Saint George's Church

Coordinates: 1°18′17.4″N 103°48′54.2″E / 1.304833°N 103.815056°E / 1.304833; 103.815056

St George's Church (Chinese: 圣乔治教堂; pinyin: Shèng Qiáozhì Jiàotáng) is an Anglican church in Singapore. It is located at Minden Road in the Tanglin Planning Area, off Holland Road.

St George's Church is owned by the Anglican Diocese of Singapore, and was constructed between 1910 and 1913. This Anglican church was built for the British troops in Tanglin Barracks — once the General Headquarters of the British Far East Land Forces. The "garrison" church became a "civilian" church in 1971. Its stained glass windows depict a figure of Christ and the badges of the units, but the original ones are missing. Mystery surrounds the whereabouts of the original stained glass windows.

History

There was an earlier St George's Church built in 1884 near the site of the present church. The second St George's Church was built in 1910.

Both churches were built for the British troops quartered at Tanglin Barracks. The land had formerly been used as a nutmeg plantation and it included Mount Harriet, a 103-foot high hill on which the church now stands. The land had belonged to William E. Willan and was sold in 1865. However, even before the church was built, an ordained minister for the garrison was appointed in 1871.

Tanglin Barracks was once the General Headquarters of the British Far East Land Forces. After the British forces left in 1968, it was used by the Ministry of Defence as its headquarters before the ministry moved to new premises in Bukit Gombak.

The church, constructed from materials imported from England, cost £2,000 to build. During the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, the Japanese army used the church as an ammunition dump.

When the British returned in 1945 after the end of World War II, a rededication ceremony was held on 10 November 1946. On 29 June 1947, Field Marshal Montgomery, on his visit to Singapore, read the lesson at morning prayer.

A mystery surrounds the original stained glass windows of the church. It is believed that as Japanese troops advanced on Singapore, the garrison chaplain had the windows removed and packed away for safekeeping. They were never seen again. As the chaplain did not survive the Occupation, no one knows where the windows are today — whether buried somewhere on Singapore soil, gathering dust in a cellar in England or in pieces at the bottom of the sea.

Because of the uncertainty over the fate of the windows, the War Damages Commission turned down the church's claim for reimbursement.

In 1952, the church committee began looking into replacements for the missing windows. The design and installation of the new windows began in 1952 and were finally unveiled in 1955. The new windows commemorate the soldiers of the units that were involved in the defence of Malaya and Singapore. The design consists of a figure of Christ and the badges of the units.

The lych-gate in front of the church is a replica of one built in 1942 by prisoners of war of the 18th Division interned in Changi Prison. It had been erected at the camp cemetery to mark the graves of those who had died during internment. In 1952, when the graves were moved to the Kranji War Memorial cemetery, the gate was also moved to Saint George's Church. At first installed on the south side of the church, it was later moved to the northwest entrance.

When British troops withdrew completely from Singapore in 1971, the lych-gate was dismantled and taken to England where it was erected at the Queen's Division Depot, Bassingbourne Barracks in Royston, Hertfordshire. A replica was presented to the church in 1984 to commemorate the building of the first Saint George's Church.

After the withdrawal of British troops, the church became a civilian church in 1971.

St George's Church was gazetted as a national monument on 10 November 1978.

Architecture

St George's Church is an unadorned Romanesque building, squat and compact, with stone-vaulted naves and no spire or tower. It has minimal white decoration and a simple but conspicuous white cross. At the left and right panels of the stained glass windows are badges representing all the regiments and forces that fought for the British in Malaya.

Features
  • Shaped like a long barn, the architectural form of the church takes after the Christian Basilica style that developed among churches of the Romanesque period. The open side aisles and large arches within create an airiness befitting the church's tropical surroundings.
  • The building, windows and doorways are detailed in brick to achieve a sculptured, decorative effect. This use of brick shows the influence of Edwin Lutyens, the architect whose most notable project was the design of New Delhi. Some arches have "dentil" (Latin for "teeth") mouldings, so called because the brick design resembles a set of teeth.
  • The main entrances on the north side of the church are through the side aisles. The north wall of the church is made up of arched windows with the larger central window highlighted by four circular windows on top with brick detailing. Below the eave line is a simple cross.
  • The altar faces north, unlike traditional churches where the altar faces east. Above the altar are stained glass windows. The altar has a timber base. It displays a simple cross.
  • The altar rail is arched as are the ends of the pews which are of timber with round-ended wicker backs. The ends of the pews are ornamented with a Maltese Cross.
  • There are three types of external doors with the largest type having a trefoil arch and double-leafed patterned doors. All doors are detailed and with arches.
  • There are five type of windows, with timber louvres, all arched but of different sizes and with different decorative detailings in the brick.
  • The open arched windows of the side aisles are marked by intricately patterned pilasters in brick. The west bay of window openings has inset Greek crosses.
  • The replacement stained glass windows above the altar bear the image of Christ and the badges of different regiments. The centre light shows Jesus with right hand raised, and left hand holding the Bible. At the base of the window is the text, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world". The left light shows the badges of the Royal Marines, the Gurkha Regiment, the King's African Rifles, and the Malay Police. The right light shows the Malay Regiment, the Rhodesian Regiment, the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force, the Fiji Regiment, Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps, and the Arms of Singapore.
  • The vestry is on the east side and leads into the altar area in the south side.
  • The lych-gate is a replica of one that was put up here in 1952. There are two benches inside the gate. The lych-gate is made of timber with a tiled roof.
  • The exposed timber trusses form a pattern on the ceiling. The trusses are held together with thin steel ties.
Leadership

The present vicar (since 2006) of the church is Revd Philip Sinden. The assistant minister is Revd Timothy Khoo. Previous vicars include Revd Mervyn Moore (acting vicar), Revd Loren Fox, Revd Paul Corrie, Revd John Benson, Bishop Dudley Ford (interim, vicar) and Rev Bruce Winter.

Services

There are three regular Sunday services:

  • 8.00am: a more traditional Holy Communion service following the Anglican liturgy, with hymns from Common Praise
  • 10.00am: an informal service with a mix of modern songs and hymns, suitable for families; Holy Communion on the third Sunday of every month
  • 6.00pm: an informal service

The Japanese Fellowship meets at the building at 3.00 pm every Sunday.