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The Padang (Malay for 'field') is an open playing field located within the Downtown Core of the Central Area in Singapore. It includes the Padang Cricket Ground. The Padang is surrounded by several important landmarks, which include Saint Andrew's Cathedral, City Hall, the Old Supreme Court Building and the City Hall MRT Station.
Due to its prime location and historical significance, it has been used as a venue for a variety of events, including the National Day Parades some years due to the first ever National Day Parade being held there in 1966, and just recently Singapore's Golden Jubilee Year in 2015. Since 1995, it has been planned that the NDP would be held there for every five years, the main venue for that major event is at Marina Bay Floating Stadium (formerly at the old National Stadium)
In June 1819, modern founder of Singapore, Thomas Stamford Raffles instructed the first Resident of Singapore, William Farquhar, to reserve the whole space within the Old Lines and the Singapore River (i.e. the northern bank) for public purposes. However, Farquhar found it expedient to allow European merchants to encroach the reserved space as this appeared to be the only suitable site for mercantile firms and godowns, since the southern bank was then too swampy. Farquhar also built a temporary home with an attap roof and kajang walls on the current Singapore Cricket Club site, on the edge which came to be known as Raffles Plain. When Raffles returned to the island in October 1822, Raffles disapproved of the encroaching by mercantile interests of land he had set aside for public use. Raffles immediately countermanded Farquhar's permits, put a stay on all buildings in the area and appointed a committee with strict and explicit instructions on how he wanted the town of Singapore to be planned. As the Esplanade plan had been broken, it was necessary to designate a new site for the town's public buildings. The area chosen was the Padang Besar or simply the Padang, as it is known today.
During the 1820s, there were four houses that faced the Padang, what is now the Old Supreme Court Building were two houses built in 1823 houses of Edward Boustead, and the site of the City Hall formerly the houses of Resident Councillor Thomas Church and William Montgomerie who is Residency Surgeon. In 1845, Gaston Dutronquoy moved into the Boustead houses and converted into his second London Hotel. The place became Hotel de l'Esperance and later Hotel de l'Europe and was demolished in the year 1900. The Grand Hotel de l'Europe was built in 1905 and demolished in 1935 due to financial problems. The hotel made way for the Old Supreme Court Building which was the last Classical architecture building built in Singapore. The statue of Stamford Raffles was unveiled at the plain on 27 June 1877, but it was moved to Victoria Memorial Hall (now Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall) on 6 December 1919.
In the past, Padang was referred as The Plain, Cantonment Plain, Raffles Plain or the Esplanade. In modern times, Esplanade refers to the cultural centre known as Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay and before that the Esplanade Park. Today, the Padang is a field located between two clubs in front of City Hall. After Raffles' founding of Singapore, this was where the Sepoy Cantonment was first located (hence the name Cantonment Plain), before the sepoys were shifted to Cantonment Road/Sepoy Lines area. Around 1890, the Esplanade was widened by reclaiming land, and constructed a road known as New Esplanade Road (now Connaught Drive). In 1907, the area became known as the Padang and the roads in that area were renamed. Esplanade Road was renamed St Andrew's Road and New Esplanade Road was known as Connaught Drive. Before reclamation, the sea shore was where Connaught Drive is currently located. Near the current Singapore Recreation Club, was a Saluting Battery mounted on a knoll, which was known in the early days as a Scandal Point. The paintings of the Esplanade by J. T. Thomson in 1847 and 1851 were done at this point. The Padang was threatened to be used for development several times but it was abandoned due to public outcry.
Surprisingly, the administration sector of the Padang area began to take shape only in the late 1920s, replacing houses built by G.D. Coleman. The Grand Hotel de l'Europe was demolished and made way for the courthouse in 1936. Today, the Padang is used for many events such as the National Day Parade and others as well. The Padang was where the victory parade of the Japanese surrendering Singapore back to the British, and the surrender forces by Lord Louis Mountbatten ending World War II in Singapore. The Padang is used for sports such as soccer, cricket and rugby.
The Padang became a major recreational area when two clubs, the Singapore Cricket Club in 1870 and the Singapore Recreation Club in 1883 were established at both ends of the field. It was used for exercising horses in the 1920s and became the scene for the New Year sporting activities.
- Victor R Savage, Brenda S A Yeoh (2004), Toponymics – A Study of Singapore Street Names, Eastern University Press, ISBN 981-210-364-3