Keppel Hill Reservoir

An abandoned and forgotten reservoir dating back to 1905 has been rediscovered by the National Heritage Board. The place, known to some as the Keppel Hill Reservoir, made the news when two soldiers and a 17-year-old boy drowned there on separate occasions in 1936 and 1948.

The 2m deep pool of water, which has a working filtration system today, was discovered by a team of researchers while doing a study on the topographical changes in Singapore over the past 100 years. The size of three badminton courts, the water body which survived two World Wars is located on land zoned for park use, less than 400m away from Telok Blangah Road.

Nestled in the Mount Faber forest, and not marked out in maps today, it served as a source of water for the Tanjong Pagar Dock Company, which was the forerunner of today’s Port of Singapore Authority. The reservoir, which is an oasis of calm and a green pocket in the built up area, also used to be a swimming pool during the Japanese Occupation according to pre-war and post-war maps. Remnants of a diving board and a bathing area still stand today.

Photo credit: Tuah Bugis

Based on a 1924 map by the former Singapore Harbour Board, the researchers found it is one of three small reservoirs that used to be in the area. It most likely served residents of a nearby settlement. NHB researchers also found features of a reservoir including chute spillways of a dam, filter beds that supported their previous inferences.

The discovery is historically significant because of the building materials and methods used. The bricks used to build the reservoir show that the body of water was constantly in use, said Mr Alvin Tan, 42, its group director of policy. Some were handmade and date back to the colonial period while others come from Jurong Brickworks which was established in 1934.

The site is not fenced off, although an old and battered sign hanging from a tree cautioned visitors not to swim or fish in the reservoir. NHB would like to discourage the public, especially families with young children and elderly, from making their way to the reservoir on their own due to the “challenging terrain”. 

Many thanks to the folks at Temasek Rural Exploring Enthusiasts who brought us here as part of a larger tour of Mount Faber!

Sources: National Heritage Board, Today OnlineStraits Times, and Channel NewsAsia.

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