Padang is the Malay word for “field,” an apt name for the long stretch of turf deep in the heart of Singapore’s government district. Once beachfront property, it’s now more than a kilometer away from the sea due to Singapore’s land reclamation efforts.
Starting at the corner of Stamford and Raffles Roads, walk southwest toward the skyscrapers in the business district. On your right is (1) St. Andrews Cathedral. First erected in 1837 by Indian convicts, the church was based on the 13th-century Netley Abbey in England. It was eventually consecrated as a cathedral in 1870. The four paths that lead to the cathedral form the Cross of St. Andrew. During the Japanese invasion, the church served as a hospital.
The next building along St. Andrews Road and just across Coleman Road, facing the Padang, is (2) City Hall. Built by British architect A. Gordon, the neoclassical structure was erected in 1929 and originally served as a municipal office. On September 12, 1945, this is the place where Lord Mountbatten accepted the Japanese surrender. It was also on these steps on August 9, 1965 that Lee Kuan Yew, in an emotional speech, declared Singapore independent from Malaysia.
Directly next to City Hall, also facing the Padang, is the (3) Old Supreme Court. Originally the site of the waterfront Grand Hotel de l’Europe, demolished in 1935 to make way for construction of the court, the current structure opened in 1939, the last of the British neoclassical administration buildings. The sculpture above the main entrance is by Italian sculptor Rudoph Nolli, who also worked on part of the throne hall in Bangkok for the King of Siam.
Directly across from the court building on St. Andrews, sitting on the southern end of the Padang, is the Victorian-era (4) Cricket Club. If you walk around to the back facing the Padang during the weekend, you’d swear you were in Wimbledon—cricket teams in crisp white uniforms, guests sipping tea on the back veranda. It has been like this since it was founded in 1852.
On the corner of St. Andrews and Parliament Place, walk across the street and you’ll see the new (5) Parliament House on the right and just to the left, the former (6) Attorney General’s Chambers. The bronze elephant in front of the chambers was a gift from King Chulalongkorn of Siam (now Thailand) to the colonial government of Singapore when he visited in 1871.
Walk down a bit, keeping the chambers on your right and turn right onto Old Parliament Lane. The building on your left is the (7) Victoria Concert Hall, built in 1905 to honor Queen Victoria, now a performance venue for the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. Continuing toward the Singapore River, you’ll cross a side street, Empress Place. On the corner sits the (8) Asian Civilizations Museum, built to be a courthouse but never used as such.
And there in front of you as you come to the end of the lane, facing away from the river, sits a (9) large statue of Sir Stamford Raffles. Legend has it that this was where he first touched Singapura soil January 1819, later declaring the small island a territory of the East India Company.
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