Sentosa Heritage Trail - Kampong and Barracks

Pulau Blakang Mati, as Sentosa used to be known as, is the one of the oldest place names in Singapore. Translated literally as “Death from the Back Island” in Malay, the name appeared in a 17th century map by the Portuguese-Melakan cartographer Manuel Godinho de Erédia. The etymology of Blakang Mati may be drawn from oral traditions of the area, including stories told by locals of piracy and battles on the nearby islands of Pulau Brani and Pulau Tekukor.
After Pulau Blakang Mati (as Sentosa was formerly named) became a military outpost from 1878, the British built barracks and other infrastructure for troops stationed here. Completed in 1940, these former barrack blocks 9 and 10 were built on a military recreation ground before being adapted into hotel accommodations in the 2000s. The adjacent block 11 had been constructed as barracks in 1937 and housed the Rare Stone Museum from 1985 to 1995, before being turned into a meeting and events centre.
Among the oldest buildings in Sentosa are the former barracks along what is today Gunner Lane and Larkhill Road. In maps dating to the 1890s, these blocks appear as Soldiers Blocks and Married Soldiers Quarters, accommodating the non-officer ranks.
The former Royal Engineers’ Yard and the Power Station (blocks 37 and 39 respectively) are located along Artillery Avenue. The Royal Engineers were based on neighbouring Pulau Brani, but a small contingent here supported engineering and development works with its workshop, shed and stores. The building, thought to have been built in 1895, was later used as a station for SDC’s rangers.
From the late 19th century to the 1960s, accommodations for officers of the British military stood on this site, including four colonial bungalows that are today merged into a hotel development. Blocks 48 and 49 served as a mess and quarters for officers up to the rank of captain, while the manor-like blocks 50 and 51 were reserved for more senior officers.
This building was established as the military hospital for British and Indian troops serving on Pulau Blakang Mati (the former name of Sentosa). Completed by the 1890s, the building was accorded conservation status by the Urban Redevelopment Authority in 2004.

From the Orang Laut and kampong settlers to British Army personnel, a diverse range of people and communities have called Pulau Blakang Mati home. This trail explores the lives and livelihoods of the people of Blakang Mati, as well as their living spaces that spanned kampongs, barracks and luxurious bungalows. 

 

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