Bridges of Singapore River

Following my previous post on the buildings and quays along Singapore River, I also looked at the bridges that spanned across it. How many bridges are there across Singapore River? Which is the oldest, and which is the newest? Who were they named after?

Early sketches of the Singapore River show a sole wooden footbridge spanning across the river. This unnamed bridge was built in 1819, and was presumably the first bridge across Singapore River. In 1822, it was replaced by another wooden footbridge, the Presentment Bridge, also known as the Monkey Bridge. It was only until 1840 that a second bridge (Coleman Bridge) was built across the river. The footbridge was located where Elgin Bridge currently stands.

Kim Seng Bridge
Constructed: 1951
Status: Found

Kim Seng Bridge 01
Kim Seng Bridge. Desilting work was being carried out at that time

Kim Seng Bridge is located at the supposed source of the Singapore River. Kim Seng Road runs across the bridge. Both the bridge and the road are named after Tan Kim Seng (陈金声), a Peranakan trader and philanthropist who owned several properties in the area, including godowns along the river further downstream. He funded the construction of the original bridge at the same location in 1862, as well as the road currently named after him. It was then replaced by the current bridge in 1951. A number of locations in the vicinity are named after Tan Kim Seng as well, such as Kim Seng Walk, Kim Seng Promenade (both roads are located near Great World City), and Kim Seng Park. Several locations in Singapore are named after his descendents, including Beng Swee Place (off Waterloo Street, now expunged) – named after his son Tan Beng Swee, Jiak Chuan Road (off Keong Saik Road) – named after his grandson Tan Jiak Chuan, and Jiak Kim Street (see below).

Tan Kim Seng is perhaps best remembered for his donation of S$13,000 for the construction of a public waterworks programme, which sadly was not realised. The Tan Kim Seng Fountain at Esplanade Park was erected to commemorate his generosity. His other philanthropic acts include donations to Tan Tock Seng Hospital and the establishment of Chui Eng Institution (翠英书院).

Kim Seng Park 01
Kim Seng Park is just located nearby

Colloquially, Kim Seng Bridge is also known as Hong Hin Kio (丰兴桥; meaning “Hong Him Bridge”) among the Hokkiens and Fung Heng Lo (also written as 丰兴桥) among the Cantonese, while Kim Seng Road is known as Hong Hin Lo (丰兴路, meaning “Hong Him Road”) in Hokkien. Hong Hin (丰兴) refers to Tan Kim Seng’s seal, and was also the name of his business (丰兴号).

Jiak Kim Bridge
Constructed: 1999
Status: Found

Jiak Kim Bridge 01
Jiak Kim Bridge 02
Jiak Kim Bridge

Tan Jiak Kim (陈若锦) was the grandson of Tan Kim Seng and eldest son of Tan Beng Swee (陈明水). He took over the family business, Kim Seng & Co., after his father passed away. He was the longest serving Chinese member in the Legislative Council, and was elected Municipal Commissioner from 1888 to 1892, and 1894 to 1897. His contributions to society included a donation of $12,000 to the formation of the Strats and Federated Malay States Government Medical School in 1905 (renamed King Edward VII Medical School in 1913 and then King Edward VII College of Medicine in 1921). The school then became the Faculty of Medicine of the National University of Singapore in 1982, and was renamed the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine in 2005.

Jiak Kim Bridge 03
Jiak Kim Bridge 04
Jiak Kim Bridge

Jiak Kim Street is named after Tan Jiak Kim. In 1999, a foot bridge was constructed across the Singapore River near Jiak Kim Street, and was named after him as well. The bridge is suspended via cables from a tilted giant arch anchored on either side of the river. Jiak Kim Bridge, Robertson Bridge and Alkaff Bridge are the 3 newest bridges across the river. The 3 pedestrian bridges were built by the URA as part of a project to convert the banks of the river into a promenade.

Robertson Bridge
Constructed: 1998
Status: Found

Robertson Bridge 02
Robertson Bridge

The next footbridge is located at Robertson Quay, and is also named after Dr J. Murray Robertson. While Jiak Kim Bridge is held up by one single tilted arch, Robertson Bridge has 2 arches that converge at the tip.

Robertson Bridge 01
Robertson Bridge 03
Robertson Bridge

Pulau Saigon Bridge
Constructed: 1997
Status: Found

Pulau Saigon Bridge 01
Pulau Saigon Bridge

The original Pulau Saigon Bridge was built in 1890 and connected Pulo Saigon Road on Pulau Saigon to Merbau Road. It was converted into a footbridge with the completion of Clemenceau Bridge. The bridge looked similar to Anderson Bridge, with a steel bowstring truss on either side. In 1986, it was deemed too old, and was obstructing the construction of the Central Expressway (CTE), and was thus demolished.

