Raffles is a significant name in Singapore, and you will see several places that are called after the important man from Singapore’s history.
But who was Raffles? His full name was Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles and he was a British public figure who was heavily involved in overseas political and diplomatic affairs. He is often referred to as the founder of modern day Singapore, although he played a part in many other ventures across the globe. Back at home in the UK he was credited for the creation of London Zoo. He was also the Governor of the now Indonesian island of Java following his involvement in capturing the island from French and Dutch forces. He was also very influential in helping the British Empire to grow.
With regards to Singapore, it was Raffles who signed a treaty with the Malay Sultan, Sultan Hussein, that brought Singapore into the influence of Britain; it became a British overseas settlement in 1819. Singapore was of particular interest to Raffles as he saw lots of potential for establishing a highly strategic port. Although it was Raffles who signed the treaty, he left Singapore shortly afterwards and left another person to build the colony. The population of Singapore grew rapidly, but there were many problems in the early years. Raffles later returned and was not impressed with what he found. He embarked upon several different projects and plans to try and organise the country a little better and rid the communities of many of the social problems that were rife at that time.
His projects for Singapore included town planning and separate areas for different ethnic communities to live, the establishment of a free port, the institution of a magistrate to maintain law and order, the building of a school, and the construction of the first bridge to span the Singapore River.
One of the main attractions that you will notice in Singapore named in honour of Sir Raffles is the iconic and world-famous Raffles Hotel. The luxurious and elegant hotel first opened its doors back in 1887, although it was considerably smaller back then! It has been expanded and renovated since that time, and is one of the main buildings in Singapore that really embodies the country’s colonial past. The hotel was the first in the area to feature electrical ceiling fans and lighting and it was one of the main meeting places for members of high society in the past.
The hotel has many an interesting story … it was where the renowned Singapore Sling cocktail was invented, it was taken over by Japanese forces during the war, and it is reportedly the place where Singapore’s last wild tiger was shot dead!
Today, many people visit the hotel’s bar for a taste of times gone by and to relax with a cocktail. There is also an upmarket shopping mall next to the hotel.
Raffles Place is a part of the city. Located in the heart of the city it is home to some of Singapore’s tallest buildings. The area was planned to be at the very core of a large commercial centre and it was originally called Commercial Square. Interestingly, there used to be a hill where Raffles Place sits now – the earth was removed and used to create one of the country’s quays. The skyscraper that is called One Raffles Place is one of the tallest in Singapore.