📷: Aerial view of Woodlands undergoing re-development in 1976 (courtesy of Housing & Development Board) Source: Woodlands Heritage Trail (Roots.sg)
What comes to mind when we think of Woodlands?
Through much of the 19th century, the Woodlands area was known as the place of major rivers. Comprising today’s Woodlands, Admiralty and Marsiling estates, the area got its name because it looked heavily wooded, when viewed from Johor.
The early residents in Woodlands were the Orang Seletar, a group of Orang Laut (“Sea People” in Malay) who lived on boats called pau kajang (boats with thatched shelters) along Singapore’s northern coast. By the 1970s, most of them had moved to Johor where they resided in coastal villages. These indigenous people visited the villagers in Woodlands from time to time, who were mainly Chinese migrants who grew crops like gambier, pineapples and rubber. Rubber plantations were common in Woodlands until the 1970s when they gave way to housing estates.
Woodlands served as the gateway to Johor Bahru since 1845. People would come to Woodlands and take the ferries that plied across the Straits of Johor. By the late 19th century, trade between Singapore and Johor had grown so much that a railway line was constructed with a station at Woodlands. By 1923, the Causeway – a land-link connecting Singapore and Johor – was built and completed to meet the massive demand for travel.
In the 1920s, Woodlands was chosen as part of the site for the British naval base. It became the frontline during World War II in early 1942 when the Causeway was blown up to prevent Japanese troops from entering Singapore, and was later captured when the Japanese soldiers crossed the Straits using boats. The Kranji War Memorial located off Woodlands Road honours the men and women who had died in the line of duty during WWII. Next to it is the Singapore State Cemetery where Singapore’s first and second presidents, Encik Yusof Ishak and Dr Benjamin Henry Sheares are buried.
In the early 1980s, Woodlands had fewer residents compared to other housing estates because it was far from the city. But the Woodlands that we know today has transformed into a vibrant regional centre with excellent transport links and amenities. It was the first to offer government services under one roof, and the URA is developing it into a work-live-play-learn district, marrying convenience for residents and opportunities for businesses. In the future, Woodlands will serve as the strategic centre for the Northern Agri-tech and Food Corridor which will house industries that explore high-tech urban-farming solutions to meet Singapore’s food challenges.
With its many nature areas, which include the 20-hectare Admiralty Park around Sungei Cina, the 11-hectares WaterFront Park with panoramic views of the Straits of Johor and the Causeway, and Singapore’s longest (400m) jetty, Woodlands continues to be a place of woods and water in Singapore’s river of time. #OurNeighbourhood #Singapore #Woodlands #placemaking #SGplacemaking