Saturday, September 21, 2019

The next Grand Prix will be at Hillview Avenue.

   The prestigious Singapore Airlines Formula One Grand Prix, the F1 night race, is now trending all over the social media as Singapore hosts the spectacle once again this weekend at the Marina Bay street circuit.

 Ask any die-hard motor racing fan where Singapore's original Grand Prix were held and they'll tell you at the Sembawang Circuit at Upper Thomson Road. Yes, the original official Singapore Grand Prix was held annually from 1961 to 1973 at Old Upper Thomson Road. The first Grand Prix was sponsored by the then Ministry of Culture as part of their Visit Singapore - The Orient Year tourism drive and the race was flagged off by Yang di-Pertuan Negara, (later 1st President) Yusoff Ishak.

Singapore Grand Prix at the Sembawang Circuit 1960s.

Photo credit: National Archives Singapore

Backed by the government, the 1961-1973 Singapore Grand Prix were organised and run by the Singapore Motor Club.  This was a club of dedicated die-hard racing enthusiasts who had been organising ad-hoc races in Singapore right after the end of World War II. The club was formed in 1948.

Initially comprising mostly British expatriates and British Forces personnel, the SMC members were
very active and organised motor rallies, sprint races, speed trials and even 'economy' races where the winner was the one which used the least fuel. They conducted their races at places like The Gap Hill at Buona Vista, Admiralty Road at Naval Base and held the annual Hill Climb at Bukit Batok Hill.
Their favourite track was at Lim Chu Kang where they often held speed trials and sprint races.

Their vast experience in organising motor races led them to become the organiser of the 1960 Johore Grand Prix. With that successful race event under their belt, they were asked to organise Singapore's 1st official Grand Prix in 1961 at the Thomson course.

Prior to this, the club had their own private annual Grand Prix, which they termed Championships.
These were mainly speed trials and races along Lim Chu Kang Road.
In 1956, they were unable to make use of the Lim Chu Kang Road circuit and had to search for an alternative. After vetting all the possible sites, it was announced...

"The next Grand Prix will be along Hillview Avenue at Princess Elizabeth Estate"

The 'Grand Prix' that year was called the SMC Sprint Championship and had 40 competitors in both the motorcar as well as the motorcycle races. Hillview Circuit would run from the Hillview Circus to the Hairpin at the end of Hillview Avenue. In 1956, Hillview Avenue was a cul-de-sac which ended where today Hillview Villas estate is.
The circuit was only 3/4 mile long and drivers had to do 2 rounds of the circuit for a total of 1-1/2 miles.

The Hillview Avenue Circuit highlighted in yellow.
(Click on the picture for a detailed view)
Unfortunately, there is no record available of who won the race that year.
(The SMC had all their records destroyed by a fire at their HQ at Farrer Park)
The highlight of the 1956 race was the spectacular crash by Dr F. Marshall when his car rolled off the track at the Hairpin.

(Source: ST. 11 March 1956.)

The SMC Sprint Championship was held again the following year in July 1957 at the Hillview Circuit, now with 80 competitors for both motorcar and motorcycle races.
This time, the motorcycle race was won by Peter Chan on his 125cc Ducatti Sports Special, while the motorcar race was won by DEL Birch who set a new course record of 1 min 49 seconds.
There were no further grand prix at Hillview Avenue after 1957.

Peter Chan, winner of the 1957 Motorcycle Race, on his $3,000 125cc Ducatti Sports Special
(Source: Singapore Free Press 13 July 1957)

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

An anecdotal history of Hillview Part 1. 1840-1945.

(Click the picture for a detailed view)

When I first sat down to write this blog article, I thought of doing a history of Hillview from the present to as far back as records can tell. But I found it really hard going given the lack of resources and data available.

So instead, I'll pen a brief anecdotal history, in the grand tradition of Mr Charles Burton Buckley, from past to present, highlighting some important events with regard to the Hillview region and Princess Elizabeth Estate. Some of the details have already been published in various articles within this blog.  I welcome any reader to add to this chronology. You can comment in the section below (though I would appreciate that you leave a name and not as 'anonymous' please).

An anecdotal history of old times in Hillview Part 1.

