A lost world in Lim Chu Kang

19 07 2011

Deep within a world that is now missing from much of Singapore, lies a reminder how life might once have been; one of carefree days spent by the sea, and of quiet nights gazing at the stars. It is a world that doesn’t exist anymore and one that many would find hard to go back to.

A reminder of carefree days in the sun, accompanied by the sand and the sea … a world that doesn’t exist in Singapore anymore?

This reminder, takes the form of the former residence of the late Howard Edmund Cashin, a prominent lawyer and sportsman in his time. Perched on a pier like structure that stretches over mud flats from an area of the mangrove dominated the north-western shores of Singapore, The Pier, as Mr. Cashin referred to the residence, was one that also boasted of an expansive garden from which one can be serenaded by the songs of the sea. Left vacant following Mr. Cashin’s passing in 2009, “The Pier” reminds me of gentler days, of times when the escapes to or taking up residence in seemingly far-flung and idyllic coastal locations across our island seemed the fashion. And, with most of these places since been lost to land reclamation, these are moments and places that we can never again see.

A lost world that reminds us of a Singapore that doesn’t exist anymore can be found in Lim Chu Kang.

The lost road to the lost world …

“The Pier” had served Mr Cashin’s for close to 50 years. Based on newspaper articles and oral history interviews, I understand that the Cashins, Howard and his wife Gillian, moved in to “The Pier” in the 1960s. It was however well before that that the pier had been constructed, the pier itself having been put up in 1906 by Mr Cashin’s father as a means to move rubber from his vast Cashin estate in Lim Chu Kang to Kranji from where it could be transported by road. The house we see on it, was largely added in the 1920s.

The Pier was the home of Mr and Mrs Howard Cashin and was built over a pier which fell to the invading 5th Division of the Japanese Imperial Army in the dark days of February 1942.

The Pier in the 1920s (a scan from The Singapore House, 1819-1942).

The Pier in the 1920s (a scan from The Singapore House, 1819-1942).

“The Pier” is significant from a historical perspective, having been on of the sites where the Japanese Imperial Army’s 5th Division first landed on the north-western coastline in the dark days of early February 1942 that was to lead to the eventual fall of Singapore. The site was where the Japanese invaders out-fought the Australian 22nd Brigade. This despite the Australians defending valiantly and having inflicted heavy casualties on the Japanese. The battle, fought over the night of the 8th of February, was to see some 360 Australian troops losing their lives in the relatively small area of land around “The Pier”. The Japanese were to erect a war shrine at the site. This was something that Mr. Cashin had difficulty removing after the war as it was not easy to find workmen willing to demolish the shrine. Mr. Cashin, in an interview, said that the stone from the pedestal the shrine had stood on was used to construct the road to the house that Mr. Cashin was to add before he moved in in the 1960s.

A view of The Pier from the expansive gardens.

A view of the gardens.

One of the things I was to learn from N. Sivasothi or Siva, who had been kind enough to ask me along for a recce he was conducting of the mangroves close to “The Pier” (see my previous post), was that the then Sultan of Johor (the late father of the current Sultan) was a frequent visitor. His Highness would drop in on the Cashins for tea, coming over by boat across the Straits of Johor; the first of his visits was at low tide and this required the assistance of a huge man in the Sultan’s entourage to carry His Highness on his shoulders over the mud of the tidal flats. This, a reminder of times when borders did not exist, both in the physical sense of the word as well as in the minds of many who lived on either side of the Causeway.

The Pier.

A look through the gates ….

With that gentle world now lost, “The Pier” stands as one of the few reminders left of that world. Now vacant, the ownership of “The Pier” has been passed on to the Singapore Land Authority and thankfully, it is not one we would soon be saying goodbye to as often is the case with many abandoned homes that eventually, would fall into decay, the initial word was that it could see use as a field station. I know at least that it will be there to return to. And, while it may not be a return to a place that I once knew, it will be to a place from which I can be transported back to places and times forgotten that would otherwise exist only in the dreams I have of yesterday.

A peek through the grilles at the entrance to the house …

Signs of abandonment.

Windows.

A peek inside … what would have been the kitchen and dining room.

The living room.

The balcony.

View of the mangrove dominated coastline.

A stariway to the sea … probably one that the Sultan of Johor would have used to ascend from his boat on his visits to the Cashins.


Update on status of the house (source: URA Draft Master Plan 2013 exhibition in Nov/Dec 2013): The Pier (Draft Master Plan 2013)



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32 responses

19 07 2011
claire leow

absolutely nostalgic! a wonderful post, Jerome

19 07 2011
The Dead Cockroach

Looks creepy!

20 07 2011
beingsimplygreen

It’s simply beautiful Jerome – I love such places. How on earth did you find such a treasure?

20 07 2011
Anjana Dutt

I felt sad after reading about this place because it is a shame that such an idyllic setting is just left standing like that without giving it its due respect. Wow, I wished I was there right now, standing out at the pier and reading a good book and getting lost in translation!

