The founder of modern Singapore has two statues to his memory. The original bronze cast by Thomas Woolner in 1887 stands outside the Victoria Theatre, while a replica stands on North Boat Quay, behind Parliament House – at the site where Raffles is thought to have landed on January 29, 1819.
It certainly pays to visit the Sir Stamford Raffles Statue to understand what it represents.
To get there, you’d want to hail a cab and get to the north bank of the Singapore River. The best way to do this is to tell the taxi driver you want to go to the ‘Sir Stamford Raffles Statue at the Singapore River’ – he should have no problems knowing what you mean.
Location: Victoria Theatre – 9 Empress Place, Singapore 179556 and North Boat QuayGetting there: Take the MRT to Raffles Place (EW14) and walk across Cavenagh Bridge
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In 1887, Governor Sir Frederick Weld put up the first statue of Sir Stamford Raffles at the Padang to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Sir Stamford Raffles was the man who set up a British settlement in Singapore in 1819. The black, eight-foot-tall bronze figure was made by the famous sculptor and poet Thomas Woolner. It was lovingly called “orang besi” (iron man). The statue was moved from the Padang to a spot in front of the close Victoria Memorial Hall in 1919, which was the 100th anniversary of the founding of colonial Singapore. The figure was surrounded by a colonnade, and Governor Sir Arthur Young unveiled it. During the Japanese Occupation (1942–1945), the figure was taken down and put in a museum storage room. Governor Sir Franklin Grimson put the figure back where it was before the war, but without the colonnade. This was done in 1946. After Singapore got its independence in 1965, the government took the advice of Albert Winsemius, a Dutch economic advisor, and chose to keep the statue as a reminder of the country’s colonial past. In 1972, a copy of the original figure made of polymarble (left center) was made and put up on the north bank of the Singapore River behind the Old Parliament House. People thought that Raffles first set foot in Singapore at this spot.
When raffles first started
Captain Benjamin Raffles and Ann Lyne had Thomas Bingley Stamford Raffles on July 6, 1781, on a ship off the coast of Port Morant, Jamaica. Raffles grew up with his mother and four younger sisters after his younger brother Benjamin died too soon in 1788. They lived in South London in a place called Walworth. Shortly after Raffles was born, it looked like the family fell on bad times, and Raffles’ father split from the rest of the family. Benjamin Raffles was to die poor in 1811.
In the meantime, Tom could not go to school because the Raffles family was so poor. In fact, he only went to school for two years. At age 12, he went to Mansion House Boarding School, which was a small, well-known, but cheap boarding school that helped boys get ready for clerk jobs or the army. The school was run by Dr. Anderson and was in Hammersmith. It taught Latin, Greek, French, math, bookkeeping, and geography. Tom had to quit school when he was 14 years old, in 1795. Tom was able to get a temporary clerk job at the British East India Company on Leadenhall Street because his uncle Charles Hammond was a tea dealer with ties. His first job only paid him £50 per year. Over the next ten years, he wouldn’t make more than £70 a year, which he used to support the whole Raffles family.
Raffles always felt bad about how short his schooling was. In 1819, he wrote to his nephew, the Reverend Thomas Raffles, “The lack of my early education has never been made up for, and I have never stopped regretting that I had to leave school so early.” Raffles learned a lot on his own to make up for what he didn’t learn in school. Raffles, who was smart and interested, spent a lot of his childhood in Walworth walking around the farms and woods. He became very interested in natural history during this time. He also became friends with the famous gardener James Maddock and had a great relationship with Samuel Curtis, who was his colleague and later started the Botanical Magazine.
Thomas Woolner made the bronze figure of Stamford Raffles, and it was put up at the Padang on Jubilee Day, June 27, 1887. During Singapore’s 100th birthday celebrations on February 6, 1919, it was moved to Empress Place. Raffles is shown standing with his arms crossed and an air of quiet confidence in the statue.1
The famous British sculptor and author Thomas Woolner made the statue. Since it was ordered after Raffles died in 1826, it is likely that Woolner based the figure on Francis Chantrey’s paintings of Raffles.2 The eight-foot-tall metal figure was called “iron man” in Malay, which is the name it was given. At the base of the figure, there is a map of the area around the Strait of Melaka. This is meant to show that Raffles set foot in British Malaya.3
Where on the Padang
On June 27, 1887, Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, Governor of the Straits Settlements Frederick Weld unveiled the figure. It used to be between St. Andrew’s Road and Connaught Drive, facing the sea, on the Padang, which was a famous open field for sports, games, and other events. But because the figure was often hit by footballs and people sat on it to get a better view of games at the Padang, the authorities thought it should be moved to a more dignified spot.4
Go to Empress Place.
On February 6, 1919, as part of the events for Singapore’s 100th birthday, the statue was moved to a spot in front of the Victoria Memorial Hall at Empress Place. It took the place of an elephant figure given by King Chulalongkorn of Thailand during his March 1871 visit.