Pulau Saigon Bridge 02
Pulau Saigon Bridge 03
Pulau Saigon Bridge

The current bridge was constructed some ten years after the original bridge was demolished. It is located further upstream, away from the original location of the island and the bridge, and looks completely different from the original. Saiboo Street runs along the bridge.

Alkaff Bridge
Constructed: 1999
Status: Found

Alkaff Bridge 01
Alkaff Bridge

The last of the 3 pedestrian bridges built in the late 1990s, Alkaff Bridge is located where Alkaff Quay once stood (hence the name). It is designed to shape like a tongkang, a reference to the boats that were once commonly seen along the river.

Alkaff Bridge 02
Alkaff Bridge

In 2004, Fillipino artist Pacita Abad painted the bridge with 55 different vibrant colours, and the “ArtBridge” was inaugurated. The bridge gained prominence from then on. I tried searching for images of the bridge before the painting was done, but could not find any.

Clemenceau Bridge
Constructed: 1920
Status: Found

Clemenceau Bridge 01
Clemenceau Bridge

Clemenceau Bridge was built at the same time as Clemenceau Avenue. Both are named after Monsieur Georges Clemenceau, the Prime Minister of France who visited Singapore in 1920 and marked the foundation of Clemenceau Avenue. In the past, Clemenceau Avenue used to run from Havelock Road all the way to Newton Circus. With the construction of the CTE, the road is cut into half. The northern stretch, between Newton Circus and Cairnhill Circle, has been renamed Clemenceau Avenue North. The sourthern stretch starts from Penang Road and extends to Havelock Road. A segment of CTE now runs along the middle stretch of Clemenceau Avenue that was expunged. Prior to 1919, the road was known as Tank Road.

Clemenceau Bridge 02
Clemenceau Bridge

The bridge connects Pulau Saigon to the northern bank of the Singapore River. Like the current Pulau Saigon Bridge, it is a flat concrete brige with no visible trusses.

Ord Bridge
Constructed: 1886
Status: Found
Conserved: Since 2009

Ord Bridge 01
Ord Bridge

Named after Colonel Sir Harry St. George Ord, British Governor of the Straits Settlements, Ord Bridge is a pedestrian bridge with rectangular steel trusses on either side. It replaced an older footbridge known as the ABC Bridge, which was completed in 1864. It connected north and south Kampong Malacca, and also Fort Canning and Pearl’s Hill.

Other references to the bridge include Ordnance Bridge (named after the British ordnance depot along Magazine Road), Toddy Bridge (referring to the toddy shops in nearby Pulau Saigon) and qing qiao (青桥; meaning “Green Bridge” as it used to be painted green). “Ord” is actually not an abbreviation of “Ordnance” though; the resemblance in name is mere coincidence.

Before it was converted into a footbridge, Ord Road used to run on it, connecting Magazine Road & Boat Quay on the south to Clarke Quay on the north. The road was also known as qing qiao tou (青桥头; meaning “at the end of Green Bridge”).

Some people have told me that Ord Bridge is a common place to visit for guys ending their national service, simply because “Ord” is spelt the same as “O.R.D.”, or “Operationally Ready Date”, the final day of 2 years of national service.

Singapore River 01
Singapore River diversion project
Temporary Bridge 01
The temporary bridge

In 2012, in lieu of the construction of the Fort Canning MRT Station of the Downtown Line, a diversion project was undertaken, and a diversion canal was constructed near Ord Bridge. A new but temporary pedestrian bridge was thus built to connect pedestrians from Ord Bridge to Merchant Loop. With the box truss system (commonly used for temporary bridges these days), the temporary bridge looks interestingly similar to Ord Bridge, especially along the side profile.

Read Bridge
Constructed: 1881 to 1889
Status: Found
Conserved: Since 2009

Read Bridge 01
Read Bridge

The construction of Read Bridge was initiated by William Henry Macleod Read, a Scottish businessman who was also the Consul for Holland. He laid the first cylinder for the bridge. Read Bridge replaced the Merchant Bridge, an older bridge located at the same site. Similar to Ord Bridge, Read Street used to run across the bridge before it was fully pedestrianized.

