From esteemed hotels to reputable shopping malls, Orchard Road has never been as built up as it now is. We often walk along its tree-lined streets unaware of the art and stories of yesteryear about this wonderful strip renowned to so many around the world merely for its shopping.
You’d learn a great deal on this journey with our extremely fun guide, from Orchard Road’s early years as fertile land hosting gambier and pepper plantations and later on as a fruit orchard to the early 20th century where the locale stretching to Holland Village was home to the British army.
Keith takes you on a leisurely stroll down Orchard Road and points out gems
typically unseen to the bright-eyed shopper. Learn about how a particular building drew inspiration from the Great Wall of China and the three prominent graveyards once standing on these grounds. Revel in the architecture of early homes in the Emerald Hill enclave and listen to Keith’s stories about the original inhabitants.
This journey brings you back into the future where things began. Nostalgia awaits. Come on now!
Eulogy to Singapore by Gerard Henderson (Time: 3.00PM – 3.30PM)
Gerard’s sculptural reliefs for the Singapore Hilton, completed in 1969, covering 5,380 square feet. In creating these reliefs, Gerard used ancient symbolic signs, such as the tumpal motifs, highly stylized tjilih figures, wayang topeng masks, Indo-Malay high chief’s knives, Singa (lion) faces, mythical animal faces, etc. to create meaningful Malaysian shapes in a semi-abstract manner.
Beginnings of Orchard road and connections to Dempsey Road and Holland
Village Orchard Road was already cut in the 1830s, though the new road was not
named in George Coleman's 1836 Map of Singapore. In the 1830s the
Orchard Road area was the scene of gambier and pepper plantations. Later, nutmeg plantations and fruit orchards predominated, hence its name. In the early years, Holland Village was occupied by plantations and nurseries on both the Jalan Merah Saga and Lorong Mambong sides. Later, members of the British army made their homes in the semi-detached and terrace houses here, now known as Chip Bee Gardens (the Jalan Merah Saga side). The district was named in honour of Hugh Holland, an early resident, who was a well-respected architect known for his acting pursuits.
In the beginning, the Village catered to the essential needs of these foreigners. As time passed, the Holland district attracted a greater number of expatriates, including the middle and upper-class expatriate families Dempsey Road – named after Miles Christopher Dempsey, Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Land Forces Southeast Asia and General Commanding Officer of the Malaya Command – was part of a former nutmeg estate in the 1850s known as Mount Harriet, co-owned by British colonial treasurer William Willans and Hoo Ah Kay, who was also known as Whampoa. However, this thriving nutmeg plantation ceased operations in 1857 due to a blight.
The 213-acre site was turned into Tanglin Barracks to house the British military troops in Singapore. The barracks comprised nine buildings with wooden floors, plank walls and huge thatched roofs. Each building could accommodate 50 soldiers. Extensive renovations were carried out in 1867 in order to station a European regiment there.
2) Shaw House & Tangs (Time: 3.30PM-4.00PM)
A Teochew, Tang was born in early 20th century Shantou, China to a Presbyterian pastor. He emigrated to the British colony of Singapore in 1923. In Singapore, Tang peddled hand-made Swatow lace, embroidery and linen products. With a rented rickshaw, Tang carried his goods in a pair of tin trunks, which he kept long afterward. Tang later became known as the "Tin Trunk Man" and the "Curio King" for his rags to riches story.
In 1958, Tang bought a 1,351-square metre piece of land at the corner of Orchard Road and Scotts Road at a cost of S$10,000 to further his vision of expanding his business. Although the site faced the Tai San Ting Cemetery, he felt that it had commercial value as many British housewives in the Tanglin area could stop by on their way to the city. The decision was made against the advice of fellow businessmen who thought Orchard Road was unfashionable then.
In 1982, the building on Orchard Road was demolished to make way for the new Tang complex, comprising the 33-story deluxe Dynasty Hotel (now the Singapore Marriott Hotel) and the Tangs shopping complex (now Tang Plaza).
The shopping complex consists of five floors of retail space covering more than 15,000 m², marketed under the slogan "All The Best Under One Roof".
Until 1996, Tangs was the only major shopping centre in Singapore to not operate on Sundays, in deference to Tang's Christian faith. Tang instituted the policy so that his family and Christian staff could attend church on Sundays.
