Jackson Plan

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The Plan of the Town of Singapore, more commonly known as the Jackson Plan or Raffles Town Plan.

The Jackson Plan or Raffles Town Plan,[1], an urban plan of 1822 titled "Plan of the Town of Singapore", is a proposed scheme for Singapore drawn up to maintain some order in the urban development of the fledgling but thriving colony founded just three years earlier. It was named after Lieutenant Philip Jackson, the colony's engineer and land surveyor tasked to oversee its physical development in accordance with the vision of Stamford Raffles for Singapore, hence it is also commonly called Raffles Town Plan. The plan was formulated in late 1822 and published in 1828.[1] It is the earliest extant plan for the town of Singapore, but not an actual street map of Singapore as it existed in 1822 or 1828 since the plan is an idealised scheme of how Singapore may be organised that was not fully realised.[2] Nevertheless it served as a guide for the development of Singapore in its early days and the effect of general layout of the plan however is still observable to this day.

The plan is currently on display in the Singapore History Gallery at the National Museum of Singapore.


The plan as first published by Crawfurd in 1828

Sir Stamford Raffles founded the colony in 1819, and before he left Singapore, he wrote to William Farquhar giving instructions on how the colony may be organised.[3] Farquhar governed Singapore from 1819 until 1823, and his pragmatic approach allowed the colony to flourish, but under the sheer volume of trade that passed through her port, some instructions were disregarded and the town grew haphazardly. Upon his final return to colony in October 1822, Raffles was displeased by the disorderliness of the town and that Farquhar had not followed closely the instructions he gave. For example, Farquhar allowed merchants to encroach on designated government area; he permitted the erection of houses and godowns on the Padang and on the nearby banks of the Singapore River, within an area Raffles specified not to be permanently appropriated by individuals.[4][5] In response, Raffles formed a Town Committee, consisting of a merchant, A. L. Johnston; a civil servant George Bonham; and Captain Charles Edward Davis of the Bengal Native Infantry, who acted as president of the committee. They were assisted by Lieutenant Jackson who drew up the layout plan of the city according to Raffles' instructions.[1]

Raffles' instructions[edit]

It has been observed by the Supreme Government "that in the event of Singapore being permanently retained, there seems every reason to believe that it will become a place of considerable magnitude and importance, and it is essential that this circumstance should be constantly kept in mind, in regulating the appropriation of land. Every day's experience shews that the inconvenience and expense that may arise out of the want of such a forecast" and in this respect an economical and proper allotment of the ground intended to form the site of the principal town is an object of first importance, and one which under the present circumstance of the Settlement will not admit of delay.

Stamford Raffles, 4 November 1822

Raffles issued his set of instructions to the committee on 4 November 1822, some of which are as follows:[6]

  1. The area between the Old Lines (a ruined city wall of ancient Singapore still visible in Raffles' time, roughly where Stamford Road now lies) and the Singapore River including a space up to 200 yard east of the Old Lines (i.e. up to where Bras Basah Road is now located) would be reserved government use.
  2. The European area would be located to the east of the cantonment (the government area) as far as the ground that belonged to the Sultan.
  3. Raffles expected that the Chinese would form the largest community, a large area south west of the Singapore River would therefore be reserved for the Chinese except for an area intended to be used by European and other merchants. The Indians would be settled further up the river.
  4. The Bugis (who had already settled in Kampong Glam to the mouth of the Rochor River) and the Arabs would be allocated areas next to the Sultan's ground. Raffles did not believe that there would be large number of Malay settlers, but thought they may settle to the upper banks of the river and small bays and inlets.
  5. The sea front would be reserved for public purposes.
  6. In addition to allocating land, Raffles also gave other suggestions, for example where the market should be moved to (this would become the Telok Ayer Market), and that burial grounds should be placed some distance away from the town. Raffles also stipulated that the streets and buildings should be arranged in a uniform and regular manner, for example the streets should have a minimum width and intersect at right angle. He proposed that brick-and-tile building have a continuous sheltered public walkway at the front, which resulted in the distinctive five foot ways of the local architecture that would spread to other countries.[7]

