St Andrew's Mission Hospital (5 Kadayanallur Street)

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Located at 5 Kadayanallur Street along Erskine Road, the former St Andrew’s Mission Hospital building was opened in 1923 and was last used as a corporate office.[1] Not only was it considered an architectural milestone for Singapore, but it also helped many people who lived through the tumultuous parts of Singapore's history. The building is currently managed by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA).

History[edit | edit source]

Dispensary[edit | edit source]

The St Andrew's Mission Hospital circa 1923. Photo from St Andrew's Mission Hospital.

St Andrew’s Mission Hospital started off as a dispensary, which was founded by Dr Charlotte Ferguson-Davie, the wife of Right Reverend Charles Ferguson-Davie who was the first Anglican bishop of Singapore.[2] Being a medical missionary, Dr Charlotte had a noble mission of ministering to the physical and spiritual needs of women and children. As such, a humble dispensary was established at 220 Bencoolen Street on 18 October 1913, made possible with the donations from St Andrew’s Cathedral and other donors.[3] Through her previous experiences in Malacca, Charlotte had observed that Asian women avoided seeking medical treatment from male doctors. In order to reach out to them, the St Andrew’s Mission Dispensary had an all-female staff providing free services to those who could not afford medical care.[4][5] As the medical-officer-in-charge, Charlotte worked with two other expatriate doctors, G.E. Bartlett and J.A. Lyall, along with an interpreter, Bible reader, as well Chinese, Indian and European doctors and nurses.[6]


Four months later in 1914, a second dispensary was established on Upper Cross Street, serving the impoverished women and children who were living in Chinatown.[7] Even though both dispensaries served patients of all races, there were reportedly very few Malay women. In order to ensure greater medical coverage, C. Thompson, the first sister-in-charge, would make weekly visits to the Malay kampongs where the women lived. For greater convenience, a third dispensary was opened in Pasir Panjang in 1915, where many of the Malay kampungs were located.[8] However, this dispensary was closed four years later.[9]

Pre-war: Mission hospital[edit | edit source]

The overwhelming need for affordable healthcare and high mortality rates in Singapore called for an expansion of the establishment. With the donations from philanthropists and other organisations such as St Andrew’s Cathedral and the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, the foundation stone of the St Andrew’s Mission Hospital was laid on 14 August 1922, by Madam Tan Teck Neo, founder of the Chinese Women’s Association.[10] On 22 May 1923, St Andrew’s Mission Hospital along Erskine Road was opened by Lady Guillemard, wife of the Governor of the Straits Settlements.[11][12] Currently, the exact location of the building is at 5 Kadayanallur Street, after the street was named after the Singapore Kadayanallur Muslim League in 1952.[13]


The hospital had 60 beds and was made up of outpatient departments, main wards, an operating theatre and a delivery room on the ground floor, while the second floor was occupied by the staff quarters and a chapel.[14] In 1924, the hospital started a specialised eye clinic for abandoned blind children.[15] As the hospital was near Chinatown’s brothels, a clinic for Sexually Transmitted Diseases was opened in the same year, providing medical care for women with venereal diseases.[16] An antenatal clinic was also established in 1933.[17]


Medical missionary Patricia Elliott became the medical-officer-in-charge for the hospital after Charlotte and her husband left Singapore for Africa in 1927.[18] In 1934, St Andrew’s Mission Hospital was incorporated by the colonial government under the St Andrew’s Mission Hospital Ordinance.[19]

During the Japanese occupation of Singapore, the St Andrew's Mission Hospital building was occupied by a Japanese-run hospital named Shimin Byoin. Photo from Syonan Interlude by Ho Boon Liat.

Japanese occupation: Shimin Byoin[edit | edit source]

The hospital was evacuated during the bombing of Singapore in December 1941 and the building had also been damaged by a bomb.[20] During the Japanese Occupation between 1942 and 1945, St Andrew’s Mission Hospital remained closed as it was in the vicinity of a gas storage facility and short of staff. However, it continued to provide outpatient services at clinics managed by local doctor Ho Boon Liat and his wife.[21]


In its premises on Erskine Road, the Japanese ran a civilian hospital for women and children and the building was renamed as Shimin Byoin.[22] According to Dr Ho’s recount in his book, the ‘Syonan Interlude’, some operations were performed without anaesthesia as the stock had been depleted before the end of the first year of the Japanese occupation.[23]


After the end of World War II, KK Hospital and Tan Tock Seng Hospital were designated to be a gynaecological and tuberculosis treatment centre respectively. St Andrew’s Mission Hospital then decided that it should focus on caring for children aged 14 and below.


As the Erskine Road premises was near a gas utility installation, the hospital moved to Tanjong Pagar in 1949 and the building was left behind and used as a government medical supply storehouse.[24] It stocked medical supplies for the Singapore General Hospital from 1946 to 1967.[25] It was also a frequent target of thieves who would steal drugs like morphine. From 1964 to 1998, the building was then turned into Maxwell Road Outpatient Dispensary, distributing medicine to those who lived within the neighbourhood.[26][27]

Architecture[edit | edit source]

The upper floor of the old St Andrew's Mission Hospital building circa 2018. Photo from The Long and Winding Road.

