The Gateway into the Lost World

25 02 2014

It is in a deserted and somewhat forgotten corner of Singapore that you will find the Gateway into the Lost World. Standing all on its own, it opens into a space now beautifully reclaimed by nature; a space in which little is given away of the world it might once have been.

JeromeLim IMG_0784

The gateway is all that is left of a dwelling place from where one could listen to the songs sung by the nearby sea. One of several found in the area, it shared the space with a village of humble wooden dwellings of which little remains except for a mosque. While there are no visuals that will allow us to picture what the house may have looked like, it is not hard to imagine the peace and joy its settings would have brought to its occupants.

JeromeLim IMG_0792

One who found joy in living by the same sea was the late James Westwater Ferrie. An architect, Ferrie lived in one of several houses found in the area of the now lonesome gates. Inspired by the setting he found himself living in, Ferrie, who was also a talented painter, found the time to also reproduce its seascapes in watercolour, more than 50 of which were exhibited at the Lone Pine Gallery in Ming Court Hotel (now Orchard Parade Hotel) in 1986.

JeromeLim IMG_0791

JeromeLim IMG_0790

Ferrie, who started James Ferrie and Partners, had been resident in Singapore since arriving from the UK in 1948. In an interview for his exhibition (27 January 1986 edition of The Straits Times), Ferrie , an avid sailor, spoke of his affinity with the sea having “always liked the sea” and being “closely associated with water”. Ferrie also described the his Sembawang home as one “with a garden stretching down to the sea” that provided him a view of “the skies and boats” depicted in his watercolours.

The nearby mosque in the woods (Masjid Petempatan Melayu).

The nearby mosque in the woods (Masjid Petempatan Melayu).

Ferrie passed away in February 1993, not long after he returned to the UK. By this time, his house by the sea and the cluster it was in, had already been acquired by the State. Now emptied of the boats that Ferrie depicted, it is perhaps only in Ferrie’s paintings that the memory of the area’s once colourful seas is now preserved.

The greenery that now surrounds the area.

The greenery that now surrounds the area.

Left temporarily on its own, the place its state of isolation, is one in which peace is still to be found. Given the pace at which redevelopment is taking place in the area, it is only a matter of time before a space in which an escape can be found is turned into yet another space one will then need an escape from.

Update June 2016:

I have been advised that there were four houses in the area of the gate built in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The gate itself had led to a bungalow owned by a Mr Chua Boon Peng, who was the MD of Cycle and Carriage.

See also: History rich Sembawang, gateway to Singapore’s WWII past (Sunday Times 19 June 2016)




9 responses

25 02 2014
Patsy Loh

I do enjoy your articles Jerome. When I visit Singapore these days I see s city that’s fast paced and modern. I miss the Singapore in the 70s and 80s when I was a teenager and young adult. I went camping with my NCC unit at Ayer Gemorok. But have no idea where that is anymore.
Thank you for writing about the interest ing Singapore.

25 02 2014
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Thanks Patsy, it is getting a little too fast and furious for me. I miss the all those little places, each with their own charm and character that we used to have … Ayer Gemuruh I am afraid is long gone, buried under progress in the form of Changi Airport. You may like to visit a post that I put up on the area: The lost idyllic coastline of Tanah Merah.

The lost coastline at Tanah Merah

25 02 2014

May I know where is the location? Have passed by the mosque few times but have never seen this structure in the vicinity.

28 02 2014
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

It is in the area by the sea just northeast of the mosque.

27 02 2014
Accidental Web 2.0 Professional

Hi Jerome,

Would like to know the location of this place too.


6 10 2019

Hi Jerome.
What’s actually still left to explore of the old buildings etc in Sembawang? Believe there is significant redevelopment planned or already happening.
We are keen to explore before it all disappears.
Thanks for your tips.

6 10 2019
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

There’s still quite a fair bit left to explore, even with the redevelopment. You can start at Sembawang Park. Beaulieu House at the Park goes back to the days before the Naval Base and was acquired for use by the Superintending Engineer in building the base. The Jetty was completed during the Japanese Occupation. There is lots of evidence of underground structures in and around the park as are bits of the picket fennce fence that once surrounded the huge base. If you time to go at low tide, you can walk eastwards along the beach and you would eventually come to the end of Jalan Selimang – which leads you to the kampung mosque and this gate. Head back towards the park via Jalan Mempurong and Andrews Ave – much more around in the area west.

10 02 2021

Hello Mr Lim, I stumbled upon this article of yours written a while ago while researching on Sembawang. I have always enjoyed reading your blogs. A couple of questions. Is the interview of James Ferries by ST available online ? The link provided in your blog doesn’t work. The other thing I wanted to know if any of James Ferries’ Sembawang seascape paintings is available in electronic form anywhere ?

17 04 2021
Robert Powell

I purchased a painting by James Ferrie at possibly his last exhibition. I Thought it was in the Mandarin Hotel but it may have been Orchard Parade.
It was ‘Boats at Changi Sailing Club’. I still have it in my apartment in Brighton overlooking the sea.
Robert Powell

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