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  FORT TANJONG KATONG SITE 2004-2005  
 

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Fort Tanjong Katong Photo Gallery

Maps and Plans of the Fort

1885 proposed upgrade to the fort, along with some of the first planned excavation pits (outlined in green). Pits not shown: "Mongolia," "Siberia," and "Uzbekistan."

Map showing complete artillery coverage for the cannon guns in Singapore in 1885.

Schematics of the 7 inch barrel gun used in the battery (1879) before the site was upgraded into a fort in 1885.

Site Documentation

We have made available some of the methods of documenting our excavation work below:

The site log book (PDF), updated to the 20th November, 2004, chronicles day to day excavations by the crew.

The Excavation Sheet (front page), focuses on the specifics of an excavation unit. This particular sheet is regarding FTK 18 (one of the units located in the bastion pit), and describes the layer, the type of artifacts found, and those who worked on the unit.

The back of the same excavation sheet allows for sketches and noting the positioning of artifacts and structures, as well as noting the inclusion of pictures and other relevant information.

A 3D wireframe of the bastion that took about 3 days to complete. The water dumpy is used to take depth measurements of structures in reference to the site datum (10 cm above the ground). This information is then relayed as 3D coordinates and plotted in VectorWorks to form the bastion's wireframe.

A map showing the Fort Tanjong excavations at Katong Park. (updated 19th July, 2005)

 

History of Fort Tanjong Katong

Construction on the Tanjong Katong battery started in 1879. As part of a series of defensive batteries and fortifications along the south coast of Singapore, it defended the eastern approaches to Singapore Harbor, Singapore Town and New (Keppel) Harbor. The defensive works at Tanjong Katong initially consisted of an elevated battery of three 7-inch muzzle-loading guns along with magazines and bombproof shelters built between the gun emplacements. The battery was surrounded by an escarpment of mangrove piles and a wet ditch measuring 100ft on the flanks.

In 1885 work began on upgrading the existing gun batteries in Singapore, and the three-gun battery at Tanjong Katong was replaced with a pair of more powerful and longer range breech loading 8 inch guns. Modifications and additional fortifications were made to strengthen the position and the Tanjong Katong battery was elevated to the status of a Fort.

Advances in military technology and lack of a military garrison to man the fort, along with the remoteness of the site which hindered supply and reinforcement, reduced the effectiveness of Fort Katong as a defense position. Barely 5 years after upgrading work was completed in 1888, it was suggested that Fort Tanjong Katong be demolished. The guns of Fort Tanjong Katong were never fired in anger. It was sporadically employed as a training camp for members of the Singapore Volunteer Artillery. Debate over the fort lingered on between the Colonial Defense Committee in London and the Local Defense Committee Singapore for about a decade. The fort was finally rendered obsolete and abandoned in 1901 when the guns were removed. The fort was demolished sometime after World War I (1918). Eventually the site became a public park.

Raising History, Planting Roots (A project by the Mountbatten CCC)

Present knowledge of the fort is based on a small set of historical records and eyewitness accounts. The fort’s impact on the local communities and the lives of the few soldiers who were garrisoned in isolation at this relatively inaccessible defensive position in the 19th century have not been studied. Archaeological survey and excavations will contribute to the understanding of local ways of life during the 19th century, the military significance of the site, and defensive concerns of the colonial government of that period. By studying the fort’s design, we will be able to compare it to other forts built in the British Empire during the same period. We may discover local modifications unique to this site.

Archaeological research can also add another dimension to the richness of the local heritage in the Katong district. The involvement of the community in this project through grassroots organizations, residents, and educational institutions of the Katong District will enable the public and students not only to contribute to the understanding of Singapore colonial history but also to foster the community’s sense of belonging and ownership of local heritage.

The archaeological excavation at the Fort Tanjong Katong site provides a unique opportunity for residents of the Katong district and beyond to participate actively in uncovering the remains of the old fort. Large numbers of volunteers ranging from school students to housewives, retirees, working professionals on their off-days have labored tirelessly through the mud, beating rain and scorching sun in assisting the archaeologists on site and discovering first hand a part of Singapore’s heritage 125 years in the making.

The Raffles Museum of Biodiversity at the National University of Singapore assisted with the analysis marine ecofacts and corals that uncovered at the site, and some 36 bags of samples have been deposited with the museum (article).

Read the Preliminary Site Report (v1.2, PDF, 2.27mb, 7th May, 2006) outlines the research process, preliminary findings, variety of volunteers, and a list of the archaeology research team involved.

Updates - 7th May, 2006

The project at Tanjong Katong has ended. Presently the Preservation of Monuments Board and Urban Redevelopment Authority are assessing the Fort Tanjong Katong's contention for National Monument status.

For more details regarding this project please contact the Mountbatten Citizen's Consultative Committee at (+65)63447387 / (+65)63445768.