23 03 2012
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Thanks for your thoughts Anjana :)

31 01 2013
Seeker

I share your sentiment Anjana….this discovery is so inspiring, it somehow triggered one’s desire to revert to the past…. to want to know the owner of this unique place, his psyche. The whole thing is so profound and mystical…

21 07 2011
We recce Lim Chu Kang east with NUS students organisers « News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

[…] Lim’s posts – “The forgotten shores” and “A lost world in Lim Chu Kang“. Eco World Content From Across The Internet. Featured on EcoPressed A sand box for […]

22 08 2011
sodafox

Wow, a beautiful place and setting. It seems like a dream doesn’t it.

25 08 2011
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

It is a beautiful place … made even more so by the sense of separation from the urban world that lies not far away … and yes it does seem like a dream! :)

29 08 2011
Sam

Can you show on the map where this pier is? Raised in Chua Chu Kang and a frequent visitors to Lim Chu Kang during scouting days, and living across the pacific ocean for the last 30 years, I am trying to recapture fading memories of idylic Singapore in the 60s and 70s.
Thanks in advance,
Sam Foo

23 03 2012
4 11 2011
Happy nana

Beautiful photos! I am a writer and is inspired to feature this place, will it be too much to request that you contact me so that we can take the discussion offline?

23 03 2012
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

I did contact you – unfortunately the outcome was that the SPH publication that you worked for used my photographs in a way that I had not consented to. I asked that I speak to the photo editor of the publication which was already three months ago and until now I have not been contacted. :(

26 11 2011
wendy

Thank you for the excellent shots. I stumbled upon this bungalow while i was on my way to the nearby kelong sometimes in 2010. The imprint of this Colonial structure, extending out to the sea was so breathlessly nostalgic; it was like a time tunnel : I was held breathless, for it was a great surprise that we, in Singapore, still process unpublicised idyllic scene. However, this hidden gem looked forlorn, deserted and neglected as seen from the open sea. I thought that it must be an acquired ‘stateland’ property until I read about the pride of the Cashin Estate in the newspaper, recently. The rich history behind this idyllic pasture deserve much conservation attention.

23 03 2012
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Wendy! :)

16 03 2012
Faizal

What a beautiful place and story. Back in the good old days.

23 03 2012
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Indeed a beautiful place Faizal :)

21 03 2012
Prashanth

Delete your post at once!!! Let no one know that this place exists, so that it can survive longer.

What a beautiful place? What secrets it holds? Where have those idyllic days gone? What are we running after and why are we always running?

This post compelled me to stop and stare, and just lose myself in the moment, conjuring up my own thoughts and fantasies about the place.

Excellent post. I had to re-read it to ensure I was not dreaming and that this was indeed Singapore in the 21st century. Well done!

23 03 2012
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Thanks Prashanth! :) There is hope yet that it will survive! Thanks for sharing your impressions of the post.

23 12 2013
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Update Nov/Dec 2013 (as seen at the URA Draft Master Plabn 2013 exhibition):

Update Nov/Dec 2013 (as seen at the URA Draft Master Plabn 2013 exhibition)

29 04 2012
Shaun Sim

how do i get to this place? :)

18 06 2012
Deborah

Dont tell anyone

23 06 2012
faz lee

Seriously? Abandon? O.o
ive seen this house bright up at night it was 2009 if im not wrong. And just got to know its abandon? Woah.

11 10 2012
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

It was vacated after Mr Cashin’s passing in 2009.

11 11 2012
Raymund

do we need permit to shoot here?

19 11 2012
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Hi Raymund, you would probably need to check with SLA on that.

14 11 2012
Darius

Hello Jerome,

How do I get here? What is the address? Amazing find. Amazing pictures.

Are we able to go in?? Thinking of doing my photoshoot here. Possible??

Perhaps email me.

Thank you!!!

D

19 11 2012
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Hi Darius, it is close to the end of Lim Chu Kang Road. I believe it is maintained by the SLA right now, sealed off and under surveillance.

31 01 2013
Seeker

so sad to see these soulful archectecture withering away while the city ceaselessly erecting meaningless modern shopping complex at every conner, degenerating us…

31 01 2013
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Yes it is. What is also sad is that the world we have been forced to accept has little room for places such as these, as well as the many places that made Singapore the Singapore many of us felt at home in. :(

25 04 2013
Atlas

This house in Lim Chu Kang certainly brings back memories of my NS days serving in Sungei Gedong Camp from 1990 to 1992. Back then, Ama Kang Village was still around further down the road, and there was even a row of old shops directly opposite the camp entrance. Much of the area remains fairly the same over the last 20 years, except for the eradication of the villages. A good thing for our rapidly changing island where familiar images of our past are often erased without a trace. Wonder how long LCK will be able to hold on to its rural landscape. The last countryside of Singapore.

8 10 2013
LisaMK

Hey Jerome, i’m very curious – how many rooms did this bungalow have? Thanks!

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