Schools, churches and a candlelight procession: Memories of Queen Street

18 02 2010

As a schoolboy in Saint Joseph’s Institution (SJI), the sections of Queen Street that I was most familiar with were the two sections of the street closest to the school. These were the stretches that ran southwards past the Cathedral towards the Armenian Street end which led to the MPH book store, and the other that ran along the school canteen northwards towards the junction with Middle Road.

The part of the street that I most saw was of course the southern section, the all important route to MPH, the bus stop along Stamford Road to catch bus service number 166 home, the National Library, and the little place by the library where there were a few hawker stalls including a wan ton noodle stall and ice kacang. This ran from the Cathedral, past the Cathedral Rectory, the little garden with stone tables and chairs by the Rectory and grounds of the primary section of Raffles Girls School on the east side of the street, before coming to a little road bridge over the then open Stamford Canal at the junction with Stamford Road. On the west side of the street, was the fence of the SJI school field along which there was a row of trees from which flying foxes were frequently constructed by the scouts. The footpath along the fence would be the route to Fort Canning Hill for the occasional jog or cross country training held during P.E. lessons, which many of us returning from the jogs would use to race in a mad dash to the junction with Bras Basah Road.

The Armenian Street end of Queen Street in 1976 (looking at Armenian Street at the junction with Stamford Road). Notice the bridge over the then open Stamford Canal which you don't see today (Photo source: Ray Tyers Singapore Then and Now).

The view southwards today toward Armenian Street.

The site of the former Raffles Girls School (RGS) on what was Queen Street (now a section of the realigned Stamford Road with the construction of the Fort Canning Tunnel) near the junction with Stamford Road. The building that stands on the site is part of the Singapore Management University (SMU) campus. The wide walkway that can be seen on the bottom right of the photograph runs over what used to be an open Stamford Canal

The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd along Queen Street.

A view of the south end of Queen Street looking North. Buildings belonging to the SMU campus stands where the SJI field was on the left and RGS on the right.

The next section of the street was where the building that housed the Brother’s quarters on the upper floors and the school canteen on the ground floor ran along. On the street side of the building there was a little door which the canteen stall holders would use to enter and exit the canteen. It was through this door that outsiders could make purchases from the canteen, with Char Kway Teow and Mee Siam being a popular choice. The Mee Siam seller also parked his cart next to the door, on which he would load his pot of gravy onto at the end of each day and continue his business along the streets.

The Brothers Quarters of SJI along Queen Street (as seen from the courtyard inside the school). The ground floor of the block housed the school canteen which had a back door to Queen Street from which outsiders make food purchase through. The Mee Siam seller parked his cart next to the door (Photo source: SJI 125th Anniversary Magazine).

Opposite the Brother’s quarters on the east side, there was the Kum Yan Methodist Church (which is still there) and the buildings that housed the Catholic High School, part of which was also housed across the street in the compound of the “Chinese Church”, the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul. Further along the west side there was this tall narrow building which housed Stamford College, a private college which was popular with students sitting for their GCE “A” Level examinations privately, which is now used as the Oxford Hotel. Sited next to this building was the Stamford Community Centre and its compound. With some of my schoolmates, desperate for a place to kick a ball around before school, I had on occasion, climbed over the gate which was opened only in the evenings to have our game of street football on the basketball court.

The former Catholic High School building.

The building that housed Stamford College.

The former Stamford Community Centre. I had climbed over the gate a few times with several of my classmates to play street football on the basketball court.

Close to the junction with Middle Road on the east side of the street is where the back entrance is to the beautiful St. Joseph’s Catholic Church which is also known as the Portuguese church, having been established by the Portuguese missionaries . The church was run by the Diocese of Macau up to 1999 when it was handed over to the Archdiocese of Singapore. Within the compound of the church, were St. Anthony’s Convent and St. Anthony Boys School. My memories of the church deserves mention in another post, but the reason I have brought the church up is that having been run in the Portuguese tradition, many of the practices have endured and on Good Friday every year, a candlelight procession is held in the church compound. Besides the participants within the compound, there would be many others who would gather beyond the wall of the church on Queen Street with tall lighted candles in hand. This evenings on Maundy Thursday (the day before Good Friday) and Good Friday would probably be the time of the year when these two stretches of Queen Street comes to life. Besides the procession, on Good Friday where many candle vendors and hawkers would line the street, on Maundy Thursday when many local Catholics practice visiting of churches to say prayers, with the concentration of Catholic churches along the street, the street would be bustling with people as well as hawker stalls.

The beautiful Portuguese Church (St. Joseph's Church).

The building on the right housed St. Anthony's Boys School within the compound of the Portuguese Church.

The buildings that housed St. Anthony's Convent within the compound of the Portuguese Church.




17 responses

18 02 2010

Thanks for the post, Jerome. St Anthony’s schoolboys squeezed into the building on the right in your photo. The building on the left is St Joseph’s Church Rectory, where the priests work and live.

I have a few annotated photos of the St. Anthony’s building from a few years back. The staff of the school kindly allowed me to walk around inside.

18 02 2010
The wondering wanderer

Thanks Kenneth for the correction … I’ll update the caption. Great photos of the building!

I may be wrong but I seem to remember that a tuck shop fishball noodle seller used to operate on the ground floor on the left hand side of the building. He operated on Sundays to serve the church goers with tables and chairs arranged in the compound outside and I used to look forward to having breakfast there after mass on Sunday – that was maybe in the late 1960s and early 70s …

18 02 2010

Hmmmm… I was hardly ever there on Sunday. Even if I went for mass there, it was usually Sunset. And this would be in the 80s, so I really don’t recall a fishball noodle seller operating in the compound!