3) ION Orchard Area (Time: 4.00PM-4.30PM)
Placed at the entrance plaza of ION Orchard, this sculpture tells us about the history of Orchard Road, where plantations of various kinds of crops such as nutmeg once thrived. Nutmeg and Mace are two spices from the same fruit of the nutmeg tree. Nutmeg is the seed while mace is the lacy reddish covering of the seed. In this sculpture, a much larger-than-life nutmeg fruit is featured and cut-open to reveal the seed and its mace. The mace is intricately carved and both the fruit and seed are beautifully patinated.
4) Ngee Ann City (Time: 4.30PM-5.00PM)
Raymond Woo, the architect who designed the complex, drew inspiration from the Great Wall of China. The intent was to reflect the dignity, solidity and strength of the Ngee Ann Kongsi. Wong spent five years designing and overseeing the project.
3 prominent graveyards were situated along Orchard Road in the 1840s.
There was a Chinese cemetery located at present-day Ngee Ann City, a Sumatran graveyard behind today’s Concorde Hotel, as well as a Jewish cemetery at the current Dhoby Ghaut MRT Station.
5) 73 Emerald Hill (Time: 5.30PM-6.00PM)
Many of the homes were designed by Mr. R T Rajoo (Rethinam Thamby Rajoo Pillay) a prominent architect of those days who died in 1928.
Before the time of Stamford Raffles and William Farquhar, Emerald Hill was believed to be fully covered in primary rainforest. However, around the early 1800s, many Chinese immigrants occupied the land with Gambier or pepper plantation to make a living of their own, exhausting the land to its ends. William Cuppage, a postal clerk who rose to become the acting Postmaster General in the 1840s, first leased Emerald Hill in 1837 and in 1845 secured a permanent grant for his nutmeg plantation, which failed in the 1860s because of disease.
6) Istana & Dhoby Ghaut (Time: 6.00PM- 6.30PM)
In the early 1800s, the Orchard Road area was considered as belonging to the outskirts of town, as the commercial centre of Singapore then was located by the Singapore River. As Dhoby Ghaut was closest to the town area and had a freshwater stream to provide water, it was the area where many of the early activities of Orchard Road took place.
Until 1827, a garrison of sepoys (Indian soldiers employed by the British) was based at the foot of Government Hill. This garrison included Indian washermen who laundered clothes in the stream known as Sungei Brass Bassa. The area was subsequently named Dhoby Ghaut after this activity as dhoby means “washerman” in Hindi, while Ghaut or ghat in Hindi refers to the area along a riverbank used for bathing or washing.
The 106 acres (0.43 km2) estate was once part of the extensive nutmeg plantation of Mount Sophia. In 1867, the British colonial government acquired the land and built a mansion to be the official home of the British governor.
Government House of Singapore was built between 1867 and 1869 on the instructions of Sir Harry Saint George Ord, Singapore's first colonial governor after the transfer from the East India Company to the Colonial Office. The architect was Major John Frederick Adolphus McNair.
Need To Know:
- Tour Availability: Saturday
- Tour Time: 3.00 PM – 6.30 PM
- Meeting Point: Outside St. Regis Hotel (near to the hotel entrance)
- (29 Tanglin Rd, Singapore 247911)
- Transfers: No transfer provided to the meeting point
- English Speaking Guide
- Tour Guide System during the tour (transmitter and receiver)
For Booking Enquiries:
Contact: (65) 9665 6292 / (65) 8873 6500
- No refund for no shows
- Prices are in Singapore dollar, nett on per person basis
- Full payment will be required upon booking
- Booking is non-refundable once confirmed
- Advance reservation is require
Outside St. Regis Hotel (near to the hotel entrance)
29 Tanglin Rd, Singapore 247911
Please contact us for private group booking.
A MINIMUM OF CONSOLIDATED 04 GUESTS IS REQUIRED FOR TOUR TO COMMENCE. SHOULD THE MINIMUM NUMBER OF GUESTS IS NOT MET ON YOUR REQUESTED BOOKING DATE, WE WILL HAVE THE DISCRETION WHETHER TO OPERATE THE TOUR. IF WE DECIDE NOT TO OPERATE, YOU WILL BE ALLOWED TO SELECT ANOTHER DATE OR OBTAIN A REFUND.