Old Supreme Court Building, Singapore

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Supreme Court
Old Supreme Court Building 5, Jan 06.JPG
Old Supreme Court Building, Singapore is located in Singapore
Old Supreme Court Building, Singapore
Location of Former Supreme Court in Singapore
General information
Architectural styleBaroque Revival, Neoclassical
Address1 St Andrew's Road, Singapore 178958
Town or citySingapore
CoordinatesCoordinates: 1°17′23″N 103°51′04.5″E / 1.28972°N 103.851250°E / 1.28972; 103.851250
Groundbreaking1 April 1937
Construction startedApril 1937
Opened3 August 1939
AffiliationNational Heritage Board
Technical details
Floor area5,110 m2 (55,000 sq ft)
Design and construction
ArchitectFrank Dorrington Ward
Architecture firmPublic Works Department
Other designersCavaliere Rudolfo Nolli
Augusto Martelli
Main contractorUnited Engineers
Designated14 February 1992

The Old Supreme Court Building (Malay: Bangunan Mahkamah Agung Lama, Chinese: 最高法院大厦) is the former courthouse of the Supreme Court of Singapore, before it moved out of the building and commenced operations in the new building on 20 June 2005. The building was the last structure in the style of classical architecture to be built in the former British colony. The building, together with the City Hall, has been converted into National Gallery Singapore which was opened in 2015.[1]


Aerial panorama of Singapore's Downtown Core. The Old Supreme Court building sits in the middle of the panorama.
Dome of the old Supreme Court Building at night (2011)

Many colonial-built houses were built before the courthouse was constructed in the 1930s, in addition to the Grand Hotel de l'Europe, which was demolished to make way for the new building. Raffles initially designated the site for public use, but his administrator in Singapore, William Farquhar, allowed private residences to be constructed there. By the 1830s, houses built in Madras chunam lined the streets that faced the sea. The residence of Edward Boustead designed by George Drumgoole Coleman stood there.

The house was remodeled to become hotels of several names, namely London Hotel, Hotel de l'Esperance and later Hotel de l'Europe. However, these houses made way for the Grand Hotel de l'Europe in 1900, the only other hotel in Singapore that could be comparable with the landmark Raffles Hotel. The Grand Hotel boasted a lounge, reading room, a bar, shops and a roof garden, a novelty at that time. In 1932, the hotel's business declined and filed for bankruptcy. It made way in 1936 for the present building, the former building had good views of the Padang from its verandah.

On 1 April 1937, the original foundation stone of the Old Supreme Court Building, (then the biggest foundation stone in the whole of Malaya) was laid by the Governor of the Straits Settlements,[2] Sir Shenton Whitelegge Thomas. Buried beneath the stone, is a time capsule containing six Singaporean newspapers dated 31 March 1937, and a handful of coins of the Straits Settlements. The capsule is not due to be retrieved until the year 3000.[2]

The building was declared open on 3 August 1939 by Sir Shenton Thomas and handed over to the Chief Justice, Sir Percy McElwaine, on the same day.[2]

The courthouse had 11 courtrooms and adjoining judges' chambers. In 1988, a further 12 courtrooms from the City Hall were transferred to the Supreme Court to accommodate the needs of the main courthouse, as it needed more courtrooms.

Engineer Frank Dorrington Ward's plan was to demolish the Singapore Cricket Club, Old Parliament House and the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall to make way for a grand government scheme designed by his department. However, this plan was interrupted by the onset of World War II.

The building was the site of war crime trials of members of the Japanese Imperial Army in 1946 after the World War II.[3]

The Old Supreme Court Building, together with the adjacent City Hall, was converted into the National Gallery Singapore opened in 2015.[1]

Architecture and design[edit]

The allegory of justice is visible below the cupola

Built in front of the historical Padang grounds between 1937 and 1939, the Old Singapore Supreme Court building was designed by Frank Dorrington Ward, an engineer of the Public Works Department of Singapore, and was his last and most significant piece of work.

The former courthouse features Corinthian columns, classical design, and spacious interiors with murals by the Italian artists. The four-storey steel structure was erected by United Engineers. The building consists of four blocks surrounding a central courtyard which houses the circular law library with its significant dome and Travertine columns supporting two balconies on two levels. Behind the main dome, there is a smaller dome.

The pediment sculpture (an allegory of justice) which characterized the Supreme Court is a work by Florentine sculptor Augusto Martelli.

The Corinthian columns are works by Cavaliere Rudolfo Nolli. Nolli also carried works for the general building, pre-cast works, imitation stone sculptures, artistic decorations, special plastering and bush-hammered facing works.

See also[edit]


  • Ho, Weng Hin (2008), The Former Supreme Court of Singapore & its Artificial Stone: Documentation, Analysis & Conservation Guidelines for a National Monument, Genoa: unpublished thesis, School of Specialization in Restoration of Monuments, University of Genoa, OCLC 233929838.
  • History of Supreme Court


  1. ^ a b Whiteman, Hilary (26 November 2015). "National Gallery Singapore finds first home for unseen art". CNN.
  2. ^ a b c "AsiaExplorers - Visit, Discover & Enjoy Asia!". www.asiaexplorers.com. Archived from the original on 28 March 2015. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  3. ^ Singapore, National Library Board. "Former Supreme Court building - Infopedia". eresources.nlb.gov.sg.