Additional $15M set aside for restoration of national monuments: Grace Fu

Wong Casandra
Senior Reporter
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu (third from right) officiated the gazetting of the three Singapore River Bridges on 15 October, 2019. (PHOTO: NHB)

SINGAPORE — An additional $15 million will be set aside for eligible monument owners to support restoration projects over the next five years, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu on Tuesday (15 October).

The monies, which will go into the National Heritage Board (NHB)’s National Monuments Fund, is the third and largest tranche by the government since the grant’s introduction in 2008. The first round of funding in the same year amounted to $5 million, followed by $11.7 million in 2015.

Eligible owners of 31 non-profit or religious national monuments – including St Andrew’s Cathedral, Hajjah Fatimah Mosque, and Sri Mariamman Temple – have till the end of the month to apply for the co-funding scheme.

28 organisations, including “many repeat recipients”, have previously benefited from the grant, said Fu.

The announcement was made at the collective gazetting of the trio of Singapore River Bridges – Cavenagh, Anderson and Elgin bridges – as Singapore’s 73rd national monument.

This will give the bridges the highest level of protection under the law and allow the government to preserve them for “future generations”, said Fu.

“The gazette is especially meaningful as it takes place as we commemorate Singapore’s Bicentennial this year,” she added. “The bridges have witnessed the progress of our nation over the past two centuries. The historic mouth of the Singapore River was the old harbour of Singapore. It is the place where many of our forefathers first set foot ashore, and later made a living working in, or around the port.”

Cavenagh Bridge was constructed in 1869, followed by Anderson Bridge in 1909 and Elgin Bridge in 1929, to connect the mercantile and commercial district on the Southern bank of the Singapore River to government offices on the Northern bank.

As these bridges were built over a span of 50 years, their preservation will allow people to appreciate the progressive technological advancements in bridge construction across the late 19th and early 20th centuries, said Fu.

“They also showcase the close economic links between Singapore and Great Britain, with the structures of all three bridges shipped to Singapore after being manufactured there,” she added, noting that the gazette on Tuesday is the same day in 1965 that Singapore joined the Commonwealth after gaining independence.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat had announced on 3 August that the three bridges, and the Padang, would be gazetted as national monuments. The previous national monument that was gazetted was the Changi Prison's entrance gate, wall and turrets in 2016.

Also launched on Tuesday was the NHB’s inaugural Milestones Through Monuments programme, which aims to showcase the roles Singapore’s national monuments played during significant periods in the city-state’s history.

The Singapore River Bridges edition, to run from now till 28 October, features commissioned installations and a talk by Gavin MacLellan, the great-great-grandson of the co-founder of Glasgow-based engineering firm P&W MacLellan, which manufactured the cast-iron structure of Cavenagh Bridge.

(PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore)

The three installations include large origami boats and a reconstructed tram to be illuminated from 6pm to 1am at Cavenagh and Anderson bridges, respectively, and a miniature diorama of life in the past located at the Elgin Bridge.

An installation at the Cavenagh Bridge as part of the NHB's inaugural Milestones Through Monuments programme on 15 October, 2019. (PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore)
An installation at the Anderson Bridge as part of the NHB's inaugural Milestones Through Monuments programme on 15 October, 2019. (PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore)
An installation at the Elgin Bridge as part of the NHB's inaugural Milestones Through Monuments programme on 15 October, 2019. (PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore)

Local artist Yip Yew Chong, 50, said he was inspired by the bustling scene of bumboats and coolies carrying sacks of goods some 40 years ago at the Singapore River, a view familiar to the then-student during bus rides across the Elgin Bridge to his school.

“I wanted to recreate this scene of the bustling Singapore River with all the boats, which I really missed,” said Yip of his installation at the bridge. “I hope that the older generation can relive it, and the younger generation can also see and experience it.”

MacLellan, 60, estimated the project cost for the Cavenagh Bridge to be about £30,000 back in the day. It would be “millions” in this day and age, he added.

“It took two years of work (drafting and drawings), including three months of shipping,” said MacLellan.

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