Saturday, 28 December 2013

Sketchwalk at Dempsey Hill

Saint George's Church
Watercolour on Stillman and Birn Delta Hardbound
Jumbo Seafood Restaurant
Watercolour on Stillman and Birn Delta Hardbound
For the last sketchwalk of the year, the Urban Sketchers decided to take on Dempsey: the place steep in history and the land's architectural records of its colonial past. Looking at the lush greenery and resort-like ambience that characterises Dempsey Hill of today, it may be difficult to associate this relaxed and laid back place with the discipline and regiment of the military. It may thus come as a surprise to some that the premises at Dempsey Hill used to be the Central Manpower Base of Singapore (“CMPB”) and former British army barracks. Old-timers may still be able to make out the parade square, and the old CMPB office premise, now a lifestyle destination. They may also remember this as the place where young Singaporean men, some accompanied by anxious parents, reported for their “national service”, that is, compulsory military service, when they had come of age. 

The three-tonners ferrying men to their respective army units, and the anxious recruits with shorn heads may no longer be there, as the CMPB was eventually relocated to the more modern and larger premises at Depot Road in 1989 after 17 years. But for many, the legacy of Dempsey as the first port of call for every young man enlisting for the army will doubtlessly be remembered with nostalgia and fondness. 

Saint George's Church
St George's Church is owned by the Anglican Diocese of Singapore, and was constructed between 1910 and 1913. This Anglican church was built for the British troops in Tanglin Barracks — once the General Headquarters of the British Far East Land Forces. St. George's community currently comprises members from Singapore and many other countries.

The building was constructed from materials imported from England and cost £2,000 to build. The current building dates back to 1910 but there was an earlier St George's built in 1884 near the site of the present church. Both churches were built for the British troops quartered at Tanglin Barracks. Tanglin Barracks was once the General Headquarters of the British Far East Land Forces. After the British forces left in 1968, it was used by the Ministry of Defence as its headquarters before the ministry moved to new premises in Bukit Gombak.

The land had formerly been used as a nutmeg plantation and it included Mount Harriet, a 103-foot high hill on which the church now stands. The land had belonged to William E. Willan and was sold in 1865. However, even before the church was built, an ordained minister for the garrison was appointed in 1871.

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