A Splendid Little Colony: British Singapore 1819 - 1963

The Esplanade in Singapore, 1851

The Esplanade in Singapore, 1851. This was the “Padang” (field) area, a very popular location for people of different races to gather for recreation and sport. This famous painting is evidence, however, that British Singapore was a plural rather than multi-cultural community.

Source: Wong Hong Suen, Singapore through 19th Century Prints and Paintings (2010).
This very well-known painting was the work of John Turnbull Thomson, government surveyor and engineer in Singapore from 1841 to 1853. This painting was made from the edge of Connaught Drive, southeast of St. Andrew’s Cathedral today. Although many ethnic groups are included in this painting, Thomson’s Europeans are typically depicted on an elevated plane - on horseback or in a carriage. In the two-horse carriage on the left is Governor William Butterworth. The European man standing in white suit and top hat on the left is likely Thomson himself. Rather than intermingling, the Asian races are shown to be consorting among themselves.

A Splendid Little Colony: British Singapore 1819 - 1963

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by Stephen