Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Weaving through Bidadari (Alkaff Gardens and Lake)

I visited the exhibition of Bidadari in HDB hub and saw its plans for it's future with interest. There were many detailed drawings and also a scaled architecture impression of how the place will look like. Within this built- up new township is a 10 ha park with a lake that will form its major green lung.
Architecture impression of the new township 
The green portion represents Bidadari Park 
Cemetery and Gardens history
Part of the township plan is also to close a portion of the Upper Aljunied Road that is currently bordered with its matured trees and to make it into a pedestrian heritage walk trail. The heritage walk will show to its future residences, what Bidadari was in the past (a cemetery) and the Alkaff Lake and Garden that used to occupy a part of its grounds. I am aware of its history as cemetery but i was not familiar of  its history as a garden and lake. I decided to read up more on this interesting piece of history not very known to me, if not most of us.
Alkaff Garden and Lake
(source: a20 )
Alkaff Garden and Lake began life for the public in 1930 when Mr Syed Mohamed Alkaff, a wealthy Arab landowner and trustee of the Alkaff estate decided to put aside 10 acres of land for a park with a lake. The lake has quaint Japanese bridges and torri (arches) with boating facilities. It was a popular destination away from the city for boating, fishing, picnic and also just to rest. There was further plans to develop the 190 acres of land in the Bidadari-Serangoon-Macpherson area with the erection of 600-700 bungalows in Alkaff Estate, with shophouses along MacPherson and Upper Serangon Roads. In the plan is also a cinema hall, central market and shopping place. This really sounds familiar to the 2013 HDB plans !
Alkaff Gardens entrance archway
(source: NewspaperSG)
Alkaff Gardens, Chinese New Year 1936
(source: NewspaperSG)
The war changed this plans as the Alkaff Trust decided to consolidate its strength and funds with one of its strategy was to sell of this estate. The iconic Japanese bridges were destroyed, one of them hit by a Japanese shell. The garden itself was used by the Singapore Volunteer Field Ambulance Corps as their headquarters. It was a target of bombs and shelling after they evacuated from this area. During the Japanese occupation, Alkaff Gardens was out of bounds to the local population.

Post war, the lake slowly was chocked by weeds and the place largely forgotten and in disrepair. It was eventually bought over by Mr. C.W.A Sennett, managing director of Sennett Realty Estate Co. for $2 million and in 1950, the announced plans to fill up the lake when it announced a $17 million plan for a 1,400 housing estate that is capable of housing 10,000 people. Prior to this action of filling up the lake, a number of Singapore residents wrote in to protest this decision to fill it up and proposed that the Singapore Municipal Commissioners to take over the lake and park to rehabilitate it,so that a "park hungry Singapore" can still enjoy a pleasant resort in the outer surburbs was the quote of the article in July 22, 1950. The lake was eventually filled up in 1964. 

Sennett Estate and Willow Secondary (now Cedar Secondary) currently occupy parts of Alkaff Gardens. 
Location of  the "future" Alkaff Lake on the top right of Bidadari
(1924 map) 

Colony Cavalcade. (1936, August 9). 
S'pore's forgotten Park. (1948, April 20). The Singapore Free Press.
Garden Lake to be filled up. (1950, July 18). The Straits Times.
Alkaff Garden may be saved. (1950, July 22). The Straits Times
S.I.T approves $17 million "Gardens" House plan. (1950, September 28). The Straits Times 
Alkaff Lake Gardens. [website]. Infopedia

See also previous post on Bidadari : 
Weaving through Bidadari (Muslim Cemetery), posted on October 17, 2013
Weaving through Bidadari (Alkaff Gardens and Lake), posted on October 8, 2013
Bidadari (17 December), posted on December 18, 2012
Saving Bidadari, posted on December 5, 2012
Bidadari (7 December), posted on December 9, 2012
Bidadari (18 November), posted on November 18, 2012


Xin Kai said...

Hi, thanks for this article. My name is Xin Kai and I've recently stumble upon knowing the existence of this garden. I am a Japanese garden enthusiast and I'm rather interested to know that we have such a (I would say rather significant) cultural place that is sadly demolished for new development.I'm really interested to find out more about the garden design and plans (if any survived). The references that you have put up will be the starting point of my research. Thanks again and stay safe!

Xin Kai

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