A set of large-scale plans of Singapore River

Singapore River Improvements. [1] Plan to Accompany Report by Messrs. Code, Son & Matthews. Dated 1st Octr. 1906; [2 & 3] Proprosed Improvements [cross sections of improvements] [4] Singapore River Improvements. Plan shows Position of Godowns owned by the principal merchant firms in Singapore.

Asia Southeast Asia
  • Publication place: Singapore
  • Publication date: 1906.
  • Physical description: Set of four manuscript plans, ink and pencil, the general plan with some watercolour, the plan of the Godowns on tracing paper, a few tears to margins of general, and Godowns plan.
  • Inventory reference: 2870


Proprosed improvements to the Singapore River stretching from the now lost Pulau Saigon Island to Cavanagh Bridge.

The general plan shows the intended river improvements in red together with the major buildings along the river. Below the plan is cross section of the proposed quay walls; a key provides information upon the Spring and Neap tides.

The plan is accompanied by detailed technical drawings of the proposed works: showing the Colonial Engineer’s Improvement Scheme No.1, 2, and 3, with suggested improvements by Coode, Son and Matthews; together with plan upon tracing paper which depicts the Godowns (warehouses) of the principal merchant companies operating in Singapore.

We have been unable to ascertain whether or not Coode and Matthews were successfully awarded the contact for the improvement works, however, we do know that they secured the contract for the Harbour improvements, much to the local media’s disgust:

“the Harbour scheme of Mr Matthews [costing some two million pounds sterling] is extravagant in its amplitude, wrong in its construction and generally inept… The non-success of the Colombo Harbour Works is notorious. Messrs Coode, Son and Matthews may make a better job of Singapore than they did of Colombo… so all one can hope is that, as far as possible, a solid superstructure may be built up on the somewhat flimsy basis upon which the Harbour scheme at present reposes”. (Eastern Daily Mail and Straits Morning Advertiser, 19 February 1906)

The founder of the Coode Firm was Sir John Coode (1816-1892) “probably the most distinguished harbour engineers of the nineteenth century” (ADB), and was responsible for numerous harbour and river improvements throughout the Empire; most notably in South Africa, India, and Australia. Following Sir John’s death in 1892 the company was renamed Coode, Son & Matthew. William Matthew (1844-1922) had been chief assistant to John Coode. He would serve as president of the Institute of civil Engineers in 1907 and 1908.

A review of the library of the Institute of Civil Engineers – who hold the remnants of the Coode archive – records no material relating to the Singapore river improvement proposal. The National Library Board of Singapore, records a manuscript proposal for Singapore Harbour improvements, dated 1904.


General plan: 132ft to one inch.
Technical designs upon general plan: 8ft to one inch.
Technical designs: upon 8ft and 4ft to one inch.


General plan: 630 by 980mm
Godown plan: 560 by 1280mm
Technical designs: 670 by 1000mm [and] 630 by 970mm

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