Thomas Woolner

First placed in Singapore: 1887

in front of Victoria Concert Hall and Victoria Theatre

Was originally unveiled on the Padang in 1887 by Sir Frederick A Weld (on the 50th anniversary of Queen Victoria's accession). Moved to its present position and unveiled by Sir Arthur Young, Governor, on 6 February, 1919.

Patron: the government of the Straits Settlements

As part of the celebrations for the 50th Anniversary of the Queen Victoria's Accession, a contest was held for the best inscription to go with the statue. The top prize of $25 went to Lim Koon Tye, an alumnus of Raffles Institution. The statue was surrounded by a semicircular colonnade (in the Italian Renaissance style) which was destroyed after the fall of Singapore in early 1942. The statue was moved to the National Museum where it stayed until liberation. (This all from Edwards and Keyes).

The commission to Woolner reportedly cost Singapore $20,466.

In 1987, S Rajaratnam reflected on Singaporean views of history and the Raffles statue’s place in that process:

Most of the 170-year history following Raffles’ purchase of this island for a few thousand Mexican dollars is not something Singaporeans like to proclaim from the rooftops, because all of that history was British colonial history. The only proven history Singapore had was in the eyes of most nationalists a shameful episode of exploitation, oppression and humiliation of a people who insisted on remaining in Singapore. Patriotism required that we performed some sort of collective lobotomy to wipe out all traces of 146 years of shame. … After Singapore became independent there was agitation that the statue of a brooding Raffles in front of Victoria Memorial Hall should be torn down and flung into the Singapore River to symbolically reject our past. Fortunately, sanityprevailed in the nick of time. Not only was Raffles’ death by drowning commuted but, by way of apology, he now has a twin brother brooding beside a Singapore River now free of industrial and other waste. Unfortunately, the passion to wipe out 146 years of shameful history until quite recently burnt unabated in the iconoclastic hearts of our single-minded city planners, unreal estate developers, businessmen, bankers and others who decided that Singapore’s history should start from 1965 and that everything in our city should not be older than 20 years old.

In 2020 Raffles got it's own its own Twitter feed. A first for a work of Singapore public art?

Text of the Label:

This tablet to the memory of Sir Stamford Raffles to whose foresight and genius Singapore owes its existence and prosperity was unveiled on February 6th 1919, the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Settlement.

Last updated: Nov-18-2021

additional photograph of the sculpture on this page
additional photograph of the sculpture on this page
additional photograph of the sculpture on this page

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