Building the Settlement
Some Problems and Difficulties
Raffles' Town Plan
Growth after Raffles
After Raffles had signed the treaty with Sultan Hussein and the Temenggong on 6th February, 1819, he sailed away the next day. He left his assistant, Major Farquhar, in charge of the new settlement. He was made the Resident, or local ruler, of the settlement. Major Farquhar was also the commander of the British and Indian troops on the island.
Farquhar ordered the north bank of the Singapore River to be cleared and guns were mounted for the defence of the settlement from the sea. He also began the task of attracting settlers for the settlement, sending messages to his friends asking for settlers and food supplies to be sent to Singapore. A British official was also stationed on Saint John's Island to the south of Singapore to inform passing ships of the new settlement.
Thus, news of the founding of Singapore spread quickly, even reaching distant parts of the world like China and India. Many traders who heard the news quickly ventured to to Singapore. Many Malays and Chinese from Melaka sailed to Singapore loaded with foodstuffs and other foods, hoping to make a quick profits.
Among the early immigrants were the Indian merchants and rich Arab merchants. Bugis traders also came in large numbers to trade or settle in Singapore. A few European traders also set up business in the new settlement.
Most immigrants landed at the mouth of the Singapore River. They put up roughly-built attap huts and within a few weeks of the founding of Singapore, a bazaar had sprung up at the river mouth. Trade was conducted at this bazaar and boats soon began to crowd the harbour off the river mouth.
To solve the first problem, Farquhar invited settlers from Melaka to come. He also stationed a British official on St. John's island to invite passing ships to stop in Singapore. Thus, when Raffles returned in May 1819, the quiet fishing village he had left had become a little town full of new settlers.
The people of Melaka also helped to solve the problem of food. When they heard of Singapore, they sailed down in boats and landed with chickens, ducks, fruit and other foodstuffs, which they sold at high prices, making large profits.
Farquhar solved the pest problem by offering money as a reward for every rat or centipede killed. He also solved the problem of tigers, which were killing people, in the same manner. His campaign against these pests proved to be rather successful.
However, he did not succeed in his efforts to enforce law and order. He set up a police force, but due to a lack of funds, the police force was too small to be of much use in keeping the peace. There were simply too many settlers and secret societies.
The new settlement also faced another problem. The Dutch were angry with Raffles for setting up a settlement in Singapore. They argued that Singapore belonged to them. The Dutch based their argument on the fact that Sultan Abdul Rahman was the rightful Sultan of the Johor-Riau Sultanate, not Tengku Hussein, with whom Raffles had signed the treaty. Thus, the Dutch argued that the treaty between Raffles and Tengku Hussein could not be recognised.
The directors of the East India Company (E.I.C.) in London, which Raffles worked for, were also angry with Raffles for stirring up trouble with the Dutch. The British government, too, was very displeased with Raffles for starting a quarrel between the Dutch and British governments, as Britain wanted to maintain good relations with Holland.
The settlement itself was also under a cloud of uncertainty. Farquhar was worried that the Dutch might attack Singapore, a worry compounded by the fact that he had only a small number of troops to defend the settlement. He worried that the British would be forced to leave Singapore after all the hard work that had been done to make the settlement successful.
This problem was solved when the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 was signed between the British and the Dutch. Amongst the terms of the treaty, one was to divide the Malay Archipelago into two parts: a British sphere of influence, and a Dutch sphere of influence. Singapore was in the British sphere of influence, and thus remained under British control.
Having solved the problem with the Dutch, the E.I.C. then made a new treaty with Sultan Hussein and the Temenggong. In 1824, the new treaty was signed, handing over the entire island of Singapore to the E.I.C. for large sums of money to both the Sultan and Temenggong.
Raffles visited Singapore on only two other occasions after Singapore was founded, once in May 1819 and another time in 1822 which was his third and last visit. During his final visit, he made many improvements to the town.
Raffles found that the settlement had grown in a rather disorderly manner since its founding. In three years, it had grown into a busy town with thousands of settlers. Most of these settlers were immigrants who had landed at the mouth of the Singapore River.
Due to the swamps in the south bank, the town was set up on the plain to the north of the river. It was occupied by a jumble of huts, shops, houses and storehouses belonging to the settlers, traders and merchants. Buildings were built in a haphazard manner and a bazaar had sprung up at the river mouth. All kinds of goods which were brought down from the ships and boats anchored at the river mouth were sold at the bazaar.
