The crumbling bungalow at Upper Wilkie Road

4 03 2011

There was a time when Mount Sophia had been a magical world, a place where men who made it big in the developing colony of Singapore had sought to build several wondrous mansions. This was a world that I have described in previous posts: “One hundred steps to Heaven”, and “The magical hill with a fairy-tale like mansion that was Mount Sophia” and one that we, in the last four decades or so, have seen crumbling before our eyes. There is little of what is left to remind us of the wonderful villas, some that once would have commanded a magnificent and unobstructed view of the world around, the Abdullad Shooker Home for one, the mansion that was used as the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Sikh Temple another. There is one as well that stands up the hill at No. 8 Upper Wilkie Road, just a stone’s throw from another which had been a Japanese consulate and a girls’ home. That, unfortunately has been left vacant since 1991, when its occupant, Major Derrick Coupland, passed away, and the evidence of some two decades of abandonment has been pretty evident for a while.

The abandoned bungalow at Upper Wilkie Road which was the residence of Major Derrick Coupland.

The bungalow at No. 8 would probably be beyond restoration, but it would really be nice to have seen some attempt to preserve the building or at least something put up to remember Major Coupland, who died of bone cancer at the age of 70, for his contribution to Singapore and his role as the President of the Ex-Services Association which he held for some two decades right up to his death. Major Coupland was well known for his role during the war, being amongst the group of British officers who organised Force 136. He later served on the personal security staff of Lord Mountbatten. It is also notable for the part he played after the war, in which he was reported as being the force behind the Ex-Services Association’s charity work with war widows and those affected by the war. As a naturalised Singaporean, Major Coupland also contributed in our early days of independence, serving as a training officer for the first batches of National Servicemen in the late 1960s. He also served in the Singapore Volunteer Corps and was a founding member of the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association, as well as serving as a director for the Singapore Council of Social Services for 7 years. He was conferred with an OBE in 1976 and is buried at the British Military Cemetery at Kranji.

Views around the crumbling former home of the late Major Derrick Coupland:

More on Mount Emily and Mount Sophia:


  • The former Mount Emily Girls’ Home – the oldest surviving building on Mount Emily and Mount Sophia which might have been built by the Sultan of Siak and was once used as a Japanese Consulate
  • And, what is probably the oldest on Mount Sophia, the former Tower House



10 responses

4 03 2011

Wow! He made Singapore his home (even after horrific war experiences) and contributed to our society all the way till the end. It would be great if we could honour him and remember him. 🙂

I wish I could “like” your photographs here! I like some very much. And I like that one with the furniture. Somehow I feel close to him by seeing the furniture that he used to use!

5 03 2011
The wondering wanderer

Thanks for your comments and feedback Shuyi! Much appreciated! 🙂 Major Coupland was certainly a true hero and we must remember him! 🙂

14 03 2011

Fascinating insight into Mount Sophia. I love the neighborhood and remember seeing the old delapidated house. Is there a more formal history of Mount Sophia anywhere in the national archives ?

14 03 2011
The wondering wanderer

Thanks Colin, the neighbourhood is certainly one that was a fascinating place … especially before the apartment blocks came up. There is an infopedia site maintained by the National Library that does attempt to put up some formal history on several sites in Singapore, including Mount Sophia:

18 10 2017
22 09 2012

Hi Jerome,

Thanks for sharing about this location and their update/status on your Instagram!

Mount Sophia and Wilkie Road is like a “lost heritage”, I would try to go there and explore more of the area soon!

17 10 2013

The building is gone now (Oct 2013). It’s been demolished. I wonder why it was left abandoned for so many years.

5 11 2014
William Francis

Wonderful article Jerome. I went past 8 Upper Wilkie Road 2 months back. Apparently the original owner’s daughter has rebuilt the house and kept the design similar to the old house. Very tropical, plenty of balcony shade and open areas for the wind to pass through. Mount Emily is certainly ranks among the more nostalgic, old world charm places in Singapore.

31 07 2015
John Evans

Derek Coupland was my Battery Commander in the SRA(V),and a great benefactor,as Chairman of the Ex Services Association.He used to marshall us all at Kranji especially on Armistice Day.

17 01 2021
David Jones

Hi, Derrick was a friend of my mother and father, I met him on a number of occasions. I was wondering where the link to Froce 163 come from. I would love to research that further, as well as his actions in the Malaya Emergency.


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