Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church
The Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church (Chinese: 布连拾街长老会磐石堂) is a Presbyterian Church in Singapore. It is located at Prinsep Street in the Rochor Planning Area, within the Central Area in Singapore's central business district.
The present church was constructed in 1930. Founded in 1843, it was then known as the Malay Chapel. It was the first Straits Chinese church in Singapore. The chapel was replaced with the present Romanesque style building and dedicated in 1931. The Singapore Boys’ Brigade was founded here.
In 1839, a Presbyterian minister of the London Missionary Society, Reverend Benjamin Peach Keasberry, started an elite boarding school for Malay boys in Rochor, with an attached printing press. Some of his pupils were thought to have been of royal descent.
In 1843, the church building on Prinsep Street was completed and Keasberry moved his printing business there. The church was first named Malay Chapel in recognition of the reverend's contribution to the Malay community. It was also popularly known as Greja Keasberry or Keasberry's Church. The missionary Samuel Dyer preached the first sermon at the Malay Chapel in 1843.
In 1847, shortly after the inauguration of the church, the London Missionary Society left Singapore for China, leaving Keasberry to carry the torch alone. This he did stoically, until his death on 6 September 1875. To honour him, an engraved stone plaque was placed on his grave in Bukit Timah by his former student Maharajah Abubakar of Johore.
In 1885, the Presbyterian community, funded by Singaporean merchants living in London, bought the building from the London Missionary Society. It was renamed Prinsep Street Church. As the purchase was initiated by Reverend J.A.B. Cook, the missionary in charge of the English Presbyterian Church, Prinsep Street Church now came under its administration.
The Straits Chinese congregation held services at the church, as did the Teochew Tek Kha Group or Kandang Kerbau Market Group, and the pupils of Sophia Cooke's Chinese Girls' School. The Tek Kha Group established their headquarters at Prinsep Street Church and remained there until 1929 when their own church building which is also on Prinsep Street (diagonally oppopsite) and now known as Singapore Life Church, was ready.
As early as 1901, plans were made for a new church. On 5 March 1930, Song Ong Siang, who later became the first Malayan Chinese to be knighted, laid the foundation stone. The church was officially opened and dedicated on 4 February 1931.
In November 1931, upon formally joining the Synod of the English Presbytery, Prinsep Street Church was eligible to include "Presbyterian" in its name. Thus, the Straits Chinese Presbyterian Church was born.
During the Japanese Occupation, the church was damaged by shrapnel and mortar shells. Reverend Gibson, who had been incarcerated by the Japanese during World War II, repaired the church upon his release in 1947.
In 1953, the first full-time local pastor, Reverend John J.K. Lu, was appointed. The post-war years saw a fall in the Straits Chinese congregation and the church was renamed Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church in 1956. Its non-Straits Chinese congregation grew rapidly and, in the mid-1980s, a four-storey building was erected to accommodate their needs.
In the 1960s, the Church operated a kindergarten in mornings.
At the front of the church, lightly modelled brickwork rises high in gable formation expressing the shape of the roof and culminating in a bell tower, now housing a loudspeaker. Buildings within the enclosure are all rendered and painted.
- National Heritage Board (2002), Singapore's 100 Historic Places, Archipelago Press, ISBN 981-4068-23-3
- Norman Edwards, Peter Keys (1996), Singapore - A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, Times Books International, ISBN 9971-65-231-5
- Preservation of Monuments Board, Know Our Monuments
- Buckley, Charles Burton. An Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore 1819-1867., 320-322
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