Bridging History: The Bridges of Singapore

Located within the Central Region of Singapore is the Singapore River. It measures at 3.2 kilometers and divides the country into commercial and government sectors. Along the river are 5 bridges that each tell something about Singapore’s history.

Singapore River

Photo Courtesy of Great Runs

Constructed in 1886, the Ord Bridge is the second oldest bridge existing along Singapore River. It got its name from Major-General Sir Harry St. George Ord who was the first governor of the Straits Settlements in which the island of Singapore was the capital as part of the British colony back in the past.

Around 1960 to 1970, toddy was sold at the end of the bridge. It is an alcoholic beverage containing fermented coconut palm sap. Researchers say that the bridge was made for Indian railways since the width and length of the bridge complements those of the Indian railways. The present name of the bridge is an abbreviation of its past name Ordnance Bridge.

Ord Bridge

Photo Courtesy of Street Directory

Next comes the Read Bridge as you go along the Singapore River. This beam structured bridge was finished in 1889 and is named after William Henry Macleod Read. He was a well known person in Singapore and Consul to the Netherlands in the 1800s. The bridge is also called Malacca Bridge since it is near Kampong Malacca.

Read Bridge used to be a popular place for Teochew (Chinese dialect) storytellers who would tell stories and ask for a fee with their soapbox. In the present it is a famous place to hang out where you can meet and drink at night.

Read Bridge

Photo Courtesy of

Elgin Bridge was constructed in 1863 after 2 earlier versions of the bridges on the same spot were replaced as time went by. The first bridge was called Monkey Bridge which was narrow and was the only place you can cross the Singapore River by walking. The next bridge was called Thomson Bridge which was made of wood just like Monkey Bridge.

18 years later, a new bridge was built made of iron that is known as Elgin Bridge after Lord James Bruce Elgin who was India’s Governor-General from 1862 to 1863. The present bridge is made of concrete decorated with cast-iron lamps made by an Italian sculptor named Cavaliere Rudolfo Nolli.

Elgin Bridge

Photo Courtesy of Sendhelper

Having a rigid cable-stayed structure, Cavenagh Bridge was built in 1868. The bridge was created to give road access between the government’s quarter and the commercial district found on the other side. It was named after the last British India-appointed Governor of the Strait Settlements, Sir Orfeur Cavenagh.

Carts and carriages can be found crossing the bridge in the past and later on it was turned into a pedestrian bridge. Furthermore, proposals as well as wedding shoots happen at the said bridge from time to time. It is also a place of Chinese tradition wherein throwing of an orange into the river on the 15th day of the Chinese New Year is done believing it would get the person a good spouse.

Cavenagh Bridge

Photo Courtesy of Johor Kaki

Last but not least is the Anderson Bridge finished in 1910. It was made to give solutions to the city’s growing vehicle and pedestrian traffic and reduce foot traffic on nearby Cavenagh Bridge.

It was named after the Governor of the Straits Settlements and High Commissioner for the Federated Malay States, Sir Johnson Anderson.

Anderson Bridge

Photo Courtesy of Structurae

The bridge had a dark past as it had severed heads of spies and criminals hung to disencourage resistance to the Japanese Occupation. Now, it is part of the circuit in the Singapore Grand Prix which had its debut back in September 28, 2008 and is selected for conservation by the Urban Redevelopment Authority.


Challenge (a publication of Singapore’s Public Service)

Written by Jan Marbella

Jan Marbella is a Digital Marketing Intern of PS Media Enterprise and a 4th year Bachelor of Arts in Communication student of De La Salle University DasmariƱas.


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item Bridging History: The Bridges of Singapore
Bridging History: The Bridges of Singapore
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