A half-circle colonnade in the Italian Doric style surrounded the Raffles figure. In front of it was a marble-lined pool with fountain jets.6 Around the pool, there were also two rows of flower vases, which added color to the classical scene. At the mouth of the Singapore River, where Raffles was thought to have landed, the figure faces the spot where he is thought to have landed. It was also carefully placed on an axis with the center of the Victoria Memorial Hall’s clock tower.7
As the statue was being moved from the Padang, it was discovered that the base was held up by a rod that went through one of the figure’s legs. This iron support wasn’t made right and wasn’t completely covered in bronze, so water seeping up from under the statue corroded it. Before the move, the rust was fixed properly. At the new spot, someone also buried a time capsule with copies of local newspapers, the government gazette, a program for the Centennial, and money worth less than a dollar.8
Second World War
The figure was moved to the Syonan Museum (which used to be called the Raffles Library and Museum) on September 11, 1942.10 Some people later said that they thought the Japanese were going to melt it down to use the metal for the war. Even though stories said that the colonnade and flower vases were still there when the Japanese took over, they could not be found after the Japanese gave up.11 But the figure was not broken, and in July 1946, it was put back up at Empress Place.
Sir Stamford Raffles, the man who started modern Singapore, is shown in the figure. At the Raffles Landing Site and the Empress Place, there are two statues.
The white polymarble statue of Raffles at the Singapore River is often photographed by both tourists and people who live there. It has its arms folded and is looking carefully out to sea.
Take a picture with this famous statue at the historic Raffles Landing Site. This is where Raffles is thought to have landed on the island for the first time in 1819.
The figure is actually a copy of the original dark bronze statue. It was put here in 1972, on the 150th anniversary of Singapore’s founding.
If you want to see the original figure, which is much older, you can find it in front of Victoria Memorial Hall at Empress Place. It was made by the famous English artist and poet Thomas Woolner, and it was first shown to the public on Jubilee Day, June 27, 1887.
Read more: Places to Visit in Singapore: Merlion
Singapore’s iron man
Some of the Raffles Statue’s stories are great for people who like to learn new things. For one thing, it was called “Iron Man” in Malay when it was first shown to the public.
In 1919, the first statue was moved from where it was at the Padang, which is another interesting story. During games, footballs would often hit it, and early Padang fans liked to sit at its base to get a good view.
During the Japanese Occupation, the figure was moved to the Syonan Museum, which used to be called the Raffles Museum and is now called the National Museum Singapore. Many people thought that the Japanese wanted to melt it down for its bronze. In 1946, it was moved back to Empress Place.
Today, the statue is a national symbol and a sign of modern Singapore. The white version of the statue is often seen on funny souvenirs.
Sir Stamford Raffles came here for the first time on January 28, 1819. He stayed for ten days. During this time, he signed the first treaty with the local kings, Temenggong Abdul Rahman and Sultan Hussein Shah, with the help of Major William Farquhar.
A figure of Sir Stamford Raffles marks the spot, which is on the north side of the Singapore River. The current statue, which is made of polymarble, was revealed in 1972. It was made from plaster casts of the original statue, which was made in 1887 and stands across from Victoria Concert Halls.
As part of the celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the founding of modern Singapore, many changes have been made to and around the statue of Raffles. For example, camouflage was used to make the statue ‘disappear’ into the background of the buildings in Raffles Place on the south bank, and statues of Raffles’s contemporaries, such as Munshi Abdullah, Tan Tock Seng, and Naraina Pillai, as well as the founder
The plaque at the landing site says, “On this historic site, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles first landed in Singapore on January 28, 1819. With his genius and insight, he changed Singapore’s fate from a small fishing village to a great seaport and modern metropolis.”
During the events for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in June 1953, the fountains were turned on again. The colonnades and flower pots, on the other hand, were never put back.13 In the 1960s, Albert Winsemius was Singapore’s economic adviser. He is credited with making sure that the statue stayed after freedom as a sign of a developed Singapore. Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew at the time said that the statue was a “symbol of public acceptance of the British legacy and could have a positive effect” on Singapore’s future growth.
The original bronze statue was turned into a plaster mold, which was then used to make a copy out of polymarble. This copy was revealed in 1972. This copy stands on the north bank of the Singapore River at Boat Quay. It marks the spot where Raffles is thought to have landed. At Westminster Abbey in London, there is also a figure of Raffles made of marble. It is the size of a real person and shows him sitting and thinking.
Brief Synopsis and Conclusions
The statue of Raffles still stands on the waterfront, and parts of the Bicentennial exhibition have been kept at Fort Canning. This is so that, in the words of Mr. Desmond Lee, co-chair of the ministerial committee, “the next group of Singaporeans who are given the immense responsibility to commemorate the quarter millennial or 300 years of Singapore will have materials to rely on.”36 Even though these monuments may seem like unarguable reminders of colonialism, this paper has tried to put them in the context of Singapore’s past and show how the government has played an active role in shaping historical narratives. In particular, its first story told that Raffles’ arrival in 1819 was the start of modern Singapore. This was done to make people of all races feel equal and to show foreign investors that the PAP was serious about being anti-communist. Since the 2019 Bicentennial, however, the government has changed the story, going further back in time (700 years, to be exact) to show that Singapore has always been a global place while not forgetting that Raffles’ arrival was a turning point. This makes me wonder if 700 is just the new 200. To answer, you need to look at how the government will use Raffles and this new script in the future, as well as the views and debates of Singaporeans themselves.