River Valley is a locality situated in central Singapore. It serves various purposes from commercial developments, to residential complexes, all the way to leisurely facilities. River Valley derives its name from its location which is between the Earl Canning Hill and Pearl’s Hill.

Some History of River Vallery

With the arrival of the British in 1819, the River Valley area was then covered by a large marsh and forest overgrowth. Then, by the 1830s the Gambier plantations were what was prevailing in this area. Although not completely certain about the timing of the development of the River Valley Road, newspaper reports published in 1842 depict that the road existed since 1841. Yet so, by 1843, the area was still mostly dense jungle and the gambier plantations.

The first residential developments

In River Valley, one of the biggest estates belonged to the one Thomas Oxley. Mr. Oxley was a senior surgeon in the Straits Settlements. Oxley had purchased this land from this East India Company for 2,342 rupees.

The Pavilion was once the Government House until the Straits Settlement was transferred to the Colonial Office in London in the year 1867. It was once also the residence of Catchick Moses, an Armenian businessman who established the Straits Times and the newspaper known as the Singapore Journal of Commerce.

In the year 1919, a Jewish businessman by the name of Manasseh Meyer purchased the Pavilion at an auction. Meyer had also bought the Killiney House in 1890, after which he renamed it to Belle View, which was later demolished in the 1980s to create room for private developments. Meyer had also developed a private synagogue in 1905 on the very grounds of his Oxley Rise residence and named it the Chesed-El Synagogue. This synagogue is still intact and has also been gazetted as a national monument.

By the 1850s the estate had been divided and sold off to Chinese businessmen. By the 1880s, the same area had turned into a middle-class residential area comprising of bungalows and terrace houses.

Then by 1880, other roads were built. These roads were; the Devonshire Road, St. Thomas Walk, Dublin Road, Somerset Road, Exeter Road, Eber Road, Oxley Road and Lloyd Road.

Fast forward to the future, River Valley began redeveloping in the 1960s with the first act being the cleaning up of the Singapore River which was polluted. Then by 1983, the lighter companies were relocated away from the banks of the river. Along with then, the squatter and hawkers were also sent off. After this, a major clean-up operation was implemented.

Political Landmarks

The Government Hill, also known as Bukit Larangan and Fort Canning Hill, was believed to be the residence and burial place of the great Malay kings of Temasek during the 14th century. With the arrival of the British, the hill was cleared, and the first Government house was established.

During the 1950s and the 1960s two places of interest were constructed at the base of Fort Canning Hill by the Municipal Council. These were, the National theatre and the Van Kleef Aquarium. The Van Kleef Aquarium was Singapore’s first public aquarium and was opened in 1955 but had to be closed down in 1996 after several efforts at redevelopment.

The Old Hill Street Police Station was constructed in 1934. This six-storeyed building was initially used as a police station and barracks for the polices’ families up until the 1980s, after which they had to move out. Later on, the building was taken over by various government departments and ministries and was also gazetted a national monument in 1998.

The first Chinese Secondary school was established by the Government and named the River Valley High School. It was first called the Singapore Government Chinese Middle School when it was first constructed in 1956. Since parents were reluctant in sending their children to a Chinese-Medium school, the school changed its name to River Valley High School in 1980.

The very first elections were held in 1954 and River Valley was a part of the Calmhill constituency. Then, it made its debut as a private electoral constituency in the year 1959 during the general elections. Until 1988, River Valley remained a single-member electoral constituency, after which the ward was scrapped.