John Thomson creates Upper Bukit Timah Road - 1844.
The earliest reference to the Hillview* area comes from John Turnbull Thomson, who was the Surveyor-General for the Straits Settlement in 1841, as well as being the Superintendent of Roads.
His major contributions to early Singapore were the drafting of the town map, the marine surveys of the harbour and the Straits of Singapore, and the construction of Horsburgh Lighthouse at Pedra Blanca. (Yes, Thomson Road is named for him)
* I use the term 'Hillview' here generically for convenience and ease of reference, even though it was not called as such till much later.  This would be the region approximately from Bukit Batok hill to the base of Bukit Gombak, opposite St Joseph Church.

In 1844, John Thomson proceeded to survey and to establish a road beyond Bukit Timah Village, which was then the northern-most known and accessible village in the interior of Singapore.
Going through the jungle on horseback, and taking four days to survey and map a route that had been used by the pepper and gambier farmers, he marked out what would become the basis for the future Upper Bukit Timah Road and Woodlands Road.

Picture of pepper/gambier farm, late 19th century Singapore.
Gambier and pepper were grown on the same trellis in rotation.

He recalls in his 1864 book, 'Glimpses into Life in the Far East', that despite the jungle, many areas were already studded with gambier farms. His survey indicated that the farms stretched for 3 to 4 miles from Bukit Timah Village. (Note: Gambier can also be spelt Gambir)

His initial destination was the Teochew village of Bokokang at Kranji, which was already a known kangkar along the Kranji River, but which was then only accessible by boat, via the Johore Straits.
You can read my account of this village at this link.

An extract from the 1846 map by John Thomson
showing his route to the north from Bukit Timah Village in 1844.

From Bokokang, he continued his overland survey till he reached the Straits of Johore, and thereby claimed the title of being the first person to make an overland crossing of Singapore Island.

1861 Crown Colony Survey.
The next time we hear of the Hillview region was in 1861 when a land survey of the gambier and pepper farms was done for tax assessment. This survey showed that the region below Bukit Gombak was divided into twelve large farms (or plantations).

Extract of the revised colonial survey 1872. (Source: NAS)

Interesting to note was that a large portion was owned by Pedro Tan No Kiah, who was a very prominent Chinese merchant and Kangchu in the early days of Singapore. He was also known for being the first local Chinese convert to Roman Catholicism, having been baptised at the Good Shepherd Church in 1839.

A surprise was in store for me when I tried to superimpose the 1861 survey over a modern Google map of the area. This was how it looked when I first tried it.

After some fine tuning and adjustments, I realised that the farm boundaries matched the major roads that are still found there today. These included Hillview Avenue and its branches, Hillview Road, Lorong Taluki, Jalan Remaja. The condominium plots also coincided and were bound within the farm boundaries.
I have coloured the farms in a 3D version (photo at top of page) and you can clearly see the divisions and gambier plots against the residential housing today.

Decline of gambier and the rise of rubber
Very little record exist after the 1861 survey but we know from local history that from the 1870s onwards, gambier farming was in decline in Singapore due to soil exhaustion and were slowly being replaced firstly by pineapple, and later, rubber trees.

Gambier was an ecologically destructive plant. Not only did it completely leached the soil of nutrients but processing the gambier itself required huge and constant amount of firewood. This led to massive deforestation of Singapore's primary forests.

It was estimated that gambier agriculture caused the loss of 75% of Singapore's forest cover by 1900.  Even back in 1856, the famous naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace, had noted the incessant cutting of trees. Wallace was based at the St Joseph Church nearby and collected his nature specimens in the region surrounding the church. This would most likely have included the Hillview area.
In fact, colonial records remarked the existence of a sawmill in Hillview area, only that it was never mentioned exactly where it was, and no other corresponding record has ever been found yet to confirm its location.

It is very telling even from the 1861 (and a later 1872) survey that changes were already taking place in the gambier business. Farms were now in the name of non-resident owners like Tan Noh Kia and J. Jacobs, and that they were no longer referred to as "Chu Kangs". We know from local history that by the 1870s, most of the gambier farms were failing and many original farmer/owners were in debt to financiers from the city like Tan Noh Kiah, Seah Eu Chin, Tan Tock Seng and others.