The building, which is a State Property managed by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), is currently not occupied. However, between 2012 and 2017, it was used as the corporate office of Singapore’s oldest department store Tangs, while areas at Tang Plaza were undergoing refurbishments.[28]


As of 2019, it has been marked for residential and commercial use and does not have conservation status. SLA will be working with government agencies to put the property up for adaptive reuse or long-term plans.[29]

Design[edit | edit source]

Covering a total of 675 square metres, the former St Andrew’s Hospital building is a wedge-shaped three-storey property designed by Harry Robinson.[30] Harry Robinson was an architect from Swan & Maclaren, the architectural firm behind the Raffles Hotel, St Andrew’s Cathedral, Victoria Memorial Hall and the colonial black and white houses in Singapore.[31][32]


The building is uniquely shaped to the triangular piece of land it stands on and features a distinctive triangular airwell. According to architectural historian Julian Davison, it is possibly the first Modernist building in Singapore, making it a landmark in Singapore architecture.[33]

Oldest electric lift in Singapore[edit | edit source]

The building is also home to the oldest electric lift in Singapore. It was installed in 1929 and built by British company Smith, Major and Stevens, an elevator manufacturer that operated from 1770 to 1930.[34][35] The vintage lift features a collapsible iron gate, wooden panelling and steel weights.[36]


The elevator was installed to treat children suffering from tuberculosis of the spine and bones. The rare disease was first recorded in the year of the hospital’s opening in 1923.[37] In 1936, there were reportedly about 12 children who had been hospitalised for tuberculosis.[38]


It was believed that elements such as fresh air and sunshine would improve the conditions of the young tuberculosis patients.[39] Before the lift was installed, nurses had to painstakingly carry the children up the stairs to the rooftop. In 1929, the hospital collected enough funds to finally install the elevator.[40] It was still in working order up till March 2018.[41]

References / Citations[edit | edit source]

