1910: Singapore’s First Steel Bridge Opens to Traffic

March 12, 1910

The first steel bridge in the present-day Republic of Singapore made its official debut. (At that time, Singapore was part of the British territories collectively known as the Straits Settlements.) The dignitaries attending the Saturday opening ceremony for the bridge included Sir John Anderson, for whom the new structure was named. Anderson served as governor of the Straits Settlements from 1904 to 1911. During that period, he also represented the British government as high commissioner of the Federal Malay States (now part of the federal constitutional monarchy of Malaysia).

A couple of days after the bridge opened, the Singapore Free Press newspaper highlighted the significance of the structure for that region of maritime Southeast Asia. The Singapore Free Press asserted, “Another step in the line of progress was completed on Saturday with the opening of the Anderson Bridge over the entrance to the Singapore River, a piece of work which although of long contemplation, has only become an accomplished fact during the past year.”

This newspaper also noted, “The completion of this much-needed improvement must be considered eminently satisfactory by the citizens, for there is little doubt that the bridge will make a good serviceable structure for many years, and after all that is of far greater importance than any unnecessary striving after ornamentation in design.”

The origins of Anderson Bridge can be traced to 1901 when the Singapore River Commission recommended constructing a new bridge to replace Cavenagh Bridge in that vicinity. Cavenagh Bridge had been built in 1869, and by the start of the 20th century, it was no longer able to reasonably accommodate the ever-growing local traffic of both vehicles and pedestrians. Construction on Anderson Bridge began in 1908. Robert Peirce, who was Singapore municipal engineer between 1901 and 1916, designed the bridge with the help of an assistant named D.M. Martin. In addition, Peirce oversaw the construction project for the bridge.

The vehicular traffic that had been traveling across Cavenagh Bridge was diverted to Anderson Bridge after its opening in 1910. Instead of being demolished as originally planned, Cavenagh Bridge was subsequently used for pedestrians only. That bridge remains in use today for both pedestrians and bicycles. The 230-foot (70-meter)-long Anderson Bridge continues to serve as a vehicular bridge. This structure is specifically located at the mouth of the Singapore River and within what is now the Downtown Core of Singapore’s Central Area. Heng Swee Keat, Singapore’s deputy prime minister, announced during the summer of 2019 that the bridge was designated by the National Heritage Board as a national monument of Singapore.

For more information on Anderson Bridge, please check out https://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_923_2004-12-24.html.

Additional information on bridges in Singapore is available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_bridges_in_Singapore.

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