St Andrew's Cathedral
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St Andrew's Cathedral, at 11 St Andrew's Road, is an Anglican cathedral located next to the City Hall MRT station. Named after the patron saint of Scotland, it is the oldest Anglican house of worship in Singapore and was gazetted as a national monument in 1973. It was designed by Lieutenant-Colonel Ronald MacPherson, with the construction carried out entirely by Indian convict labourers.
St Andrew's Cathedral is the second church building on the site of the original Church of St Andrew, a location selected by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1823. Many books indicate that there were three church buildings, but this was a misconception that arose from the confusion caused by two different illustrations of the original building, the first without a tower and spire, and the second with a tower and spire later added to the building.
Church of St Andrew
The foundation stone of the original church was laid on 9 November 1835. The building was designed by George D. Coleman in his trademark Palladian style, and construction was completed in 1836. It was named after the patron saint of Scotland because initial financial support came from the local Scottish community. The first church service was held on 18 June 1837 and was conducted by the first chaplain, Reverend Edmund White. The building was subsequently consecrated on 10 September 1838 by Bishop Daniel Wilson of Calcutta.
The original church had a unique church bell donated by Mrs Maria Revere Balestier, the wife of American Consul Joseph Balestier. Carved on the bell were the words "Revere Boston 1843", leading it to become known as the Revere Bell. A tower and spire designed by John Turnbull Thomson were added between 1842 and 1844. The building was struck twice by lightning, once in 1845 and again in 1849. By 1852, the building was considered unsafe and was closed. It was eventually demolished.
St Andrew’s Cathedral
On 4 March 1856, the foundation stone of the present building was laid by the Right Reverend Daniel Wilson, Lord Bishop of Calcutta. Built between 1856 and 1864, the building owes its English Gothic influence to its designer, MacPherson, Executive Engineer and Superintendent Public Works Department. The detailed work was done by a civil and mechanical engineer, John Bennet (who also designed the Raffles Lighthouse). Construction was carried out by industrially trained Indian convict labourers and supervised by Major J. F. A. McNair, while W. D. Bayliss was the superintendent.
The structure, 68.58m (225ft) long and 35.5m (115ft) wide, has a nave, side aisles, north and south porches, and a roof made of teak and slate. The building features chunam plaster, a mixture made from shell lime, egg white, coarse sugar, and water in which coconut husks had been steeped. After drying, the plastered walls and columns were polished with rock crystal or rounded stones and dusted with fine soapstone powder, giving the building a distinctive white exterior so hard that even nails have difficulty penetrating it.
The first service was held on 1 October 1861 and the church building was consecrated on 25 January 1862 by the Right Reverend George E. L. Cotton.
In 1870, with the growth of the congregation, the church was elevated to the status of Cathedral Church of the United Diocese by Archdeacon John Alleyne Beckles. On 6 February 1889, a peal of bells, named St Matthew, St James, St Paul, St Peter, St Thomas, St Bartholomew and St Andrew, was installed as a gift from the heirs of Captain J. F. Fraser, replacing the Revere Bell. On 20 June 1891, St Andrew's Cathedral was struck by lightning, but no serious damage was noted. The north transept, known as the War Memorial Wing, was added in 1952 with a generous donation from the late Mrs Loke Yew. The south transept was added in 1983.
In the days before Singapore fell to the Japanese in February 1942, the cathedral was turned into an emergency hospital. Casualties of the frequent bombings were sent to the cathedral to be treated, creating overcrowding in the hospital. Church services in the cathedral resumed after the Japanese surrendered in 1945.
Church dedications and memorials
The cathedral and its grounds contain several memorials and dedications. The stained glass windows in the apse are dedicated to Raffles, John Crawfurd, and Major-General W. B. Butterworth. The window at the cathedral entrance was erected in memory of its designer and architect, MacPherson, while a monument to him stands in the church grounds. Tablets on the north wall, and on one of the pillars on the left aisle, recall victims of the 1915 Sepoy Mutiny in Singapore. The War Memorial Wing is dedicated to those who died in World War II. It was added in 1952 and opened by Malcolm MacDonald, Commissioner General in South East Asia. A memorial plaque unveiled in 1988 commemorates Malayan Civil Service officials who died in World War II.
Quiet Places Project
To accommodate a growing congregation, the Quiet Places Project to build an extension was initiated in 2003. The extension had to be built mainly underground as preservation requirements of the gazetted cathedral meant that the existing building and its grounds could not be modified. Actual construction on the S$12.5-million project began in May 2004 as local archaeologists were allowed time to dig in the area for possible artefacts. The extension, called the Cathedral New Sanctuary, was completed in November 2005. Built on the North Lawn, the 3,221 m2 building with two basement levels houses a new worship hall that can seat 800 people.
9 Nov 1835: First church's foundation stone laid.
18 Jun 1837: First service conducted.
10 Sep 1838: Building consecrated.
1843: Revere Bell donated.
25 Aug 1845: Building struck by lightning.
1849: Lightning struck again.
1852: Building declared unsafe and closed.
4 Mar 1856: Present building's foundation stone laid.
1 Oct 1861: First church service in current building held.
25 Jan 1862: Church consecrated.
1870: St Andrew's Church became Cathedral of the Diocese of Labuan and Sarawak, and renamed St Andrew's Cathedral.
6 Feb 1889: Gift of bells installed.
20 Jun 1891: Cathedral struck by lightning.
1952: North transept opened.
28 Jun 1973: Cathedral became a preserved national monument of Singapore.
6 Jul 1973: Cathedral gazetted as a national monument.
1983: South transept added.
23 Nov 2003: Ground-breaking ceremony conducted for the Quiet Places Project.
May 2004: Construction of the extension began.
Nov 2005: Extension completed.
Vernon Cornelius-Takahama and Joanna HS Tan
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The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.