MAY 2020



From 1938, the far north of Singapore was home to a massive British naval base – at the time, the world’s largest dry dock. The sizeable collection of black-and-white houses here were built for the use of senior officers; many sat on elevated land, with balconies to allow for a vantage point back to the base. Did you know? The roads here take their names from former British colonies and territories: Bermuda, Pakistan, Canberra, Delhi, Sudan and so on.

SELETAR CAMP The military camp at Seletar was built in the 1920s and 1930s to housemilitary personnel from the nearby Seletar Airbase. As this was formerly the largest British Royal Air Force (RAF) base in the Far East, the area has Singapore’s biggest black-and-white count, with around 200 bungalows still standing. Did you know? There used to be many more than that! 174 were demolished to make way for the Seletar Aerospace Park in the 2000s. The roads here are named after London Underground stations: Edgeware, Piccadilly, Maida Vale and so on.

Black-and-whites take their name from the contrast between the dark timbers used in the beams of the houses and their bright whitewashed walls. The dark tone of the wood is a result of it being treated for termites with an oil called creosote.


In 1927, the British general Webb Gillman surveyed Ch a ng i a s a po t e n t i a l defensive fortress. The area he assessed was a swampy forest, previously used for growing coconuts. Black-and-white houses were built here in the late 1920s and early 1930s as residences for senior British officers – in particular, for the Royal Engineers. Did you know: In the 1920s, the only way to get to Changi from the city centre was along an unpaved track to Changi Village.



The small cluster of surviving black-and-whites on the southern slope of Mount Faber were inspired by the Art Deco movement in the 1920s. This was a popular spot for colonial houses as it was quiet, while still being central. Did you know? Following a recent $1 million refurb of black-and-whites here by the Singapore Land Authority, there are plans to make the area a heritage trail. ALEXANDRA PARK The earliest black-and-whites were built on this spot to complement the Alexandra Barracks. While some date as far back as 1906, most were erected in the 1930s for senior medical staff of the Royal Army Medical Corps who worked in the Alexandra Military Hospital. Did you know: The area takes its name from Princess Alexandra, wife of then Prince of Wales and later King Edward VII.

Located just east of the Alexandra Park enclave, and known today as one of Singapore’s most prominent art centres, the small collection of colonial buildings at Gillman Barracks was built in 1936 for the British infantry. Aside from the barracks, there were black-and-whites that served as married quarters for officers. Did you know: Gillman was one of the final outposts to fall to the Japanese in World War II.

WHERE ELSE? While we’ve listed some of the bigger collections of black-and-whites in Singapore, there are other pockets on the island where you’ll find colonial buildings of this kind – Evans Road, Monks Hill Terrace, Hooper Road, MalcolmRoad and Nassim Road, to name a few .

33 MAY2020

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