Read Bridge 02
The huge open space on the bridge makes it unique among the pedestrian bridges here

Locals refer to the bridge as Malacca Bridge or kam kong ma lah kah kio (监公马六甲桥; “Kampong Malacca Bridge”) in Hokkien, as it is located close to the north and south Kampong Malacca. The Malay version, “Jembatan Kampong Melaka” was also used.

Given its width, Read Bridge offers a good space for activities organised for the Clarke Quay Festival Village. With the revampe of Clarke Quay into a “night life” district, the bridge became a gathering spot for clubbers at night, and is usually empty in the day.

Read Bridge 03
Read Bridge as part of the old Clarke Quay Festival Village

Read Bridge now leads to Read Cresent on the south, which I presume shares the same namesake.

Coleman Bridge
Designed by Public Works Department
Constructed: 1990
Status: Found

Coleman Bridge 01
Coleman Bridge

The original Coleman Bridge was designed by G. D. Coleman (hence the name) and was completed in 1840. The bridge was a brick structure with nine arches. It was replaced by a timber bridge with the same name in 1865, allowing greater traffic flow across the bridge. Bad construction resulted in the bridge being rebuilt again, in 1886, this time in iron. As part of the New Bridge Road Widening Scheme, the bridge was rebuit a third time in 1990, in concrete but retaining features of the iron bridge, such as the lamp posts, iron railings and arches.

Coleman Bridge 02
Statue near Coleman Bridge

When the bridge was first constructed, it was referred to as the New Bridge, corresponding with the name of New Bridge Road, which is connected to it.

Coleman Bridge 03
Like most other vehicular bridges across Singapore River, pedestrian underpasses were built on either side of Coleman Bridge for a seamless pedestrian walkway along the river banks

Cantonese referred to the bridge as yi ma lo khiu (二马路桥; “the bridge at the second road”).

Elgin Bridge
Designed by Public Works Department
Constructed: 1927
Status: Found
Conserved: Since 2009

Elgin Bridge 01
Elgin Bridge

Elgin Bridge is located where the very first bridge across Singapore River once stood. Its prominent location can be seen from the roads that connect to it – North Bridge Road, also known as sio poh tua beh lor (小坡大马路; “main road of Little Town” in Hokkien); and South Bridge Road, also known as tua poh tua beh lor (大坡大马路; “main road of Big Town”).

Elgin Bridge 02
Elgin Bridge

With the demolition of the Presentment Bridge in 1842, a new wooden bridge, designed by J. T. Thomson, was built, and was named Thomson’s Bridge. The bridge was widened 3 years later, but was demolished in 1862. An iron bridge was built in its place, and was named Elgin Bridge, after James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin, Governor General of India. Once again, the bridge was widened in the 1870s to allow greater traffic flow, and strengthened in the 1880s to support steam tramways. It finally made way for the current concrete bridge in 1926. The cast iron lamps and bronze lion plaques from the iron bridge, designed by Italian sculptor Rudolfo Nolli, were retained in the fifth and newest bridge at the location. Rudolfo Nolli also designed various sculptures in places such as the Bank of China and the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station.

Elgin Bridge 04
Elgin Bridge 03
Elgin Bridge

Elgin Bridge was known as 铁吊桥 (thih tiau kio in Hokkien and thit tiu khiu in Cantonese), meaning iron suspension bridge. It was also referred to as chui sien mng tiau kio thau (水仙门吊桥头; “suspension bridge at Shuixian Gate”), as that area was known as Water Fairy Gate among the locals.

Cavenagh Bridge
Designed by Colonel G. C. Collyer, Chief Engineer of the Straits Settlements, John Turnbull Thomson & R. M. Ordish of the Public Works Department
Constructed: 1869
Status: Found
Conserved: Since 2009

Cavenagh Bridge 02
Cavenagh Bridge

Cavenagh Bridge is the oldest surviving bridge across the Singapore River. It was built in Glasgow, Scotland, and was shipped over to be assembled by Indian convicts based in Singapore. It replaces a wooden bridge that was built in 1856. The bridge was originally designed as a drawbridge, but was deemed suitable only as a fixed structure in the end. Without the drawbridge feature, tongkangs could not cross under the bridge during high tides. This problem was only averted when Boat Quay no longer functioned as a quay in the 1980s.

Originally intended by Governor Ord to be named after the Duke of Edinburg, it was eventually named after Major General William Orfeur Cavenagh, the last Governor of the Straits Settlements appointed by the British East India Company.

