White Bungalows at Wessex Estate

Made up of a dozen bungalows and 26 small blocks of flats, Wessex Estate is one of the few areas where colonial black-and-white houses still remain.

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One of the unoccupied bungalows on Whitchurch Road

Built in the 1940s by the British administration Public Works Department (PWD), the houses were homes for non-commissioned British officers and soldiers from 1948 up to the 1970s, with the iconic COLBAR known to be the official mess area for these stationed soldiers.

Aside from a designated number, each block was also given a name (e.g. Aden, Blenheim) that corresponded to military feats of British History, dating as far back as to the 18th century.

Aside from Wessex, similar black and white houses can also be found in areas like Seletar (former British Air Base) and Sembawang (former British Naval Base), were constructed towards the end of the 19th century until the outbreak of the Second World War to house various British military officers as well.

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Walking in Wessex

I managed to take a walk along a more secluded stretch along Whitchurch and Wonking Road, passing many empty houses that were too inviting to not trespass into.

One would also be obviously envious of the occupants and the wide-open space they enjoy and the amazing effort each houses places into maintaining the clean white façade of their homes.

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Peeking into an empty room

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Surprisingly serene even when unoccupied

Mosquitoes aside, the peace and serenity of the area is still very much intact, though tampered a little by the Ayer-Rajah Expressway(AYE) that runs parallel to the houses.

It is also a little bonus perhaps that Singapore’s first satellite town of Queenstown dominates the background the houses are laid up against.

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The neighbourhood of Queenstown sits behind

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Tyre swing also available

The Wessex estate is now managed by the Jurong Town Corporation (JTC) which over time has transformed it into an enclave that includes studio space for use by local artists, such as sculptor Han Sai Por and a few classy restaurants in the newly minted Wessex village-square.

You might also like: Colbar: The Colonial Bar at Whitchurch Road 

38 comments

  1. John & Jacqui

    We have has the chance to live in one of these areas (Seletar) and must say it is one of the best things we have ever done. The lifestyle is slow for Singapore, peaceful and is peppered with the sound of bird song, frog, cricket and the rustle of the breeze in the trees. The houses are old (we believe built 1937/1939) but robust and most have been surrounded by beautiful gardens… Yes we may have mosquito, roaches, ants, termites, frogs, bats, cats and the occasional snake, but what we don’t have us the persistent noise of cars, banging of heavy construction or unnecessary noise. The streets are safe from speeding cars and for children it is a wonderful experience and a good balance for the pressures and bustle of the CBD…

    Let us not lose any more of these unique havens as they represent part of our shared heritage.

    • nickyeo

      Hi John/Jacqui,

      Have noticed the houses you have mentioned when i used to head to jalan kayu or cycle near the air base/seletar camp. At the moment i’ve not heard any news of further developments there though there have been whispers of expansion of more private housing in that area. Do hope these bungalows still get to remain there though!

  2. nickyeo

    Hi Jim,

    A real pleasure to be able to meet somewhere who has actually lived in this estate, particularly for a serviceman like yourself! I would think that you would have gone to Colbar when it was still an army mess before 1970s? Would love to know what the experience was like living there 🙂

    Btw can’t seem to find any photos of block 9, but will be sure to take a photo when i visit the area again!

    Cheers
    Nick

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  4. Carl Williams

    Hi , My name is Carl Williams and i am pretty sure we lived in #12 straight across from Sandies soldiers home where i spent many afternoons swimming with my brothers and sister. We attended Bourne School 1965 -1969. My father name was Sgt Robert Williams, with the Royal Marine Commandos.

    I once set the field on fire across from our house by firing rockets across the field – watched the fire department put it out rather nervously.

    There was a huge monsoon duct in front of our house that ran in line with all the homes. Behind our house a little ways up was a park that we used to play football in . The trail / path to Sandies Soldiers Home was located just to the right of our house.

    Regards

    Carl

    • nickyeo

      Hi Carl,

      Thanks for the insights, never knew that there was a swimming pool in that area, would it happen to be where the international school or country club is right now?