  1. Lim, Jerome. “The hospital at Mount Erskine and what may now be Singapore’s oldest lift”. The Long Winding Road. May 27, 2018. Accessed on 25 June 2019. Retrieved from: https://thelongnwindingroad.wordpress.com/2018/05/27/the-hospital-at-mount-erskine-and-what-may-now-be-singapores-oldest-lift/
  2. “History”. St. Andrew’s Mission Hospital. Accessed on 25 June 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.samh.org.sg/history/
  3. "St. Andrew's Medical Mission". The Straits Times. October 3, 1913. Accessed on 28 June 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  4. "ST. ANDREW'S MEDICAL MISSION SINGAPORE.". The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser. January 21, 1914. Accessed on 28 June 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  5. "St. Andrew's Medical Mission". The Straits Times. October 3, 1913. Accessed on 28 June 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  6. "St. Andrew's Medical Mission". The Straits Times. October 3, 1913. Accessed on 28 June 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  7. "ST. ANDREW'S MEDICAL MISSION SINGAPORE.". The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser. January 21, 1914. Accessed on 28 June 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  8. Ho, Stephanie. “Pasir Panjang”. Singapore Infopedia. July 8, 2016. Accessed on 25 June 2019. Retrieved from: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_2016-07-08_143420.html
  9. Lim, Irene. “St Andrew’s Mission Hospital”. Singapore Infopedia. February 27, 2015. Accessed on 25 June 2019. Retrieved from: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_374_2005-01-27.html
  10. "ST ANDREW'S MISSION HOSPITAL". Malaya Tribune. May 22, 1923. Accessed on 28 June 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  11. “History”. St. Andrew’s Mission Hospital. Accessed on 25 June 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.samh.org.sg/history/
  12. "ST ANDREW'S MEDICAL MISSION". The Straits Times. May 22, 1923. Accessed on 28 June 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  13. Lim, Jerome. “The hospital at Mount Erskine and what may now be Singapore’s oldest lift”. The Long Winding Road. May 27, 2018. Accessed on 25 June 2019. Retrieved from: https://thelongnwindingroad.wordpress.com/2018/05/27/the-hospital-at-mount-erskine-and-what-may-now-be-singapores-oldest-lift/
  14. "ST ANDREW'S MEDICAL MISSION". The Straits Times. May 22, 1923. Accessed on 28 June 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  15. "St. Andrew's Mission Hospital". The Straits Times. April 23, 1924. Accessed on 28 June 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  16. Ng, Desmond, Say, Xiangyu. “The forgotten hospital off Maxwell Road”. Channel News Asia. April 19, 2019. Accessed on 25 June 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/cnainsider/hospital-maxwell-road-modernist-st-andrews-mission-11460442
  17. Lim, Irene. “St Andrew’s Mission Hospital”. Singapore Infopedia. February 27, 2015. Accessed on 25 June 2019. Retrieved from: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_374_2005-01-27.html
  18. Lim, Irene. “St Andrew’s Mission Hospital”. Singapore Infopedia. February 27, 2015. Accessed on 25 June 2019. Retrieved from: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_374_2005-01-27.html
  19. “Saint Andrew’s Mission Hospital Ordinance”. Singapore Statutes Online. March 30, 1987. Accessed on 25 June 2019. Retrieved from: https://sso.agc.gov.sg/Act/SAMHO1934
  20. CNA Insider. “The Forgotten Hospital Off Maxwell Road”. April 18, 2019. Accessed on 25 June 2019. YouTube. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQjTFrCVqzo&t=86s
  21. Lim, Irene. “St Andrew’s Mission Hospital”. Singapore Infopedia. February 27, 2015. Accessed on 25 June 2019. Retrieved from: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_374_2005-01-27.html
  22. Lim, Jerome. “The hospital at Mount Erskine and what may now be Singapore’s oldest lift”. The Long Winding Road. May 27, 2018. Accessed on 25 June 2019. Retrieved from: https://thelongnwindingroad.wordpress.com/2018/05/27/the-hospital-at-mount-erskine-and-what-may-now-be-singapores-oldest-lift/
  23. Ng, Desmond, Say, Xiangyu. “The forgotten hospital off Maxwell Road”. Channel News Asia. April 19, 2019. Accessed on 25 June 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/cnainsider/hospital-maxwell-road-modernist-st-andrews-mission-11460442
  24. "ST. ANDREW'S TO ACCEPT IN-PATIENTS". The Singapore Free Press. January 7, 1949. Accessed on 28 June 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  25. CNA Insider. “The Forgotten Hospital Off Maxwell Road”. April 18, 2019. Accessed on 25 June 2019. YouTube. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQjTFrCVqzo&t=86s
  26. "New dispensary". The Straits Times. September 26, 1964. Accessed on 28 June 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  27. Ng, Desmond, Say, Xiangyu. “The forgotten hospital off Maxwell Road”. Channel News Asia. April 19, 2019. Accessed on 25 June 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/cnainsider/hospital-maxwell-road-modernist-st-andrews-mission-11460442
  28. Ng, Desmond, Say, Xiangyu. “The forgotten hospital off Maxwell Road”. Channel News Asia. April 19, 2019. Accessed on 25 June 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/cnainsider/hospital-maxwell-road-modernist-st-andrews-mission-11460442
  29. CNA Insider. “The Forgotten Hospital Off Maxwell Road”. April 18, 2019. Accessed on 25 June 2019. YouTube. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQjTFrCVqzo&t=86s
  30. “Saint Andrew’s Mission Hospital Ordinance”. Singapore Statutes Online. March 30, 1987. Accessed on 25 June 2019. Retrieved from: https://sso.agc.gov.sg/Act/SAMHO1934
  31. Ng, Desmond, Say, Xiangyu. “The forgotten hospital off Maxwell Road”. Channel News Asia. April 19, 2019. Accessed on 25 June 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/cnainsider/hospital-maxwell-road-modernist-st-andrews-mission-11460442
  32. Lim, Jerome. “The hospital at Mount Erskine and what may now be Singapore’s oldest lift”. The Long Winding Road. May 27, 2018. Accessed on 25 June 2019. Retrieved from: https://thelongnwindingroad.wordpress.com/2018/05/27/the-hospital-at-mount-erskine-and-what-may-now-be-singapores-oldest-lift/
  33. CNA Insider. “The Forgotten Hospital Off Maxwell Road”. April 18, 2019. Accessed on 25 June 2019. YouTube. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQjTFrCVqzo&t=86s
  34. "ST. ANDREW'S MISSION HOSPITAL". Malaya Tribune. August 20, 1929. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  35. Ng, Desmond, Say, Xiangyu. “The forgotten hospital off Maxwell Road”. Channel News Asia. April 19, 2019. Accessed on 25 June 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/cnainsider/hospital-maxwell-road-modernist-st-andrews-mission-11460442
  36. Zaccheus, Melody. “Story of a lift nearing 90”. The Straits Times. May 27, 2018. Accessed on 25 June 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/story-of-a-lift-nearing-90
  37. Ng, Desmond, Say, Xiangyu. “The forgotten hospital off Maxwell Road”. Channel News Asia. April 19, 2019. Accessed on 25 June 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/cnainsider/hospital-maxwell-road-modernist-st-andrews-mission-11460442
  38. "TUBERCULOSIS IN SINGAPORE". Malaya Tribune. February 22, 1936. Accessed on 28 June 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  39. "ST ANDREW'S MEDICAL MISSION". The Straits Times. May 22, 1923. Accessed on 28 June 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  40. "ST. ANDREW'S MISSION HOSPITAL". Malaya Tribune. August 20, 1929. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  41. Ng, Desmond, Say, Xiangyu. “The forgotten hospital off Maxwell Road”. Channel News Asia. April 19, 2019. Accessed on 25 June 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/cnainsider/hospital-maxwell-road-modernist-st-andrews-mission-11460442