Gambier farms all but died out by early 1900s and were frantically being replaced by the new wonder crop - rubber trees! All this as a result of the tenacious foresight of Henry Ridley, coupled with a boom in demand for rubber at the turn of the century when automobiles became the rage worldwide. Besides tyres, there was also a great demand for its use as insulation for electrical cables. However, rubber trees took about 10 years to mature enough to tap its latex. In the interim, plantation owners grew pineapples while waiting for the rubber trees to mature.

Hillview would be planted with pineapples while waiting for the rubber trees to mature.
It took between 5 to 10 years before the rubber trees can be tapped for latex.

The Singapore-Kranji Railway crosses Hillview.
In 1903, the Singapore-Kranji Railway, a.k.a. the Tank Road-Kranji Railway line was laid, running on the Bukit Timah side of Hillview.
The railway line from the city continued from Bukit Timah Station (BT Market today), ran across Bukit Timah Village towards the (Bukit Batok) hill where Ford and Hume factories would be built years later, and then ran alongside the main Upper Bukit Timah Road up to Bukit Panjang and beyond to Woodlands. At Hillview, the line was at the road level, where today the Hillview MRT Station would stand, and not on the raised bank that would be used by its later replacement, the KTM railway.

Look carefully and you can see traces on the ground left behind by the original Tank-Road-Kranji Railway Line. 
It ran alongside and parallel to the main road.  (RAF Photomap of 1950)
In 1932, the Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) Railway would replace the Tank Road-Kranji Railway Line. The KTM rail line was now on the opposite side of Upper Bukit Timah Road, coming from the new Bukit Timah Station, and at Hillview, the railway tracks would cross the main trunk road which necessitated the building of a truss bridge near Fuyong Estate, as well as a girder bridge over Hillview Road.

Pre-World War II period.
By the 1930s, one name became very prominent as a landowner in Hillview. This was Lee Kong Chian. By then, Lee had apparently obtained titles to the former gambier farms and began to convert these to planting of rubber trees.
It can be presumed, based on the agricultural business model of that time, that because Lee Rubber Co had bought up most of the gambier lands at Hillview, they would have planted rubber trees, and in the interim, fields of pineapples in between the rubber plots, until the rubber trees matured.

Examining the above 1950 photomap of Hillview, you can still see remnants of rubber trees on both sides of Upper Bukit Timah Road. The giveaway is the regular grid pattern that rubber trees were planted in. These are clearly seen beside Malayan Guttas, the bottom left at the Chinese kampong and the area above the Worker's Housing (Fuyong Estate) built by Lee Kong Chian.

A surviving remnant of Lee Rubber plantation can still be seen today on the southern ridge line of Bukit Gombak. These trees survived because they are located within the protected Mindef fence line.

A rubber plantation in Singapore in 1915. The workers are collecting latex for processing.

The Lee Rubber Co processing factory at Sungei Kadut.

In 1929, the Cold Storage Co Ltd bought 28 hectares of land that were formerly gambier farms across the road from Hillview.  They converted these farms into pastures and created a dairy to supply milk to the local market. This was called Cold Storage Dairy Farm.

Dairy Farm pastures were created from former gambier farms.

Hillview as part of the Bukit Timah Industrial area.
When Singapore was part of the British Crown Colony, industrialisation was furthest from the minds of the governors. Their interest laid first in using Singapore as a naval base, and equally important as an entrepot for shipping and trading in resources like tin, timber and rubber which came from the Malayan hinterland.
Given its laissez-faire environment, Bukit Timah Road slowly developed as the main industrial zone, ideally given that it was the only trunk route for resources from Malaya. Factories were set up all along the way and in 1938, Hillview saw its first major corporation.

In 1938, Australian subsidiary, Hume Pipes (Far East) Co Ltd secured a land grant of more than 20 hectares to set up a manufacturing plant at the 8th mile Upper Bukit Timah Road. It was to produce concrete-lined steel pipes for which it held a worldwide patent. Construction of the factory began in 1939 and was slated for completion by the end of 1941, when its manufacturing would shift from Dunman Estate to the Hillview plant.

