Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore, expressly reserved the site occupied by the Cathedral for a church. Lieutenant Philip Jackson, the colony’s engineer and land surveyor, was tasked by Raffles to head the Town Committee to revise the layout of the city; to divide it into ethnic functional subdivisions and to layout the colony in a grid pattern so as to bring some order to the growth of a thriving colony. The map completed in February 1823 is known as the Plan of the Town of Singapore or the Jackson Plan. It is on display in the Singapore History Gallery of the National Museum of Singapore.
The Plan was based on a vision that Raffles had for Singapore; [that she] “will become a place of considerable magnitude and importance” and as such, “an economical and proper allotment of the ground intended to form the site of the principal town is an objective of the first importance.” The map shows that Raffles had set aside a site for the building of a church near the Esplanade, right in the heart of the city. In 1835, the foundation stone for the original St Andrew’s Church was laid.
This first church, designed by Mr G.D. Coleman in an elegant Palladian style, was completed in 1837. A tower and spire was subsequently added in 1842. Twice struck by lightning, it was condemned as unsafe and finally closed in 1852.
St Andrew’s Cross
The construction of the church building was funded by Scottish merchants. As such, the Church was named after St Andrew, the Patron Saint of Scotland, an Apostle and brother of St Peter. The logo of St Andrew’s Cathedral is the St Andrew’s Cross.
On 4 Mar 1856, Bishop Daniel Wilson of Calcutta laid the foundation stone of our present building. Underneath the foundation stone, the exact position of which is not known, was placed a piece of parchment inscribed as follows:
“The first English Church of Singapore commenced AD 1834 and consecrated 1838 having become dilapidated, this stone of a new and commodious Edifice, dedicated to the worship of Almighty God according to the rites and discipline of the Church of England under the name of St Andrew was laid by the Right Reverend Daniel Wilson, D. D., Lord Bishop of Calcutta, and Metropolitan of India, on the 4th day of March, 1856, in the 24th year of his episcopate, and in the nineteenth year of the reign of Her Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria.
“The Hon’ble Edmund Augustus Blundell, being the Governor of the Straits Settlements.
“The Hon’ble Thomas Church, being Resident Councillor Singapore.
“Lt Col Charles Pooley, of the Madras Army, commanding the troops.
“The Revd William Topley Humphrey being chaplain, and Captain Roland Macpherson, of the Madras Army, being architect….”
The building was consecrated by Bishop G.E. Cotton of Calcutta on 25 Jan 1862. Bishop Cotton reports:
“The building was designed by Colonel Macpherson, to whose memory a cross was erected which stands on the South lawn of the Cathedral compound. The window over the West Door also commemorates this designer who, though unqualified, produced such a fine and dignified building. The building operations were in the hands of Captain McNair of the Royal Artillery. He was in charge of the convict labour and the supply of materials.
“On Saturday, 25th January being the fast of St Paul’s Conversion, I consecrated St Andrew’s Church. The memorial was read at the West door by the Hon’ble the Resident Councillor, the morning prayer by Mr Nicholson, the lessons by Mr Venn, Missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, the Decree of Consecration, Epistle, Offertory Sentences and Prayer for the Church militant by Mr Vallings. I preached from Romans 12:1. The collection was assigned to the Diocesan Additional Clergy Society.”
The use of convict labour for the building of a Cathedral is often a subject of comment. In fact much building in Singapore at this time was carried out in this way.
The style of the present Cathedral is Early English Gothic and the building consists of a nave with north and south aisles. The north and south transepts, originally built as porches for carriages, have in more recent years (North Transept: 1952, South Transept: 1983) been extended to provide halls, meeting rooms and offices.
Click here for a tour of the Cathedral building.