Sembawang Beach: Times Past


Sembawang Beach: Times Past

The story of two rivers

Birds of Sembawang

List of sightings

Proposed Land Reclamation at Sembawang Beach

Your Say...

Feedback to URA by Margie Hall


Wee Sau Cheng's letter to ST (Unpublished)


Goh Si Guim's letter to ST (Unpublished)


Email us your Comments/Feedback


Write-up by Margie Hall; photos by Margie Hall & Nora

 The sea and the sands of Sembawang Beach have probably changed little over the years, and it is this natural beach of sand and sea that we want to save from the proposed land reclamation. But the human building activity along the land edge of the beach has certainly changed over the years. Photos of yesteryear show grass growing naturally down to the sands, coconut trees leaning out over the sands, - the tidy seawalls of today are nowhere in sight. Various buildings and structures have been erected, some themselves now gone.

Seletar Pier 1940 The Seletar Pier stood at the end of Seletar Road - the road which later (around 1938 it seems) became Sembawang Road. When Seletar Pier was first built we do not know. Seletar Road was a mere track in the early 1920s when military personnel came from Singapore town reviewing sites for the Naval Base, and so it was more usual to travel by boat around the coastline and disembark at Seletar Pier. When work started on the Naval Base in 1923/4 the working parties who commenced surveying and laying out the Naval Base brought all their materials and stores by boat, and then moved them around the area using a team of 20 bullock carts. Only at a later stage in the building of the Naval Base, as the work of building roads progressed inland from what is now the Sembawang Park Beach, did Seletar Road become the normal way to reach Singapore town.

The photo taken in 1940 is the only full photo traced so far of Seletar Pier, and that photo may have been taken not long before it became wholly or partially unusable. A stray bomb is shown falling beside Seletar Pier in a map of a Japanese bombing raid on the Naval Base Dockyard on 20th January 1942. The bomb must have badly damaged the Pier. On maps in the 1960s Seletar Pier is marked as derelict. It was eventually cleared away sometime in the 1970s, or early 1980s. Perhaps somebody knows the exact date.

Now the location of the Pier can still be ascertained by the remaining approach to it, beyond the circle of the Sembawang Road End. Benches are placed on it, where people can sit under the spreading Madras Thorn tree and the Malayan Banyan Tree. Steep steps lead down onto the Beach.

Beaulieu House, originally the seaside house of a David family, who were in the mining business, was probably built around 1910, in the same era of the building of other seaside houses around Singapore at places like Katong or Pasir Panjang. No building plans have been located yet - maybe someone has more information on the House that they can post on this webpage. Like other seaside houses, Beaulieu House was built to face the sea. Although the House is not threatened by the proposed land reclamation, it will lose its character as "a house on the sea" if the sea is moved away from it.

Tennis at Beaulieu House 1941 The House was acquired by the colonial government when the Naval Base was planned. When work on the Naval Base commenced in 1923/24, it housed the senior engineers and surveyors. When the Naval Base was up and running, Beaulieu House was used as a residence for senior officers. In fact it was actually used from 1940 - 1942 as a residence by the most senior Naval Officer in Singapore and the Far East, Admiral Layton, Commander-in Chief, China Station. He was very hospitable and like to invite people to tennis parties at the House, see 1941 photo. This photo was obtained from the collection of the Rev. Lovell Pocock, the Naval Base Chaplain, 1940-42, who was one of the people who used to play there. Presumably Admiral Layton really loved the sea view and sea air at Beaulieu House, since he could have chosen to live in grandeur in a much larger house either in Singapore Town or at what is now Admiralty House in Sembawang. (Note that Seletar Pier can be seen in the background of the tennis photo.)

Beaulieu House Jetty 1965 Postwar, Beaulieu House was normally the residence of a Senior Fleet Officer like the Chief of Staff, who would monitor ships passing in and out of the Naval Base, and stand on the jetty to take the salute from the crew. The photo from 1965 shows the Commander in Chief, Far East Fleet, taking the salute from HMS Ark Royal, one of Britain's major aircraft carriers of the time. After the Naval Base closed in 1971 Beaulieu House may have had various uses before it became a seafood restaurant in Sembawang Park. Rumours of a tunnel leading from Beaulieu House are sometimes voiced but are definitely not correct.

Sembawang Jetty The history of the jetty is interesting. Its construction in front of Beaulieu House, with the stone walkway leading to it, was started by the British in the final phases of Naval Base construction. They never had time to complete it, however, before the Japanese Invasion of Singapore in February 1942, thus it was actually completed by the Japanese! This jetty is threatened by the proposed land reclamation and it seems a real shame to lose a unique piece of history that involves unintentional co-operation of two warring countries, now at peace.

Boat Slipway The old disused slipway, half way along the Sembawang Park Beach, presumably dates back to the Naval Base time. It has no present day uses, but serves as a reminder of the past.

Boat building at Kg Wak HassanFishing boats and related activity would have been seen further along the beach in front of Kampong Wak Hassan and all along to the Sungei Simpang river mouth. We have only one photo (circa 1965) that illustrates that beach activity so far, but hope to collect some more and to find out more about that aspect of times past on Sembawang Beach.