Hume Pipes (Far East) Co Ltd

Ford Company (Malaya) Ltd

In 1939, Hume Pipes Co. leased 3-1/2 hectares of its land to a Canadian subsidiary of the American Ford Motors. This was to become Singapore's first motor car assembly plant, Ford Company of Malaya Ltd. Construction of the assembly plant began in 1940 and was completed in October, 1941.

An aerial view of Hume and Ford factories taken in the 1960s showing the extent of land occupied at Hillview.

The Japanese Invasion, the battle at Bukit Batok and the Syonan-to years.
On 8 December 1941, the Imperial Japanese Army made a stunning bombing raid on Singapore as part of its invasion of South East Asia.  War had arrived in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula. It was not until 8 February 1942 that the Imperial Japanese Army crossed into Singapore Island at the poorly defended Sarimbun beach.

The British defenders rushed to set up a blockade not far west from Bukit Gombak. This was the Kranji-Jurong Line, running from Bulim to Hong Kah, where today Tengah New Town is being built.
Strategically, this might have actually stopped the invasion in its tracks, except that the Line didn't hold. Due to massive mis-communication and poor command decisions, the units holding the Line started falling back, resulting in a domino effect and the complete breakdown of the blockade.

Sketch of the retreat of British forces from the 'Kranji-Jurong Line' 10th Feb 1942.

The 12th and 44th Brigades, at the north and south ends of the Line, retreated far behind the line, leaving the 15th Indian Brigade and the Special Reserves Battalion behind. These two hapless units managed to retreat on their own to an area south of Hillview, at the base of Hill 345 (Bukit Batok). From there, they were ordered to retake the Kranji-Jurong Line the following morning of 10th February 1942. However, the Japanese Army had already caught up with them and there were skirmishes along Jurong Road where the Japanese Army won more victories during the night.

On the morning of 10th Feb 1942, knowing that they were almost surrounded, the 15th Indians and the Special Reserves, tried to retreat to Ulu Pandan through Sleepy Valley. They walked right into an ambush, and tragically, of the 1400 men from both units, only 400 British troops survived and made it to Ulu Pandan. It was the biggest single day loss for the British Army fighting in Singapore.
You can read more details of this Battle of Sleepy Valley in this link.

By the morning of 11th Feb 1942, Bukit Timah Village was captured in a pincer movement by the Japanese Army coming down from both Jurong Road and Upper Bukit Timah Road.
With Bukit Timah Village secured, the Japanese commander, Lt-Gen Yamashita, moved his field headquarters to the newly-built Ford Motor Co factory at Hillview. From this location, Yamashita planned his final thrust. The British surrendered Singapore to the Imperial Japanese Army on 15th February 1942. The official surrender took place at the Ford Motors factory at Hillview.
With that, Singapore was re-named Syonan-to, The Light of the South.

At Hillview, the new factory of Ford Motors was seized and put into production by the Nissan Company to produce trucks for the army, while Hume Pipes was made to produce pipes and construction material for their war efforts.

The British Surrender Party marching up the road to the Ford Motors factory on Bukit Timah Road.
15 February 1942.

General Arthur Percival, GOC Malaya, signing the surrender document at the Ford Motors Factory board room.
Sitting opposite him is Lt-Gen Tomoyuki Yamashita, Commander of Japanese Forces.

After Singapore surrendered in 1942, the Japanese military decided to build a War Memorial dedicated to their fallen comrades-in-arms. The memorial was to be built on Hill 345 at Hillview where many of their comrades had fallen during the Battle for Singapore. (It was not called Bukit Batok hill at that time.)

In contravention of the Geneva Convention, Prisoners Of War were used to built the Memorial. British and Australian POWs were marched daily from Adam Road Camp, Sime Road Camp and Reformatory Road Camp to built both the road and the hilltop shrine. The shrine was called the Chureito Syonan. It was completed and dedicated on 7th December 1942.