Cavenagh Bridge 01
Cavenagh Bridge

The bridge served as an essemtial connection between Commercial Square and the civic district. Unable to cope with increasing traffic, Anderson Bridge was built in 1910 and all heavy traffic was diverted there. Cavenagh Bridge was eventually pedestrianized till today. The police notice that restricted vehicular access to the bridge has been preserved, and can still be seen at the bridge today. Cavenagh Bridge was restored in 1987 to strengthen its structure.

Anderson Bridge
Constructed: 1908 to 1910
Status: Found
Conserved: Since 2009

Anderson Bridge 01
Anderson Bridge

When Cavenagh Bridge was unable to cope with the increasing traffic, the Public Works Department built the Anderson Bridge at the mouth of the Singapore River. It was declared open by its namesake, Sir John Anderson, Governor of the Straits Settlements and High Commissioner for the Federated Malay States. The bridge is easily recognised by its 3 steel arches.

During the Japanese Occupation, the Japanese hung severed heads of criminals along the bridge as a warning to the locals.

Fullerton Road runs along the bridge, connecting the Fullerton area to the civic district.

Esplanade Bridge
Constructed: 1994 to 1997
Status: Found

Esplanade Bridge 01
Esplanade Bridge

Similar to how the Anderson Bridge was built to ease the load off Cavenagh Bridge, the Esplanade Bridge was built when Anderson Bridge could not cope with the increasing traffic. It cuts in front of the old PSA Waterboat Office (now the Fullerton Waterboat House) and the Merlion Park, connecting the Fullerton area to the Marina Centre. Esplanade Drive runs across the bridge.

Esplanade Bridge 02
Esplanade Bridge

After completion, locals raised concerns that the Merlion statue was no longer visible from the Marina Bay waterfront. This resulted in the 2002 relocation of the Merlion statue to the other side of Esplanade Bridge.

Since 2008, the Esplanade Bridge and Anderson Bridge form part of the F1 Marina Bay Street Circuit.

Jubilee Bridge
Constructed: 2015
Status: Found

As the name suggests, the Jubilee Bridge was built to commemorate Singapore’s Golden Jubilee in 2015. It takes the pedestrian load off the adjacent Esplanade Bridge, and is part of the Jubilee Walk, a trail that connects the Marina Bay area, the Civic District, and Fort Canning.

Some sources consider the following bridges to be across the Singapore River as well, even though they are located on the other side of Marina Bay. I will just include them here, as they are as interesting as the rest.

The Helix Bridge
Designed by COX Group Pte Ltd & Architects 61
Constructed: 2010
Status: Found

The Helix Bridge 01
The Helix Bridge

This iconic pedestrian bridge across the river connects the Marina Centre (specifically the Floating Platform) to the Marina Bay Sands. Its design is inspired by the DNA double-helix structure. The designers, however, seemed to have taken this literal translation to the extreme, even including light features decorated as the letters “c”, “g”, “a” and “t” (and paired correctly as well). Fritted glass and steel mesh canopies are erected over parts of the helix structure, providing shade from the sun.

Bayfront Bridge
Constructed: 2010
Status: Found

The Bayfront Bridge, together with the Bayfront Avenue, was construted to provide a direct vehicular access to the Marina Bay Sands (as the Benjamin Sheares Bridge and ECP would simply bypass it). Unlike the Helix Bridge, the Bayfront Bridge is simple in design, and blends in with the adjacent Benjamin Sheares Bridge.

Benjamin Sheares Bridge
Designed by Public Works Department
Constructed: 1977 to 1981
Status: Found

Benjamin Sheares Bridge 01
Benjamin Sheares Bridge

At 1855m, Benjamin Sheares Bridge is the longest bridge in Singapore. It not only spans across the Singapore River / Marina Bay, but also across the Kallang Basin. The East Coast Parkway runs across it, connecting Changi Airport to the central district.

The bridge is named after Dr Benjamin Henry Sheares, the second president of Singapore.

Benjamin Sheares Bridge 02
Benjamin Sheares Bridge

Its span and height was considered an engineering feat at the time of completion. It was designed as such to allow ships (particularly junks, with their large sails) to enter the Kallang Basin. However, with the completion of the Marina Barrage, such a need is no longer necessary.

File Last Updated: October 21, 2015

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4 responses to “Bridges of Singapore River

  1. Great entry on bridges. Must have been a lot of ground to cover.

  2. Pingback: Singapore Tourist Attractions / Travel Guide / Tips / Blog

  3. Labor of love. We’ll done. Pulau Saigon and it bridges , including a railway one has always bewildered me due to lack of old photos.

  4. lol no bridges no cool

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