Rubber Beginnings In Singapore

The first rubber was introduced to Singapore in 1819 when it arrived from Indonesia. On June 11, 1877, a shipment of 22 rubber seedlings was made from England’s Kew Gardens, one of the world’s greatest botanical gardens, to the Malay Peninsula. This was Singapore’s first known attempt to cultivate rubber.

The Singapore Botanical Gardens, under the direction of its first director Henry Ridley, grew 11 of the 22 seedlings. He also led the effort to spread rubber growth in the peninsula, persuading many coffee farmers to exchange crops.

Souvenir of Singapore, 1914 – Plate 10 – Rubber Tapping.jpg. Image Source (Wikimedia Commons)
Ang Mo Kio Town Garden East – Parks & Nature Reserves – Gardens, Parks & Nature. Image Source (National Parks Board (NParks))
Giant rubber seed sculptures are scattered around the park – together with several rubber trees. Image Source (National Parks Board (NParks))

The rubber industry would become one of the city-state’s most vital industries during this period. The enhancement in agricultural productivity was the key to Singapore’s 20th-century economic success when it became the world’s top rubber producer and exporter.

Rubber plantations, on the other hand, were plentiful in Singapore at the turn of the 20th century. The scarcity of rubber trees has varied significantly across time and space. A quiet hill beside the Ang Mo Kio MRT Station is a reminder of a rubber estate settlement. The 5-hectare Ang Mo Kio Town Garden East is home to a variety of rubber trees and enormous rubber seed sculptures as a tribute to the region’s history as a former rubber plantation ground.

Parks: Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West. Image Source (Our Big Expat Adventure)
Ang Mo Kio Town Garden East. Image Source (Tripopola)

The Garden is a recreational park that is frequently visited by locals, but it has some surprises in store for you. It was planned and developed between the late 1970s and early 1980s as the first town garden in Ang Mo Kio’s new town. It is one of the few remaining public spaces with red brick walkways, which was a popular 1970s architectural design motif.

The village of Kampung Cheng San, later known as Cheng Sua Lai, was a former rural hamlet located near to where the mosque currently stands. (Hokkien for “Green Hills Interior,” i.e., “Interior Green Hills”). Around this area, several HDB estates and landmarks (Cheng San Court, Cheng San Centre, Cheng San Community Club, and Jing Shan Primary School) are named after Cheng Sua. The people from Kampong Cheng San were relocated to Toa Payoh and Ang Mo Kio in the 1970s as a result of the development of Ang Mo Kio new settlement.

Originally a Chinese-medium school in Kampung Cheng San, Jing Shan Primary School still stands close to its original site. Image Source (parenthoodlife)
Cheng San Community Club – Home. Image Source (Facebook)

The names of the Peng San and rubber legacy are a tribute to Ang Mo Kio’s history as a rubber plantation town, as well as a symbol of the seeds planted early.

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