Built in 1846, these Gothic Gates have since become a landmark of Fort Canning Hill. These imposing and sombre gateways lead into Fort Canning Green, where Singapore’s first Christian cemetery used to stand. The two gates were designed by Superintending Engineer Captain Charles Edward Faber, whom Mount Faber was named after. The letters above both gates – IHS – standing for Iota Heta Sigma, the first three letters of the Greek word for Jesus.
The frequent outdoor concerts and carnivals now held at Fort Canning Green belie the fact that the area was once a graveyard for some 600 graves. This burial ground was used from 1822 to 1865. George Drumgold Coleman, an influential figure in the development of Singapore’s infrastructure, was the person who oversaw the works at this cemetery. He died in Singapore in 1844 and was buried at Fort Canning Hill.
Most of the gravestones had become very worn out by the 1970s and were removed. The only graves left (including Coleman’s) are at the far end of the Green. Some tombstones that were removed were set into the walls surrounding Fort Canning Green.
This Gothic structure is the James Brooke Napier Memorial and was built in memory of the infant son of William and Maria Frances Napier, the widow of Coleman. The memorial, the largest erected in Government Hill cemetery, reflects the status of the boy’s father, who became Singapore’s first Law Agent in 1833.
The cupolas, designed by George Drumgoole Coleman, were probably places of rest. The word ‘cupola’ means a small dome-shaped roof or ceiling. George Coleman was a talented architect who left his mark on the urban landscape of Singapore. He was Raffles’ consultant on Singapore’s first town plan. As Superintendent of Public Works, he oversaw projects of land reclamation and construction of roads and landmarks such as the Armenian Church.
While you’re here, take a walk around the rest of Fort Canning Park to unravel it’s historical significance and find out why it’s also known as Forbidden Hill.