The Iconic 195 Pearl’s Hill in Singapore: History and Facts

195 Pearl's Hill Terrace in Singapore
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History is preserved in its structures, and its foundation is the beginning of many stories. The 195 Pearl’s Hill has a lot more to it than the present-day cafes, studios which have the best violin shop in Singapore amongst others. It is a gazetted URA conservation edifice with significant historical relevance to Singapore and Chinatown in particular.

Table of Contents

History

For many years, the Pearl’s Hills was a large expanse of gambier plantation cultivated by the Chinese. It was, of course, not known as Pearl’s Hill at this time. In 1819, Ship Indiana docked in Singapore conveying Stamford Raffles. The captain of the ship was James Pearl.

Not long after their arrival, Pearl’s Hills with its gambier plantation caught the eyes of Captain James Pearl and thought to have the Hill for himself. Little by little, he started buying plots of the Hill. By May 1822, he owned the entire Hill and named it after Stamford Riles who was not in Singapore at that time. So, the Hill was called Mount Stamford initially. Captain James Pearl got the indigenous people to build his house at the Hill’s top. He cleared the gambier plantation to cultivate pepper vines.

When Stamford Riles returned to Singapore in October 1821, some controversies brewed over how James Pearl had acquired the Hill without approval from the British government. At that time, Singapore was under the British colonisation.

This did not go down well with the Captain. He decided to rename the Hill as Pearl’s Hill, after himself. About 6 years later, Captain James Pearl sailed back to Britain, having sold his Hill to the British government. He received Rs10,000 (SGD181.41) for the Hill, but no one stopped calling it Pearl’s Hill.

Upper Barracks Singapore

The colonial government had only newly completed the construction of Fort Canning. Pearl’s Hill was considerably taller than The Fort Canning Hill. The government feared that their enemies would have a vantage from Pearl’s Hill if they wanted to attack Fort Canning. So, they got engineers to remove the Hill’s top till it became lower than the Fort Canning which hosted the colonial rulers.

Structures

Pearl’s Hill has been the initial location of many prominent institutions in Chinatown. Some of them include the Upper and Lower Barracks, the Chinese Pauper Hospital, Pearl’s Prison, etc. Many of the structures are no longer used for the original purpose but still serve a great deal to the population. For instance, the building is home to a great place to start your music lessons in Singapore.

The Chinese Pauper Hospital

The British tried to establish a hospital to take care of the less privileged in Chinatown in the 1820s. However, the hospital folded up from lack of funds. The government then charged private citizens to take up the responsibility. This birthed the construction of the Chinese Pauper Hospital by Tan Tock Seng, a businessman. The construction lasted between 1844 and 1847. At his demise, the hospital was renamed Tan Tock Seng Hospital which has since relocated from the Hill.

The Upper and Lower Barracks

195 Pearl’s Hill is one of the few structures before the Second World War still standing. Singapore was not all peaceful back then. Pearl’s Hill was an excellent location for the police to establish an efficient surveillance and security system. The 1930s saw the construction of the police operational headquarters on the Hill. The buildings were known as the Upper and Lower Barracks for the Sikh contingent of the Straits Settlement Police (SSP).

As the name gives off, the Lower Barracks were built as low as the street levels. However, its 5-storey structure towered above the nearby buildings. The building hosted the Radio Division – the combined operations room, map room and teleprinters for dispatches. This aided communications between security officers, particularly during the volatile decades of civil and political turbulence.

The Upper Barracks was constructed higher up Pearl’s Hill, spreading over 500 feet in span. This makes it one of the longest buildings built before the war. The two-storey facility overlooks the Singapore River. It has an empathic presence in Chinatown, a clear metaphor for its intended purpose. The building housed top officers in the force.

Former Police Headquarters in Pearl's Hill
Former Police Headquarters
Credits: roots.gov.sg

Post-Independence Use of the Upper and Lower Barracks

The Straits Settlement Police did not use the facility for long enough because it was disbanded in 1946. On gaining independence from the British colonial masters, the new government converted the barracks to the Ministry of Interior and Defence in 1965. The ministry was then split into the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Defence. In 1972, the Ministry of Defence relocated to the Tanglin Complex. The Ministry of Home Affairs moved 5 years after.

In 1989, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) began using the Upper Barracks as their headquarters again with several units of the force. In 2001, they moved back to the current headquarters at the New Phoenix Park. Since 2007, the government has begun leasing the structures for commercial purposes. They now host a variety of cafes, malls, and a well known violin shop (LVL Music Academy).

LVL Music Academy at Pearl's Hill Terrace in Singapore

Conclusion

The Iconic 195 Pearl’s Hill in Singapore started as a gambier plantation centuries ago. Despite time and transitions, the Hill remains home to enormous and iconic structures, surviving memoirs of history and of course, home to LVL Music Academy known to conduct the best home piano lessons in Singapore. The story of Chinatown is definitely not complete without the story of the famous 195 Pearl’s Hill.

The Iconic 195 Pearl’s Hill in Singapore: History and Facts
About The Author:
About The Author:

Alan Senejani
Alan is the co-founder of LVL Music Academy​​ and in charge of everyday operations. His wife, teacher Janice and himself are passionate to bring out the best in kids & adults with quality music lessons in Singapore. He is a loving father to his 4 years old little girl & 1 year old little boy.

About The Author:
About The Author:

Alan Senejani
Alan is the co-founder of LVL Music Academy​​ and in charge of everyday operations. His wife, teacher Janice and himself are passionate to bring out the best in kids & adults with quality music lessons in Singapore. He is a loving father to his 4 years old little girl & 1 year old little boy.

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