Raffles felt that a completely new town plan was needed to ensure that the fast-growing town developed into an orderly and beautiful city. Thus, he started to draw up a plan for the town. The area under the British was divided into different sections for the different races to live in and areas were also set aside for business and government use.
The north bank of the Singapore River was reserved for the use of the government and for other public uses. To turn it into a government area, Raffles cleared the north bank of the different buildings that had been put up there. Everyone there was resettled in other areas drawn up in Raffles' town plan.
The south bank was a swampy area occupied by many Chinese huts. These were built on stilts. In order to make the south bank suitable as a business area, as he had planned, Raffles ordered the Chinese settlers there to move southwards, away from the river bank, to the Telok Ayer area where a market was built over the sea.
A hill at the entrance of the Singapore River was levelled or flattened to provide earth for filling up the muddy south bank. The area of the hill itself was turned into a business area called Commercial Square (present-day Raffles Place). At the Commercial Square, both Asian and European merchants could trade and live side by side.
After the south bank had been drained of water and filled with earth, a landing place for boats, Boat Quay, was built. The Chinese and Europeans then built houses and storehouses on the reclaimed land. Raffles thus started the first land reclaimation project in Singapore. Commercial Square, together with Boat Quay, became the main commercial centre of Singapore. Today, it is still the business centre of Singapore.
In addition to the new business and government areas, Raffles planned the setting up of separate residential areas, called kampongs, where the Malays, Indians, Chinese and Europeans could live. All Malays, Indians and Chinese who were not rich merchants had to live in their own kampongs under their own leader or headman. The headman had to settle quarrels and keep peace and order among his people.
The town area for the Malays and other Muslims was called Kampong Glam. In this area, there was a kampong for the Sultan, his relatives and followers, a kampong for the Arabs, and a kampong for the Bugis. The Sultan built his palace, called the istana, in the Sultan's Compound. There was a mosque nearby known as Sultan Mosque. Built in 1823-24, it was the first mosque in Singapore. In 1924, a new Sultan Mosque was built in its place. It is still there even today.
The Europeans and rich Asians were given a residential area to the northeast of the government area. In this so-called European Town, Beach Road, North Bridge Road and other roads were laid out. Raffles Hotel was built in this area.
The Indians (Chulias) were moved to Chulia Kampong on the south bank of the river, but further upstream than Boat Quay. The Chinese were given Chinatown. This was the whole area south of the river beyond Commercial Square and Boat Quay. Chinatown itself was divided into separate areas for the different dialect-speaking groups who had come from different parts of China. The Temenggong's village, which was situated on the north bank, had grown in size and had more than 600 men living in it. This village was resettled in an area on the west coast called Telok Blangah.
In the plan for the town, a network of roads was to be built. The main roads would be wide and parallel, with other parallel roads meeting them at right angles. The houses were to be built only along the roads and not anywhere the owners liked. They had to be numbered in a proper order. Each house had also to provide a covered walkway or corridor open at all times as a continuous passage, on each side of the street. This was very useful as it provided the people with shelter from the rain and sun. These walkways were called five-foot ways.
Raffles left Singapore in 1823, after he had spent several months trying to improve the settlement he had founded. He set sail from the island in June, never to return. He died in England three years later.
After he had left Singapore, Raffles' plans took shape under the new Resident, John Crawfurd, who had replaced Farquhar. Crawfurd carried out the plan laid down by Raffles for the beauty and orderliness of the town.
To develop Commercial Square, roads were laid out and commercial buildings such as offices and storehouses were put up. The roads of the town were widened and street lighting was started. This was done using coconut oil lamps.
By 1830, most Europeans who lived above their offices in Commercial Square had moved to Beach Road. There, they built for themselves fine houses with large grounds. The town saw more improvements when George Coleman, an architect, was put in charge of public works. He reclaimed land along the sea front, drained swamps, constructed roads, and built churches, government offices, and other public buildings. He also built many houses, including one for himself at Coleman Street. When he died in 1844, he left behind many impressive buildings.
Because of the fine houses and storehouses of the wealthy merchants, as well as the natural beauty of the island and its busy port, Singapore became known as the "Queen of the Further East".
When Raffles was designing his town plan, most of the island outside the town was unpopulated and covered with jungle. It was so difficult to go through such thick jungle that someone once made this remark, "It is easier to go by sea to Calcutta in India than to travel by land from Singapore Town to Bukit Timah Hill in the interior of the island."
After 1824, when the whole island was taken over by the British, the settlement grew by spreading out from the town. This outward growth was due mainly to the work of planters who cleared the jungle to grow crops. By the 1840s, there were plantations all over the island.