Gelam Tree, rare plants that can be found at Berlayer Creek
The Labrador & Alexandra tour has now been launched by my Neighborhood, which adds to their growing list of well-received excursions to the Commonwealth and Holland Village, Dawson and Alexandra, and Tanglin Halt and Alexandra heritage treks. This book, Labrador & Alexandra, is a series of stories that lead up to the fall of Singapore and follows the Japanese Imperial Army’s progression from the Labrador Campaign to the devastating Alexandra Hospital massacre during World War II.
The four-hour-long walking tour covers a wide range of themes, including natural history, military and maritime history, as well as early modern industry in Singapore. Participants explore four hills and see how adaptive reuse has transformed former military barracks and housing into a contemporary art centre and for-lease-only black-and-white cottage estate.
Participants begin their journey through Labrador Nature Reserve’s ruins of Fort Pasir Panjang, which have been dwarfed by the lush vegetation. The fort was built to defend the western approach to Keppel Harbour, one of Singapore’s key entrepot economies. Labrador was a crucial vantage point in Western Anchorage and several of the southern islands. Beginning in 1843, the British began fortifying its coastline. By 1878, military installations including bunkers, underground tunnels, and artillery batteries had been constructed.
Labrador was one of the five designated nature reserves that were protected by law under the Nature Reserve Ordinance 1951, which preceded the present National Parks Act. Labrador is home to a diverse ecosystem, including 60 recorded bird species, 19 fish species, and 14 genuine mangrove plant species.
For 700 years, Keppel Harbour was synonymous with Singapore’s maritime economy’s progress. The two navigational markers at Labrador & Alexandra represent two eras. A 7.5-meter replica of Long Ya Men (or Dragon’s Teeth Gate) stands near an abandoned 1930 Berlayer Beacon. The Two Granite Rocks of Long Ya Men (first recorded by Chinese maritime explorer Wang Da Yuan) were originally a pair of granite outcrops that served as a passageway to Keppel Harbour for many mariners. The Berlayer Beacon, which was built in the 19th century, emitted signal lights and served as a navigational indicator for vessels approaching the harbour.
Alexandra Barracks, which is less well-known and more difficult to access than Gillman Barracks, was built in the early 1900s to provide military facilities and housing. The west side of Alexandra Park was used as officers’ housing, while the east side was used for military purposes. The earliest homes on the estate were built in the 1900s and were used by ranking military officials and later senior medical staff of the Royal Army Medical Corps who served at the Alexandra Military Hospital.
The development of the Alexandra Industrial Estate between 1930 and 1959 helped the industrial sector in Singapore flourish. It served as one of the first two industrial developments established by the British to create jobs and reduce Singapore’s reliance on entrepot commerce. The last-standing structure of the former Archipelago Brewery Company, Singapore’s second brewery, is visited by Labrador & Alexandra. Highlights include encounters with former long-term employees at the industrial estate, as well as long-time company owners and residents in Alexandra Village.
The Labrador & Alexandra tour is a heritage trip sponsored by My Community and supported by the National Heritage Board and Lee Foundation. As a community organization promoting local history, My Community offers a mix of fact-based history, sociocultural memories, and colourful personal tales from companies and residents.