      Cheers
      Nick

      • Hi Nicky,
        Yes, that would make sense. From our house and across too Sandies soldiers home it would have been approximately four hundred yards. It was a swimming pool and rest home for the single soldiers to hang out. I remember an old lady who used to serve drinks to the children,we used to ask for a large sarsaparilla as she took forever to pronounce the drinks name – it always came out like some cat was being murdered and we always laughed at this.I can remember running up and down the street when England won the world cup back in 1966. On my face book album i have photos of some of my classmates from Pasir Panjang junior school.Please feel free to have a look.
        Regards,
        Carl

    • Chris Rae

      Yes I remember you – I think you lived next door to Frank

    • Hi Carl

      I can relate to your memories exactly. I lived on the Estate in the 80’s and 90’s, a whole generation of kids grew up here. Fantastic place. I would love to see any photos you have of your era. I am particularly interested in trying to track down the history of what we call ‘The Park Roof’, a wavy concrete roof structure located at the top of the hill in the middle of the houses that form the ring of Whitchurch Road. There were the remnants of a playground there in the 80’s such as swings and seesaws, but it is all gone now – except for the roof.

      Cheers

      Drew

      • Carl Williams

        Hi Drew,
        Yes , i remember the “The Park Roof” we used to go up on the roof and play wrestling games , unfortunately i pushed my brother off once and he landed on his back – i thought that i had killed him, but he was only winded. If i remember right the whole park was surrounded by a wire fence. We had to climb up our back yard stairs and then cross the road to another set of stairs and onto the park. The roof was located to the right side of the park right near the end.

        Regards,

        Carl

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  6. Martyn Price

    Hi, my name is Martyn Price. As a young teenager I believe that I also lived on Whitchurch Road somewhere around 1967-70. I don’t remember the street number but the steps from the road were up not down as in number 12. My father is Bob Price. He was a warrant officer in the Ordinance Corp. I recall the windows on the houses were different. They all had slats rather than flat pains. I also spent many hours after school at Sandies Soldiers Home – mostly on the ping pong table. Great to see this. Thanks.

  7. thriftandmoneysavingtips

    HI
    My Father George Harris was stationed in Singapore 1949 to 1952. I was born in Singapore and we lived at 28c Wessex Estate. I have a picture of my mother holding me as a baby, the area behind seems very flat. My wife and I are visiting Singapore this year in September and we will be going to Wessex Estate to have a look where I used to live as a baby

    • Thea mccallum

      Our family lived in Wessex estate also. We lived in a two story house, black shutters, balcony out front and very steep stairwell, that used to get me on the shins as I walked upstairs, armah was out the back, bathroom at back with shutters, poor amah used to get a sprinkle of water whenever we bathed.. All in together 4 of us. The railway line was in walking distance and we used to watch the steam trains fill with water.. Dad was Santa claus for the Christmas party. We used to go and watch “on parade” I think in tanglin park. I had a toy walking horse that I had to leave behind when we came to Australia in 1952. We arrived in Singapore in 1947.

    • Laurence Skelton

      Hi, ‘thriftandmoneysavingtips’,
      glad to hear you had a good trip,
      those ‘modern’ photos of the Wessex Estate have got me even more confused; but 1949-1952 is a long time off and I was also very young. I tried to square up the photo of the front of ‘my’ MQ in Tanglin with your house, but could really relate it to Wessex houses, even though my family and myself must clearly known you, since one of your photos has me and my kid brother on it.

      I hope your health is holding up – onwards and upwards,

      • We have spoken on many occasions on Remember Singapore, We went back to Sg this year to have another look around places we didn’t see last year. Again a wonderful trip, Tanglin Hill still has the old buildings but many are now bars and restaurants, you can still imagine the troops milling around and going about their duties. We may just visit again next year, as may recall my twin brother is laid to rest in Kanji

        Hope all is well with you

  8. Joe

    I live in Wessex Estate now. I love our black and white. Even with the bugs it’s the best place I’ve lived.

  9. Hi Joe
    We are visiting Wessex Estate in September, I lived at 28c Woking Road a long time ago, but the properties don’t seemed to have changed much. I am glad they are still there for me to see

  10. Joe

    Drop by! I’m in 26.

