Take a ride back in time to Colonial Singapore with InstaScram's Nessa

By Nessa Anwar
Jan 20, 2017

Colonial black and white houses have been the stately backdrop of many striking pictures on social media, and are prefered dwellings of people who like to escape the daily grind of city living. InstaScram explores the fascinating stories behind a few of these picturesque neighbourhoods right here in Singapore, in #colonialestates.

First up, we ride the Moto Guzzi Bobber to a quiet enclave in Sembawang. The colonial houses here were originally built in the 1920s to house Royal Navy personnel who worked at the Singapore Naval Base, a strategic cornerstone of the British defense policy in Singapore.

Now, the black-and-white houses in the area are managed by the Singapore Land Authority, most of which are leased out.

And that’s what you can see above ground. Underground and hidden from sight, more than a dozen World War II bunkers, shelters, and storehouses had been built to support the Singapore Naval Base. Unfortunately, all entrances to the underground network have been sealed up, but you can still experience wonder as you take a stroll through the fragments of Singapore’s military past.

This small connection of roads named after streets, cities and countries like Canada Road, Durban Road, Ottawa Road and even Kenya Crescent Road are open to public access, and even hosts joggers and cyclists looking to take in different sights of Singapore. However, explore with care, so as not to disturb residents or damage any relics you see.

Wessex Estate, on the other hand, has little history of such militarisation. Ride down with InstaScram to explore the vibrant hipster town that is ever so prominent on Instagram.

Built in the 1940s, it was originally meant to house British officers and soldiers. Even until today, not everyone can take up residence here. Jurong Town Corporation only rents out the estate’s apartments and houses to people working in the One-North area.

Wessex Estate today is also known for its burgeoning community of artists, photographers and craftsmen. Every year for one weekend, the estate hosts ArtWalk@Wessex, where artist studios are opened to the public. Visitors are invited to view and buy artwork, or even just to experience a snippet of the thriving arts scene in Singapore.

And this estate is complete with eateries as well, like Wessex Tavern and Colbar. Colbar is the most well-known, and is short for ‘Colonial Bar’. It was established in 1953 where residents gathered to wine and dine. In 2003, it was demolished and Colbar moved from its original location at Jalan Hang Jebat to where it is today, sitting proudly as one of the icons of Wessex Estate - at 9A Whitchurch Road.

The legacy and design of colonial houses in Singapore still lives on to this day, and remain an inextricable part of our local history. From Wessex to Sembawang, and even other estates in Changi, Seletar and Dempsey, Singapore truly lives up to its name of being a melting pot of all cultures, races and nationalities.

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