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History of Raffles Statues in Singapore


Most visitors to Singapore River would see this statue of Raffles at the spot where he first stepped foot on Singapore in 1819.


Who is Raffles?

Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles of the British East India Company is credited for founding modern Singapore in 1819 and setting it on a trajectory towards becoming the metropolis that is Singapore today.

In 1819, Raffles signed the agreement with Sultan Hussein and Temenggong Abdul Rahman of the Johor sultanate to establish a trading post on Singapore River.


This polymarble statue installed in 1972 at North Boat Quay of Singapore River is actually a replica made from a plaster cast of the original bronze statue of Raffles. The replica commemorates 150 years since the founding of Singapore by Raffles. 

Where then is that original statue of Raffles?


The original bronze statue is nearby in front of Victoria Memorial Hall, 10 minutes walk south from the polymarble replica at North Boat Quay.


This bronze statue was installed here at Victoria Memorial Hall in 1919 to commemorate the centenary of Raffles's founding of Singapore for the British East India Company.

Even here wasn't the Raffles statue's first location.

The Raffles statue was first installed at the Padang to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887. Queen Victoria was the reigning monarch of the British Empire who ruled from 1837 - 1901.

The bronze statue was created by English sculptor Thomas Woolner who was also responsible for the statues of Captain Cook in Sydney and Lord Palmerston in London, among other works.

The Raffles statue first stood at the Padang. The bronze statue was nicknamed Orang Besi or Iron Man in Malay.

The pedestal of the 8-foot statue was often climbed by sports spectators for a better view of the games at the Padang. (Image courtesy of NAS.)

It was relocated to its present location in front of Victoria Memorial Hall as part of Singapore centenary celebrations in 1919. (Image courtesy of NAS.)

The statue was framed by an Italian Doric order semi-circular colonnade. (Image courtesy of NAS.)

The Raffles statue was moved and stored at the Syonan Museum (today's National Museum of Singapore) during the Japanese occupation (1942 - 1945). The Japanese were said to have plans to melt the bronze statue down for the war effort but fortunately did not carry out the plan. (Image courtesy of NAS.)


The Raffles statue survived the war and was returned to Victoria Memorial Hall in 1946 where it still stands today. However, the grand colonnade was demolished during the war.


Raffles looking south towards Marina Bay and the sea. He must be pleased that Singapore has turned out as he envisioned over 200 years ago in 1819.

In 1299, 520 years before Raffles stepped foot on Singapore in 1819, a Srivijaya empire prince from Palembang, Sang Nila Utama founded the kingdom of Singapura. The Lion City thrived for 5 reigns or 99 years as a major sea port hosting traders from Arabia, India, the Malay archipelago and China. Singapore became part of the Malacca sultanate and then Johor-Riau-Lingga sultanate before Raffles arrived on the scene in 1819.
(Image of Sang Nila Utama statue temporarily installed at Boat Quay beside the Raffles statue for the Singapore Bicentennial celebration in 2019, courtesy of Wikipedia.)

The polymarble replica at North Boat Quay (Raffles' landing site).

The original bronze statue at Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall.


Date: 8 Nov 2020

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