Bukit Timah – St. Joseph’s Church Cemetery

St Joseph’s Church is probably the only Catholic church left in Singapore with a graveyard within it’s compound. The church was opened on Sunday, 6 June 1846, and the first burial at the cemetery is recorded as being on 7 November 1846 making it the oldest Christian cemetery (save Fort Canning Cemetery which has been completely exhumed) in Singapore.

In 1846, Fr Anatole Mauduit, of the MEP who had arrived in Singapore two years earlier built a chapel dedicated to St Joseph. It was a Roman Catholic chapel built at Bukit Timah for the Chinese congregation, and was named St Joseph at the request of the Reverend John M Beurel. Sadly, We found Fr Mauduit’s grave marker forgotten at the cemetery during our last visit. He was the 1st parish priest at St Joseph’s Church and died in 1858.

Following that, over 400 burials are recorded to have taken place in that cemetery. However, in May 1984, it was recorded that the cemetery was badly overgrown with weeds and vegetation, and that a majority of the tablets were already broken. The church cemetery was reported by The Straits Times on 1 May 1984 to be closed, after existing at Chestnut Drive for more than a century, after which many graves were exhumed for re-interring at columbariums.

Another unique feature about St Joseph’s Church is the life-sized Stations of the Cross located outside the church. Well, but that’s another story!

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