Colonial Bricks and Indian Convicts
The early brick kilns were managed by Europeans but convict labour were use to build the earliest buildings such as religious buildings ( e.g. Sri Marriaman Temple and St. Andrew's Cathedral ) and government buildings (e.g. Government House, now The Istana) are fine examples of structures using handmade bricks locally produced by hand by Indian convicts brought in from India to build the infrastructure needed to support the growing British Crown Colony. Established in Serangoon area, the bricks were of such good quality that it won an silver award in 1867 in the Agra exhibition.
|Handmade bricks from Armenian Church, Cathedral of the |
Good Shephard and Sultan Gate shophouse.
Growth and demise of Singapore commercial kilnsBrick kilns mushroomed with the continued development of Singapore with commercial kilns owned by various Chinese towkay's (some of this includes pioneers buried in Bukit Brown such as Ong Sam Leong, Wee Thiam Ghee,and Lim Loh). Smoke spewing chimneys became an iconic sight throughout, with big and small kilns spread throughout Singapore, usually in areas with natural supply of clay.
From the exhibition panels, i learned that by 1983, the Ministry of Environment stepped in to regulate and require kilns to change to diesel-fed systems. This placed pressure on many smaller kilns who could not afford the transformation to exit. In my opinion, exacerbating this, was the falling prices of bricks due to external competition and the growing popularity of the use of other industrial materials such as concrete are also important factors.
|Location of some of the kilns|
|Alexandra, Hock Ann and Teng San|
|Bricks from various kilns|
|Asia and Malaya|
|Brick advertisements (source: NewspaperSG)|
Talk on our Bricks Estate
There will be a talk by Dr Lai Chee Kien on August 10, 2014 at 3-3:45 pm in the library@esplanade. This is a great opportunity to hear from the curator of the exhibition as he shares insights on the role of the humble brick and the kilns that once landscaped Singapore's past.
The exhibition is curated by Dr Lai Chee Kien. Its research and design were done by Dr Lai Chee Kien and Miss Khoo Ee Hoon and it's contributors include: Jevon Liew, Ng Ching Huei, Mitch Koh, Soh Ah Beng, Jonathan Seow, Peter Pak, James Tann, Lawrence Chong, Jeanette Ng and Asia Brick Factory.
|Some buildings that made use of bricks intensively|
|Near Bukit Timah Railway station|
|In the stomach of a dragon kiln|
|Prinsep Street Church|
|Tombstones seen in Bukit Brown|
Indian convicts' contributions to early Singapore. [website] Singapore Infopedia
Our Bricks Estate. [website] Esplanade Presents National Day Celebrations