21 02 2010
Beautiful buildings and a tale of buried treasure under a bridge: Memories of Stamford Road « The Long and Winding Road

[…] brings us past the junction with Victoria Street right up to the junction with Armenian Street and Queen Street also featured some wonderful examples of architecture on the left-hand side: Stamford House, Eu […]

21 02 2010
greg LIM

I really enjoyed reading the stories + looking at the pictures….They brought back wonderful memories of my schooldays in SJI (1956 )….I used to live opposite the Church..( cnr Bain st / Victoria st )
I now live in Melb, Aust

I think the Tourism Board should display OLD photos of some of the places that changed dramatically…eg cnr Stamford Rd / Queen st

I would still walk around the area whenever I visit Spore….that area ‘ also known as Hylam streets ‘ still lingers fondly within me… thanks Jerome for the photos..

21 02 2010
The wondering wanderer

Greg, thanks for you comments. Glad that the stories and photos brought back memories of your schooldays in SJI :). I can’t really remember what was at the Bain Street area where you lived before the Bras Basah Complex came up … maybe you could shed some light. You might be glad to know that the Tourism Board has made some efforts to display old photos of some of the old places – I have seen them around areas such as Albert Street and Little India where the old Tekka market was located. It certainly is nice to “catch up” with the streets we lived and grew up in … they always bring back the fond memories we have of the good old days!

22 02 2010

It will be really interesting if you could dig up some stuff on what was at the Bain St area before Bras Basah Complex – I had lived here all my life but never knew how its like!

I do remember though that one fine day my mum took me to the then SJI building and my cousin was there and we walked around the building together – turned out that it was the last day before SJI had to move.

As for what is now the new National Library building, it used to be a few rows of shophouses and there was this night when I was still very young, my grandma brought me down to the streets to watch the street opera. That was the last night before the area had to be evicted and demolished.

22 02 2010
greg LIM

On the cnr of Bain St /Victoria St ( a T junction ) was the ‘ tallest ‘ 4 storey Bldg named Victoria Court.. On the ground floor,was a furniture shop…Comfort Furniture The opposite corner was a shop that makes matresses. Most shops along Vic St were furniture shops Opposite these 2 corners is a Bus Stop..( below the Priests’ Residence ). I think the Bus Stop is still there.. Between Bain St n Middle Rd was a road named Holloway Lane…runs between Vic / North Bridge Rd… which has disappeared
Cnr Middle Rd/ Vic St… was Empress Hotel / Restaurant ( opp St Anthony’s Convent ) Empress Hotel..famous for Mooncake / Chinese Lanterns.. also famous for Suicides… many jumped from the 6 Storey Bldg ( Is the new Library haunted ??? )
would love to contact anyone that lived in the area…my e mail address will be in Spore fr 12/4 to 11/5/10
Bain St was also famous for Hainanese Coconut Pastry + Beef noodles in black sauce !!!

24 02 2010
23 02 2010
Loi Kiau Moi

What a back-to-the future experience! For a nostalgic person like me, this is a real treat. I don’t think I’d ever get tired of seeing scenes of the past, especially when they aren’t there anymore. Thank you.

8 03 2010

Stamford College in my time was the only correspondence school who offered mailed tuition services for secondary schools. For example when you sign up for Sec 2 Maths, they mail you the question and your respond with your answers by mail to them. Next time, they send you the corercted answers and the “workings” to get the answer. I think they offered for Maths and Science for all levels.

This was the commercial center you come to do your London’s City & Guilds courses for computer programing, quantity surveying, marketing. These classes were conducted in the night and many office workers do atten to upgrade their qualifications. This was before the days of the National Productivity Board (or SPRING Singapore). Ask any “uncle or auntie” of the 1960s, they will be able to share more stories.

5 04 2010
A sea of candlelight: Good Friday on Queen Street « The Long and Winding Road

[…] on the church and its compound for the Good Friday procession, spilling over into the area of Queen Street just behind the church. The procession is held to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on […]

9 04 2010
The changing face of Middle Road « The Long and Winding Road

[…] North Bridge Road were numbered in sequence, with Victoria Street being “2nd Street”, Queen Street “3rd Street”, Waterloo Street “Fourth Street”, Bencoolen Street […]

15 08 2011
Alex Teo

hey, I am looking for picture of that night soil processing place around the area.. Waterloo Street? Can you remember?

6 08 2014
Andrew See

I lived in Victoria Court from 1961 to 1972 and moved to Macpherson.
I attended St Anthony and SJI. I always rememer those childhood days and all my friends living there. Sadly I spend the last 30 years traveling due to job requirement and now live in HKG. As such I lost contact with all my friends especially the primary classmate. If anyone from Primary 6B in 1973 and form teacher is Mr Eddie Ho, please do contact me. Three friends I really missed, Chuan Kuan, Jim Him and Kok Kee.

22 04 2022
Sarabjit Singh

I used to study at Stamford College doing my A Levels from 78-79. Me and my classmates used to have our lunch at the SJI canteen by going in through the side entrance. Saturdays was spent playing football at the SJI field and having Indian rojak. The American embassy was also nearby where we could use the library there for research and borrowing books.

19 07 2022
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Would you happen to know anyone in these photographs Sarabjit?

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