Sunday, May 10, 2009

History of Mountbatten Road

Pre-war map of Grove Estate

The above map shows clearly the railway line starting from Grove Road to Jalan Eunos. It cuts through Tanjong Katong Road, Haig Road, Joo Chiat Road, Joo Chiat Place and Changi Road.

In 1962 I lived at Tanjong Rhu HDB flats. I drove through Mountbatten Road daily without knowing its history. I became interested only lately when I posted Joo Chiat Railway Line in my blog. It was then that I discovered the railway line started from Kallang Basin at Grove Road (now Mountbatten Road).

Grove Road was renamed as Mountbatten Road after Lord Louis Mountbatten on 1 June 1946. He was in Singapore on 12 September 1945 to receive the surrender of the Japanese Imperial Forces at a ceremony in the Municipal Building (now City Hall).

Grove Road was the main thoroughfare of Grove Estate which was bounded by Tanjong Katong Road/Dunman Road/Geylang River/Grove Road/Fort Road and Katong Park. The estate was mainly a coconut plantation. There was a pineapple factory, a saw-mill and a few small cottage industries. Fronting the sea from Katong Park and Tanjong Katong were many seaside holiday houses owned by foreigners and local tycoons. Grove Hotel and Sanatorium were there too.

Grove Road was a pleasant thoroughfare with shaded trees on both sides. The road ended in a cul-de-sac before Tanjong Katong Road. As more rich people moved to live in Grove Estate, many unique architecural design bungalows were built, each with a large compound. There was no shortage of land as Singapore population then was less than a million. The only inconvenience living there was the constant flood as it was in a low lying area with very poor drainage. Grove Estate was known as the 'ponding area'.

During the Japanese occupation, Grove Road was also known as Japanese Street. After the war, the road was under the jurisdication of the British RAF. The road was closed a number of times which caused inconveniences to the residents who complained to the press. Even after the road was named Mountbatten Road on 1st June 1946 there was still no through road to East Coast Road. In September 1946 about half a mile of the road was opened. Finally in December 1946 it was fully open and vehicles could pass to and from East Coast Road.

Whenever I passed through Mountbatten Road, I like to admire at the old buildings which have distinctive architectural styles especially the early-style bungalows. The area was mainly residential and associated with the rich and wealthy. After 1970s the area has its share of landscape tranformation and lost some of its charm as old bungalows were demolished for modern style buildings. It is fortunate that URA took action in time to conserve some of the pre-war bungalows that are still standing.

Mountbatten Road and Tanjong Katong Road cross section

New style building replace old style bungalows

Old building refurbished

An old unique style bungalow

Another old unique style bungalow

Pre-war majestic building which still maintains its charm


professor said...

If the Kallang Airport was not built, Raffles Institution would have been resited from Bras Basah Road to the present Old Kallang Airport HDB Estate in the mid-1930s; from Guillemard Road side to the S.Geylang

Philip said...

Thanks for the input. I was a Raffles Institution student from 1951 to 1954.

andrea said...

i've just moved to this area and i love walking around because it is just so full of history.. and this blog is amazing.. now i have some references when i go out walking next time.

Kah Chye Tan said...

I raised in one of those houses along Mountabatten Road. The house is still in the same condition as we left it. The family sold the place when I was 21 and that was 30 years ago. Memories of the place lives on in thoughts and in old photographs. When I was a young boy, once my mom brought me to the beach in front of Katong Park and it was filled with so many starfishes that we simply could not walk along the sandy beach. I also remember dad driving us to some old derelict seafront bungalows whereby we will buy Laksa and eat them on broken chairs and tables littered around the beach and under some big trees that provided a lot of shade. My granddad had a wooden speed boat then and we took it to the sea. I can go on and on here. Lots of fond memories. Written by K C Tan and now living in London.

Philip Chew 周炳镜 said...

The hawker had made his laksa Katong laksa famous not only in Singapore but also in other parts of the world.