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Gillman Village, located at Lock Road off Alexandra Road, was formerly known as Gillman Barracks, which used to house the British army and later some units of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), including the School of Combat Engineers and the SAF 3rd Transport Battalion. After the army vacated the camp in the 1990s, the area developed into a cluster of restaurants, bars and furniture shops frequented by office workers and expatriate families from nearby areas. These tenants moved out in early 2011 to make way for the government’s remaking of Gillman Village into an arts hub.
General Sir Webb Gillman
Gillman Barracks was named after General Sir Webb Gillman, a well-known officer of the British army. Gillman was born on 26 October 1870 in Clonteadmore, in the village of Coachford, County Cork, Ireland. He was gazetted into the Royal Artillery of the British army in July 1889, eventually rising to the rank of General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Command, in March 1931. He died on 20 April 1933 in King Edward VII's Hospital for Officers in London, United Kingdom. In early 1927, Gillman had spent over three months in Singapore, leading a team of three artillery and engineering officers in a commission sent by the War Office to prepare a report on the defence requirements of the new naval base in Singapore.
Gillman Barracks was completed in 1936, on a site that was once jungle and swamp. It was specially built to accommodate the 1st Battalion, the Middlesex Regiment, which was sent to double the British army's infantry strength in Singapore. It included barrack buildings, married quarters, messes, regimental institutes and sports facilities. The camp later became home to the 2nd Battalion, the Loyal Regiment, and was the site of a fierce battle between the regiment and the Japanese invaders during the three days before Singapore fell in February 1942. It was one of the last British posts in Singapore to fall to the Japanese.
In August 1971, Gillman Barracks was handed over to the Singapore government for a token sum of $1 as part of the British military's withdrawal from Singapore. SAF moved into the camp and two months later held a passing-out parade here. The camp's swimming pool, tennis court, three sports fields and two badminton courts were transferred to the National Sports Promotion Board, which opened the facilities to the public. After SAF vacated the camp in the 1990s, the government allowed the buildings to be used for commercial purposes and the name was changed to Gillman Village in 1996.
In 2002, it was included in an Identity Plan unveiled by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) that sought to not only preserve the distinctive character of 15 areas in Singapore but also enhance them. Under the proposed plan for Gillman Village, new commercial uses would be introduced and new buildings and car parks would be built while retaining the area's old-world colonial charm in order to draw more visitors.
URA's plan was exhibited for the public to give their feedback. The response was positive, with 72% of survey respondents agreeing that it was a good idea to introduce new buildings and more activities in the area. Respondents also rated restaurants and cafes, and arts-related activities as their two most preferred activities here. The final proposals were then incorporated into the Master Plan, the government's medium-term plan to guide the physical development of Singapore.
Although Gillman Village did not become as popular as other lifestyle enclaves like Dempsey Road, it attracted a following for its tranquil ambience and colonial feel. However in February 2010, the government announced its plan to develop the area into a hub for arts-related activities and businesses such as art galleries and art research centres. The proposal was among the recommendations submitted by the Economic Strategies Committee that was set up in 2009 to look into the country’s long-term economic development. The existing tenants of Gillman Village moved out in the early part of 2011 and the government commenced work on its transformation of the area shortly after.
Apr 1936 : 1st Battalion, the Middlesex Regiment, moves into Gillman Barracks soon after the camp was completed.
20 Aug 1971 : Barracks are sold to Singapore government for $1.
9 Oct 1971 : SAF holds passing-out parade at the camp.
1984 : SAF units in the camp start moving to other locations.
1996 : Name of the camp is change to Gillman Village.
23 Jul 2002 : URA launches its Identity Plan for Gillman Village and various other areas of Singapore.
Feb 2010 : Economic Strategies Committee proposes turning Gillman Village into an arts and creative cluster.
Jan - Feb 2011 : Existing tenants move out of the area.
14 Jun 2011 : Economic Development Board calls for expressions of interest for the setting up of art galleries in Gillman Village.
4 Jul 2011 : Jurong Town Corporation (JTC), the site’s master tenant, invites tenders for the refurbishment of existing buildings, improvement works to surrounding facilities and the construction of ancillary buildings at the site.
6 Sep 2011 : JTC awards tender.
A thriving arts cluster. (2010, February 5). The Straits Times. Retrieved October 25, 2011, from Factiva.
Barracks 'sold' to S'pore govt for a dollar. (1971, August 21). The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved January 21, 2011, from NewspaperSG.
Chia, S.-A. (2009, May 28). Panel to prepare for long-term growth. The Straits Times. Retrieved October 25, 2011, from Factiva.
General Sir Webb Gillman. (1927, August 8). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved January 21, 2011, from NewspaperSG.
Jurong Town Corporation. (2011). Proposed refurbishment and retrofitting to existing buildings, improvement works to surrounding facilities and erection of ancillary buildings at Gillman Barracks [Tender ref: JTC000/T/29A/2011]. Retrieved October 25, 2011, from GeBIZ.
Lee, H. S. (1993, October 26). Gillman site worth more than S$1b if condos are built. The Business Times. Retrieved January 21, 2011, from Factiva.
Lim, J. (2011, January 16). Gillman Village takes a break. The Straits Times. Retrieved October 25, 2011, from Factiva.
Lim, W. C. (2006, April 1). Sleepy nook now a quiet, little bohemia. The Straits Times, Home, p. H13. Retrieved January 21, 2011, from NewspaperSG.
McIntyre, W. D. (1979). The rise and fall of the Singapore naval base, 1919-1942. London: Macmillan.
(Call no.: RSING 359.7 MAC)
Neo, H. M. (2002, July 24). Giving 15 areas a new lease of life. The Straits Times, Home, p. H9. Retrieved January 21, 2011, from NewspaperSG.
New army headquarters in Singapore. (1935, June 2). The Sunday Times, p. 1. Retrieved January 21, 2011, from NewspaperSG.
News in brief: Obituary. (1933, April 21). The Times. Retrieved November 26, 2008, from The Times Digital Archive.
Plaque honours the Loyals for their last stand. (1958, December 22). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved January 21, 2011, from NewspaperSG.
Poon, C. H. (2011, June 19). Home for art galleries at Gillman Barracks. The Straits Times. Retrieved October 25, 2011, from Factiva.
Public can now use takeover sports facilities. (1971, August 29). The Sunday Times, p. 29. Retrieved January 21, 2011, from NewspaperSG.
Second infantry regiment in their new home. (1936, April 1). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved January 21, 2011, from NewspaperSG.
Singapore Economic Development Board. (2011). Singapore Economic Development Board calls for Expressions of Interests (EOI) for galleries to set up in Gillman Barracks extended to 26 August 2011 [Press release]. Retrieved October 25, 2011, from http://www.edb.gov.sg/edb/sg/en_uk/index/news/articles/sedb_calls_for_expressions_of_interest_for_galleries_to_set_up_in_gillman_barracks.html
Sir Webb Gillman [Obituary]. (1933, April 21). The Times. Retrieved November 26, 2008, from The Times Digital Archive.
Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2002). URA's parks & waterbodies and identity plans receive strong public support [Press release]. Retrieved November 26, 2008, from http://www.ura.gov.sg/pr/text/pr02-66.html
The information in this article is valid as at 2011 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
Architecture and Landscape>>Streets and Places
Great Britain. Army--Barracks and quarters
Gillman, Webb, Sir
Gillman Village (Singapore)
Business, finance and industry>>Industry>>Services>>Retail and wholesale