The road from Upper Bukit Timah to the top of the Memorial
Today, it's called Lorong Sesuai but has been truncated due to road expansion.
The Japanese war memorial Chureito Syonan.
Picture taken during the dedication ceremony held on 7th December 1942.
The British troop were allowed to build a smaller memorial behind the shrine, a 15 foot Cross.
This was also dedicated on the same day as the Chureito Syonan.
7th December 1942, Dedication of the War Memorials at Bukit Batok.
The Japanese Military Government ruled Syonan-to (Singapore) until Japan surrendered at the end of World War II on 15 August 1945. Singapore was returned to the British under the British Military Administration.

To be continued...

Part 2 will take you from the years 1946 to 2019 and will cover the industrialisation of Hillview, the building of the housing estates and the conversion to a condominium belt.
Do watch out for it though I won't know when it will be publish!

Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Quarry at Bukit Batok.

   I have just come to the realisation that after all these years, I have not written anything about the Bukit Batok Nature Park located at the foothill of Bukit Batok hill.
I had written some articles regarding Bukit Batok Hill in relation to World War Two, and how the memorials on the summit came to be, but not about the Nature Park it seems.
I guess the reason may be that the park is new to Bukit Batok whereas my blog tended to focus on heritage, especially if it was related to Princess Elizabeth Estate in the first instance.

  Recently, I posted to Facebook an old picture of Little Guilin, the granite cliff feature found at Bukit Gombak, which is officially called the Bukit Batok Town Park. This picture was that of the old Gammon Quarry after it ended operations and just as Bukit Batok New Town was beginning to be built.

The old Gammon Quarry at Bukit Gombak that would be later known as Singapore's Little Guilin.
Photo was taken around 1983 when all quarry operations had ceased on mainland Singapore.

This is the same cliff face (left side on the above old picture) of Little Guilin today.
You can compare and imagine how deep the water is now.

The picture attracted a lot of feedback, especially when I mentioned I also had pictures of the Bukit Batok (Nature Park) quarry before it was made into a park. Friends were asking to see the old pictures of Bukit Batok Quarry. I thought it was already in this blog but when I search back the past years archive, I realised I didn't do an article on it. It was in my other personal blogs. So let me redress this here.

The quarry at Bukit Batok was known as the Poh Kim Quarry and began mining granite immediately after World War 2, blasting away at the western slope of Hill 345. It was not known as Bukit Batok hill at that time. Poh Kim Quarry was one of the 9 or 10 quarries that operated in the greater Bukit Timah area. The other quarries being the Singapore Quarry, The Dairy Farm Quarry, the PWD Quarry, the Hindhede Quarry, the Ideal Home Quarry, the Lian hup quarry, the Seng Chew Quarry, the Gammon Quarry and the Sin Seng Granite Quarry.

Trivia: By the way, did you all know that the region of Bukit Gombak/Bukit Batok has the oldest rock formation in Singapore? It was first pushed out of the sea by tectonic forces about 250 million years ago. Yes, at the time of the dinosaurs! You can read more about this in my older article here.

Poh Kim Quarry at Bukit Batok 1950.
Whether or not Bukit Batok got its name from the dynamite blasting by Poh Kim Quarry is highly debatable. I personally do not subscribe to this 'coughing hill' theory.
Anyway, operations at this quarry ended in the late 1970s, when the Singapore government only allowed granite quarrying to be carried out offshore, meaning Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong. All quarries on mainland Singapore had to cease operation and facilities torn down and the scarred lands reverted to the government. All the former quarries laid in fallow until some were converted into nature parks by the NParks authorities years later.

Bukit Batok Nature Park was developed in conjunction with the building of the adjacent New Town as a park for residents to enjoy. This was from the mid 1980s onwards.

Bukit Batok Nature Park and the cliff face today.

From 1977 till 1981, the time when the quarry was disused and forgotten by almost everyone, I was working as a vehicle inspector for a car assembly company located at Hillview Industrial Estate.
This was long before Hillview became a condo belt and had light industries instead.
My job was to certify that the cars were properly assembled and fit for the road. Thus, I had to do what was known as road-tests. This was a complete shakedown of the car, testing for loose parts, rattlings or simply bad fittings.  The best way to test for rattles was to drive over rough gravel and the abandoned track to the Poh Kim Quarry was ideal for this as it was covered with granite gravel.

Imagine the looks from other drivers when they saw new cars appearing out from the jungle track! haha.