Raffles' instructions were incorporated into the plan, although not all of these would materialise.[2] The committee consulted representatives from the Malay, Chinese, Bugis, Javanese, and Arab communities on the proposed resettlement of the population into their respective areas.[8] The plan was drawn up some time in December 1822 to January 1823, and was first published in an article by John Crawfurd as an engraving made in June 1828.[2]

Layout and effect of the plan[edit]

1825 map of Singapore, showing the layout of the colony at that time, with many roads shown in Jackson Plan as yet unbuilt

Overall layout[edit]

The plan is an idealised scheme of how Singapore may be arranged with the streets of the colony laid out for the large part in a grid pattern, but taking into account the curves of the seashore and rivers, as well as the topology of the hills. A map of 1825 shows that the actual layout of the town at that time was less regular, and the streets in grid pattern on the south side of the Singapore River (the Chinese kampong) shown in the Jackson Plan did not yet exist.[9] The area west of South Bridge Road was still an undeveloped marshy land in a survey conducted by Coleman in 1829 and published in 1836,[2][10] but had built up according to the maps of John Turnbull Thomson from 1846. The attempt to arrange the streets in a more regular pattern is also evident in the maps of 1836 and 1846.[11]

Map of Singapore in 1914, the layout is now more regular than the 1825 map although it does not correspond entirely to the Jackson Plan

Ethnic areas[edit]

The plan of Singapore would divide the town into ethnic functional subdivisions. Ethnic residential areas were to be segregated into four areas.

The European Town had residents who consisted of European traders, Eurasians and rich Asians. There was also the Chinese Kampong which is Chinatown for the ethnic Chinese, located in present-day Chinatown and south of the Singapore River. The India area, called Chulia Kampong, was located further up the river next to the Chinese zone (the Indians however would later spilled over into another area north of the river now called Little India). Kampong Glam consisted of Muslims, ethnic Malays and Arabs who had migrated to Singapore, and was further divided into three parts, for the Bugis, the Arabs and an area for the Sultan.

The division however appeared not to be strictly enforced, as may be indicated by the presence of Nagore Durgha, Al-Abrar and Jamae mosques in the Chinese Kampong.[12] A area marked "Kling Chapel" nearer to the Indian area was reserved for an Indian temple, although the Sri Mariamman Temple would be built within the Chinese zone. The concept of racial segregation would be later abandoned, however the distinction of each district is still noticeable to the present day.

Administrative and commercial zones[edit]

West of the European Town were administrative and commercial districts. Just west of the River, land was taken from a hill to reclaim a small portion of land which became the Commercial Square, which was later renamed Raffles Place in Raffles' honour. This section, together with the European Town, evolved into the present-day Downtown Core.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Bonny Tan. "Raffles Town Plan (Jackson Plan)". Singapore Infopedia. National Library Board. 
  2. ^ a b c d H. F. Pearson (July 1969). "Lt. Jackson's Plan of Singapore". Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. 42 (1 (215) Singapore 150th Anniversary Commemorative Issue): 161–165. 
  3. ^ Charles Burton Buckley (1902). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore. pp. 56–58. 
  4. ^ C.M. Turnbull (30 October 2009). A History of Modern Singapore, 1819-2005. NUS Press. p. 38. ISBN 978-9971694302. 
  5. ^ Kevin Khoo. "William Farquhar's Pragmatism: Another Perspective on Raffles Vision for Singapore". National Archives of Singapore. 
  6. ^ Charles Burton Buckley (1902). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore. pp. 81–86. 
  7. ^ Lim, Jon S.H. (1993). "The Shophouse Rafflesia: An Outline of its Malaysian Pedigree and its Subsequent Diffusion in Asia". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society,. LXVI Part 1: 47–66. ISSN 0126-7353. 
  8. ^ "Raffles Town Plan/Jackson Plan is Initiated". HistorySG. National Library Board. 
  9. ^ "Maps and Building Plans". National Archives of Singapore. 
  10. ^ "Map Of The Town And Environs Of Singapore". National Archives of Singapore. 
  11. ^ "Plan of Singapore Town and Adjoining Districts from Actual Survey by John Turnbull Thomson, Government Surveyor, Singapore". National Archives of Singapore. 
  12. ^ Edmund Waller (31 December 2001). Landscape Planning in Singapore. NUS Press. p. 24. ISBN 978-9971692384.