  11. My wife and I would love to do that, we will be visiting wessex area the morning of Wednesday 24th September. We are staying on sentosa island and will be hiring a taxi to visit a few places on that day

  12. Barbara Hayes

    My father was in the British army and we lived in one of the houses in Whitchurch Road 1959-1961. I went to Pasir Panjang School, then Alexander Secondary Modern. The houses did not have black painted architraves, the windows had no glass in them, just wire for safety. We looked from our verandah onto open fields, the floors in the building were all polished concrete and we had a walk-in shower room. There was a small shed behind the house for the amah, where the ironing was done. We got on very well with our amah sand when the first one got married we were invited down to her kampong to give and view her presents, which were mainly cosmetics and linen. We used to drink ‘Green Spot’ and my father Tiger beer. I could go on and on, but just like to say that it is great that the buildings are still there and will look forward to seeing them again one day!

  13. Ann tallant

    I lived in Whitchurch Road Wessex Estate with my family Dad Was Sergeant Don (Tug) Wilson. In 1958-1961. We had no glass just wire in windows with shutters and hut at back for Amah. Ours may have been the one pictured with long deep steps to it with a railway behind it and cemetery beyond that. Loved it, I went to the secondary school then to the Grammar school. At that time we only attended school till 1 pm and the men only worked half a day. We also took salt tablets!!! There was a play ground in the centre as the houses went round in a circle. as you approached the Estate the Naafi had a building on the left with a small row of shops to the right where we spent our 2dollars pocket money. Bought my first 45 of The Everly brothers there. hey Bird Dog!! Memories…..

    • Barbara Hayes

      In reply to Ann’s comments….did you see my comments Ann? I was there at the same time. I will have to try to find out what number we lived in. My father was a WO1 and I went to Pasir Panjang and Alexander Sec. Modern Schools. Our house had long steps, but it was the first house where the steps led to a path behind the houses. I have two brothers. In the house to our right was a girl with short dark hair (brother called John) and I was also friendly with a girl with blond hair two houses to the left, back towards the beginning of the road. We used to perform plays with the three girls living immediately next door (Ann Corscadden and sisters) for our parents on the front verandah!!! On Sunday mornings there was a ‘Pop’ programme on the radio…my favourite was ‘Please Don’t Tease’ by Cliff Richard! The first shop in the row opposite the Naafi was run by an Indian family, the sold amongst many other things, penny lollipops….I used to buy them, take them to school, and sold them at lunchtime (for a penny). I just enjoyed the transaction! I have a shop of my own now and still enjoy it! Regards Barbara

      Sent from my iPad

      >

      • Ann Tallant nee Wilson

        Hi Barbara, I have my thinking cap on, I did know a girl in the first house on the right, are you petite blonde? Or were you younger than me so maybe a mate of my sister Audrey or brother Don? There were four of us then, then my Mum had a baby girl, we left about February 61 I think. Maybe you remember the Skippers who lived in the house on the left next to swing park? One was called Kenny? he looked a bit like CliffRichards!! We loved being there, used to walk to FARELF to save bus fare to go to cinema. Didn’t Seven up come out then, and hundreds of adverts for Milo everywhere you went. I can’t say I remember the ones you mentioned but will have seen them, didn’t we go to school in the back of an army lorry for a while? I have a couple of photos taken there, they bring back memories. Lovely to see this site, thought these houses would have been torn down by now. And lovely to hear from you. Regards Ann and the Wilson family.