Following are some pictures taken during our 'breaks' at the abandoned quarry. You can see that by then the mine had already been filled with rain water and the pond was building up with the runoff from the hill.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find pictures only of the quarry (which I probably got rid off long ago) and have only some souvenirs of myself from those times. But you can still see from these pictures, Bukit Batok Hill before it was developed and planted with trees.

The pond at the old Poh Kim Quarry.
This would be developed into the main pond at Bukit Batok Nature Park in later years.

Another view of the pond.
Directly behind the car in the background, you can see a small cliff level where the water level is today.

The view from the summit of Bukit Batok hill, up the memorial steps.
The yellow patch on the left edge of the photo is the cliff of the Hindhede Quarry.
You can see the lookout tower of the Bukit Timah Fire Station and the Amoy Canning factory beside it.
Far behind in the back was the cliff of the Sin Seng Granite Quarry at Rifle Range Road.

A view from the open area at the top of Lorong Sesuai. Hardly any tall trees then.
Buildings in the background are the Bukit Timah Shopping Centre and Sherwood Tower Condo (Bukit Timah Plaza)

This was the original TV transmission tower on top of Bukit Batok.
It would be replaced with a newer tower and a 2nd tower would be built later.

A view of the Singapore Quarry in the background (Photo taken in 1978)

Background, you can see the 121 steps built by the Allied POWs during WW2.

The original Poh Kim Quarry track that ran from Hillview Avenue to the quarry was not where today the path to the nature park pond is. The original gravel track is now covered over and overgrown with trees but you can still see some remnants if you look hard enough. It was beside where the heavy vehicle park is today.

Aerial picture of the Poh Kim Quarry and Bukit Batok Hill.
Lines in red and yellow are the roads today, The curved 'S' road was Jurong Road (now expunged)

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Knowing your drills !

You know your drills?  I thought I did.

I thought I was a competent DIY person.
Afterall, I did M&E engineering, I could weld, use a lathe, fix an armature motor, hell, I was even certified to work on the A4 Skyhawk aircraft! So I thought I knew my drills.
But, time, age and technology had overtaken this old man.

 I previously lived in an SIT flat, on a landed property and 30+ years ago moved to a prefab HDB home. All this while I DIY most of my stuff using a power drill. Graduating from a normal power drill (my first Black & Decker) which lasted years till it kaput, I went on to a Hammer Drill (also B&D) which I have till this day. This drill served me so well that I thought of nothing until I moved to a new HDB flat a year ago!

 My new HDB flat is a world of difference to my old HDB flat. It has bombproof flooring that is made of High Strength Concrete. I didn't know this till I started some DIY fittings when I renovated my home. My Hammer Drill just could cut it. It couldn't penetrate more than 10mm even with all my might. Previously, my hammer drill could make holes in walls and ceilings in my HDB flat like making holes in swiss cheese.

 Luckily at that time, I had renovation contractors and they drilled holes for me using their own tools, which I thought was 'heavy duty' which was why they could and I couldn't with my domestic drill.

 A week ago, I tried to install 2 window roller blinds and had to drill 8 holes on the ceiling. Spent about an hour with my hammer drill and it couldn't even make a dent! I didn't even manage a single hole deep enough for the screw. I literally had to force and push my hammer drill till it was smoking and still no go! I had to give up! (missus now angry and threaten this old man with expulsion if I wouldn't get professional contractors in)

 So I did what most people would do today. I googled. Found out that I needed a new kind of drill called a ROTARY HAMMER drill. I must admit I have never heard (or never needed to know about) this new drill. Newer HDB flats use concrete that are super tough (bomb resistant) which is why specialised tools are needed to drill into the ceilings, beams or even the bombshelter walls. Older HDB flats used normal concrete.

 Not wanting to buy new tools as I hardly do any DIY nowadays, I asked friends.
 Managed to get my hands on a borrowed rotary hammer this morning and it was a piece of cake. Drilled all 8 holes in less than 5 minutes. It went through the concrete like butter!

What this old man learned is that today there are different drills from those days when one size fits all.
 1. Normal power drills, for drilling and fastening functions.
2. Impact drills, when you need more torque or turning force.
3. Hammer drills, when a bit of hammering is given to the drill bit to make it 'bite'.
4. Rotary hammer drill, where a lot of punch and thrust is generated while turning at high speed. This is specially for concrete.

