A reminder to Singapore that we enjoy a very high degree of health and medical care; in early Singapore many died of malaria and cholera epidemic. The tombstones remind us of those who died at an early age because of these epidemics.
The tombstone of George Dromgold Coleman, (is still here) first government architect - left his mark on Singapore's architecture.

The earliest Christian cemetery was close to the flag-staff on top of Government Hill (Fort Canning). This cemetery ceased to be used by the end of 1822; all traces of this burial ground have also disappeared except the inscriptions on tombstones now embedded in the wall surrounding it.

The new cemetery was consecrated by Bishop Daniel Wilson, the Bishop of Calcutta on 4 December 1834 and was ready for use in 1835. This cemetery was a burial ground for members of the Anglican Church and other Protestants. In 1835 the Roman Catholics were allocated the southern half of the cemetery and the line demarcating Protestant and Roman Catholic graves was a brick wall with two arches constructed in 1846. However, this demarcation was not strictly adhered to until 1845. Two mortuary chapels stood on either side of the entrance to the cemetery.

The north gate to the cemetery was designed by Captain Charles Edward Faber, the Superintending Engineer of the Straits Settlements.

The earliest grave marked by the tombstones now embedded in the wall surrounding the old cemetery is that John C. Collingwood of the ship 'Susan'; the tombstone was erected in 1821.

Prominent persons who were buried in the cemetery included George Dromgold Coleman, the first Government Architect, Superintendent of Public Works and Executive Officer of the Convicts and Surveyor. Coleman was also a building contractor and he surveyed the islets for the new Keppel Harbour. Coleman was an Irishman. He was engaged by Sir Stamford Raffles to build Raffles' House (the first Government House) in Fort Canning in 1823. The house was built with timber and later it was reconstructed in brick and tile in neoclassical style. The old Government House looked so fragile that the early residents of Singapore always looked up in the morning to see if it was still there or blown off by the wind!

Coleman built other buildings in Singapore; these included the Old Court House (now Parliament House), the first St Andrew's Church (between 1835 and 1837), the Armenian Church (1834) and the original Raffles Institution. Coleman also built his own house at No. 3 Coleman Street which was demolished in December 1965 and is the site now occupied by the Peninsula Hotel. His house was earlier converted to a hotel (London Hotel).

Coleman left Singapore on 25 July 1841 after having served Singapore for 15 years. His returned to Singapore in 1843. On 27 March 1844 Coleman died at the age of 48 after a short illness and was buried in Government Hill. A conspicuous monument was raised at his tomb and it still stands as a tribute to the architect to whom the pioneers of Singapore owe so much. The inscription on the tombstone commissioned by his widow reads as follows:

Far many years the
Superintendent of Public Works
In this Settlement
The important duties of which Department
He was acknowledged to have discharged with zeal
and ability
While the many public improvements
Which he originated and carried out into effect
Will long attest the value of his services

Coleman's widow eventually married William Napier, the first law agent in Singapore.

Others buried in the old cemetery were members of the civil service, and early pioneers including Chinese Christians.

The gravestones and memorials were imported from Calcutta, India. Tombs were mostly constructed of brickwork and plaster and many inscriptions cut in granite. A Chief Justice of Singapore, a Russian Consul, the Post Master General and few others were buried in the cemetery. These tombstones now stand close to the road at Canning Rise.

By 1863 the entire cemetery was taken up and the tombstones were falling to pieces. In 1865 the bodies were exhumed and reburied in Bukit Timah Road near Newton Circus site agreed to by the Municipal Commission. The memorials and tablets are embedded in the north and south walls surrounding the old cemetery in Fort Canning.

The cemetery at Newton Circus was later converted into a public park. The bodies were once again exhumed and reburied in the Christian Cemetery in Chua Chu Kang.

Today the old cemetery is part of the Fort Canning History Park. Young Singaporeans reading the obituaries inscribed in the wall will realise that many people died young in early Singapore because disease. How fortunate we are today living in a clean Singapore with excellent medical service!