  14. Christine Pratt nee Harral

    1966 to 1968/9; I am sure we lived at No 23 Withchurch Road Wessex Estate and I think it is one of the houses photgraphed with the 24 storey Queens Town blocks behind – just across the railway line. My mother ran the Wessex Estate Kindergarten and the kids had snacks of lolipops, biscuit, fruit and watery juice. There was church that blasted out songs during the warm evenings such as; Whiter Shades of Pale, SanFransisco and various Cliff Richard songs (that the Chinese loved). I was 8/9/10 and went to Pasir Panjang and then Bourne School (had to climb those steep steps). My sisters are Judith and Katrina and my brother Bernard was sent back to boading school in the UK. The smell of ironing and fresh linen surrounded the Armah’s hut. The slope and the swing is, just perhaps, the one that we built over the bank that seemed to go right out across the Armah hut roof. There was a play park in the centre of Wessex Estate where I climbed onto a shelter-roof and jumped and broke my foot. I had to crawl down the steps home. We spent Sundays either at the Officers Club (where the food was excellent) or on Blackamatti Island. We crossed in a small boat from Jardene Steps. So many memories. I am now in touch with a group who went to Pasir Panjang and I am in touch with Bill Johnston, our dear old very popular Recorder Teacher – who goes back to Singapore regularly. Some of my memories are really vivid. Email me at christine.pratt@ntlworld.com if any of this sounds familiar. Happy Days. Christine Harral (now Christine Pratt).

  15. John M. Lowe

    My father was R.S.M. of 5th Gurkha Military Police and we lived at number 4 Flanders Court between 1962-1965. I went to school at Pasir Panjang junior school and later Bourne school.
    Have very fond memories of Wessex Estate and swimming at Sandie’s Pool.

  16. hi i lived at 23 whitchurch road in 1971 to 1973 .it was an amazing time for me as a child of 10 to 12yrs everything was a big adventure the sights and the sounds .i went to alexandra juniors and then on to the international school .spent many hours at sandies soliders home in the baracudas swim team loved the country and the people.it is a place that i will always keep dear to my heart.

  17. Michael Ward

    Does Lucknow Court still exist on Wessez Estate?

    • It certainly does! Now just known as Block 22, Lucknow. Did you used to live here, Michael?

      • Michael Ward

        Sorry JAMES but only re-discovered this site and your reply to my question of November last year. Yes I did live at Lucknow Court. It was the ground floor flat on the right as you faced the block. Lived there from 1963 – 1966. Love it there and the entire island. Been back since but it doesn’t hold the magic that it did.

  18. Hi My wife and I lived in Chitral Court Wessex estate late 60s early 70s such memories wish I could see it now.

    • Judith Jefferys

      Hi John,
      I don’t remember Chitral Court. Our block, Blenheim Court, was the one closest to the NAAFI store and then I think next door to that was Lee and Sons who sold just about everything. The phone box was opposite our block as was the baby health centre where I took my daughter who was born at Changi in 1973. Been back so many times but not to Wessex Estate – can’t imagine why not, but next trip for sure. My daughter is 43 today (28/3/2016) and wish I’d have thought of taking her there for her birthday. Amazing memories.

  19. Judith Jefferys

    Hello, I married my Australian soldier just after his return from Vietnam, rather in a hurry, as he’d already been posted to Singapore. I was 18 then and not prepared to wait another 2 years. What an amazing adventure I had – we had the best time of our lives and our first born daughter was born at Changi in 1973. Our years were 1972 – 1973 and we lived at No. 5 Blenheim Court, Wessex Estate. Top floor of course. Wish it had A/C then – so humid. I remember all our neighbours and wonder what they are doing now. Have been back a few times but not to Wessex but hope to see next visit at end of year. Our names were John & Judith HONEY from Canberra. Loved having groceries delivered to my back door every day; the NAAFI store, Lee & Sons furniture (and anything you can imagine), the pool and the magnificent openness of greenery from our balcony. We had furniture made to take home. Loved every minute of it then and love going back now.

  20. Lenny

    Hi. Are units still available for rental ? If so do you know how I could contact them?
    ~ Len

  21. AR

    All:

    Glad to see interest in Wessex! The estate is still thriving! We now have artists, designers, startups and folks from tech and media firms living here. Do feel free to reach out to us through the linked website if you’re looking for units, or simply have stories to share! Happy to find further ways of celebrating the estate’s unique history.

  22. Linda

    I used to live in Wilton Close, number 12 I think. I remember the railway line at the end of the garden and the open drains. Went to Pasir Panjang primary school. 1963 – 64. I remember there being no glass in the windows just wire screening. Had to sleep under a mosquito net and collected chit chats so they could be released in bedroom to eat the insects. Must go back one day and see how it has fared.

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