The top picture shows a Rotary Hammer drill (right) beside my 'normal' hammer drill.
You can tell the obvious difference in the 'normal' drill bit and the rotary drill bit.

 I hope you learn the drill a bit more now

(Apologies to readers for posting this irrelevant article in this blog. I'll find a better place for it later)
Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Old Market at Princess Elizabeth Estate

The old market at Phillip Walk, Princess Elizabeth Estate

When residents started moving into Princess Elizabeth Estate in 1952, there was no market of any sort for daily produce like fresh fish, meat or vegetables. The fledgling estate had a few sundry shops along Hillview Avenue and beside the bus terminal. These shops provided a variety of goods and services. There were coffeeshops, dhobies (laundries), Dr Rajah's clinic, charcoal shop, barber and hairdressers as well as a few Chinese and Indian provision shops. But there was no market!

Seeing an opportunity to earn some money, many of the nearby kampong folks set up makeshift stalls that eventually led to the beginning of what would be a small 'market'.
This was located at the open area in front of the row of shops beside the bus terminal, an obvious meeting place with the kopi-tiam as anchor. The stalls then slowly increased to occupy the area along the footpath which was beside the Community Centre fence.

This was the area where the initial makeshift market was set up, in front of blk 16.
The area was cleaned up after the market moved to the newly built hawker pitches at HillView Ave.

Kampong folks living up on Bukit Gombak and from the adjacent Chinese Village started selling their home grown farm vegetables and fruits, and soon more stalls began to be built along the footpath.

This was the beginning of the PEE market. As the market grew and became more established, hawkers would bring in meat like pork and mutton, fish and other produce to sell. The market operated only in the morning.

I can still recall the hawkers bringing their wares on baskets hung on a pole and the produce sold were all wrapped with newspapers, or with meat it was simply tied on a rattan string without any wrapping! Eggs were sold in wire baskets and fresh chickens were slaughtered on the spot. The smell and poor sanitation were simply part and parcel of those days.

In those early days of the estate, people were more tolerant of those roadside conditions, as the next nearest markets would be at Bukit Panjang Village or at Beauty World, and getting to either was no easy task then.

In 1965, the Member of Parliament for Bukit Timah, Mr Chor York Eng, initiated a project to build a proper market for residents of Princess Elizabeth. It was a very innovative project then, in that, the government would build and rent out what they called 'hawker pitches' at a low cost to itinerant hawkers and settle them in proper units that had lighting and running water!

This was long before the concept of dry markets was even thought of. People in those days were only used to 'wet markets' where hawkers of all kinds would simply pitch their own stands and stalls in an open space. The hawker pitches at PEE was truly innovative in its days. It was also an early experiment by the Hawkers Dept of the Ministry of Labour.

Princess Elizabeth Estate would be an early adopter of the concept of a dry market, even before this concept was known as it was. Fifty-four hawker pitches, each in inself a small shop with proper lighting and running water was built. This was a truly novel idea for its time.
The new 'modern' market would be built in the open quadrangle that was bordered by Blk 1, 2 & 3 and  Hillview Avenue. The location where this market was would be where today the condo sales showroom along Hillview Avenue is, beside the new Hillview Community Club.

The hawker pitches were balloted to an overwhelming flood of applicants but priority was given to the existing hawkers from the old roadside stalls near the bus terminal. The ballot was held in September 1967 and the market begun operations shorty after.

Another novel approach was to divide the market into sections. One section sold meat and fish, another section was for vegetables, yet another was only cooked food and one section was for services, like kitchenware, sundry goods and tailors.

Mr Chor York Eng at the balloting ceremony, Sep 1967.
The market continued operations until the 1980s when the hawkers were offered better facilities at the newly built HDB Market at HDB Hillview Estate. The old market continued till most of the Princess Elizabeth Estate residents were resettled to new HDB towns. It was demolished together with the demolition of Princess Elizabeth Estate in the 1980s.

Related links of interest:-
Location of the old market & map
A landmark of PE Estate
An aerial view of PE Estate