaissance Squadron 81.
The magnificent pictures they took are now in the National Archives.

In 1950, Princess Elizabeth Estate was not constructed yet as the site was only considered in 1951.
Union Carbide Co Ltd, maker of the Eveready Batteries, and Malayan Guttas Ltd, manufacturer of Wrigley Chewing Gum, were the only factories then located at Hillview Road. The massive factory complex on the right of the picture is the Hume Pipe factory wth the Manager's Staff Housing located behind on Hume Heights.

Fuyong Estate, which was built by philanthropist Lee Kong Chian, was a row of houses facing Upper Bukit Timah Road. These were meant as low cost houses to cater to the shortage of housing in those days. This row of houses is still in existence today, but has been converted as eateries and restaurants called Rail Mall.. Terrace houses would later be privately built behind the row of low cost housing and incorporated as part of Fuyong Estate.

On the top left are the Public Works Dept (PWD) offices which ran the adjacent PWD granite quarry for gravel used mainly for road building works. Part of the pastureland of The Cold Storage Dairy Farm can be seen beside the PWD offices.

On the top right is the Singapore Quarry, privately owned by Mr Chia Eng Say, whose namesake is now given to the road fronting Rail Mall at Fuyong Estate.

Notice the KTM railway line that runs across the picture with the grider bridge over Hillview Road.
If you look very carefully at the land just beside Upper Bukit Timah Road, left from the black truss  bridge onwards, you will see some remnants of long streaks in the ground.

These long streaks were the original Tank Road-Kranji Railway line that ran alongside Upper Bukit Timah Road. (You didn't know that, right?) The  old railway line was dismantled and replaced by the KTM Line that was built further uphill. The 1957 Chartered Bank would be built over the old track line.

Click on the picture to get a more detailed and enlarged view.


  1. Hi James, I remembered you somehow but vaguely, being a nearby neighbour but much more closer as a neighbour to your next door neighbours residing above your home, the Moss family.

    Although I wasn't born in PEE, our parents relocate to block 24 soon after I came out of my coma from a household incident that took place elsewhere in Nathan Road where I was born there as registered.

    I do remember the Chartered Bank, Eveready Industries but not the Gutta plant. The Caltex plant I sure did, Fuyong Estate as well as my classmate lives in one of the few houses built there. You probably knew him too or his sibling bros that goes by the name of Choo chuan cheng and Choo feng chye.

    The Dairy Farm still lingers on my memory as another classmate lives there by the name of Thaddeus Loo, you know him too.

    Back on the Estate and surroundings, I still recall vividly your building block, facing or rather, overlooking the Bus Terminal and bay compound, the PEE School just meters away to the right side of your block.

    The football field where the annual Sports Day were held. The row of grocery shops across the Bus bay as carpark, and the morning Market stall-holders are located in front of the grocery shops which include the coffeeshop known also for selling the grated ice and its ice-kachang.

    The hilly plantations where many durian and mangosteen trees could be fould and the uphill slope leading to the top of Gombak Hill... which is the back garden rather, (of the two prominent 7th Storey blocks that overlooks the valley) to where we reside.

    So much more I still recall like the back of my hand... is now a figment of the past. All are gone, the landscape almost completely vanished but for the school building holding ground where I last saw in 2010 when I drove to the building led by memory. The rest of the surroundings became unrecognisable with the other exception of the remaining houses built and known as Hillview Drive. The family Moss then relocate and took up residence in a large bungalow up on Hume Heights for the obvious nature given the leading role of Mr Moss Sr running the company.

    Thank you for preserving this invaluable chapter of PEE's history... my only trail left reflecting the past with this district I once held dear too.

  2. Hi James,

    I just wanted to say I'm really enjoying exploring your blog posts! I live in The Hillier and I am very interested in learning about what was here before the new developments. Preserving the memories of people who have lived in the area is very important and your doing a great service.

    All the best,


    1. Hi Tim,
      Thanks for visiting my blog and for your comment.

  3. That roundabout already existed in the 1950s?? Wow!