'The March of Methodism'-its Church and school in Singapore; Methodist Contribution to Singapore

William Fitzjones Oldham (1854-1937) arrived in Singapore in 1885 to establish the first Methodist Episcopal Church in Malaya and Singapore. On 1st march 1886 the first school was started with 13 pupils at 70 Amoy Street in a shophouse when Oldham had raised $6,300 from his Chinese friends and $6,000 from the Colonial Secretary McCabe. English was taught in the morning and Chinese in the afternoon in this school, 'the Chinese merchants undertaking to pay all current expenses, the missionary not charging for his time and labour'.

The enrolment gradually increased and when it reached 104 it was necessary to look for larger premises. The school was resited at Coleman Street on a land granted by the Municipality; a boarding school and a residence fro missionaries were also erected there.

To increase the enrolment, the principal of the school had to visit homes to invite pupils to join the school. Pupils traveled to school on foot, by bicycle, rickshaw or horse-carriage.

The Methodist Episcopal Church in Coleman Street was born on Sunday 22nd February 1885 when Oldham was appointed the pastor on a salary of $70 per mensem. Later he was also appointed as the chaplain to the British troops. This Church stood on the site of the present Anglo-Chinese School, Coleman Street. The architecture of the Church was in harmony with that of the Armenian Church and the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd nearby; it had a broad triangular top borne by noble pillars. It is 'toned down, Gothic Revival' with red bricks, Gothic tracery mullion details in white stone or stucco with impressive wooden cross beams.

The new Gothic Church at Canning Rise was completed in 1909. D.McLeod Craik, Swan and MacLaren were the architects. Renovations and additions were made to the building. On 7th January 1910 the name 'Wesley Church' replaced the 'Methodist Episcopal Church'.

The Methodist Church began to expand and soon Churches were established where services were held in Chinese, Malay (for the Straits Chinese) and Tamil. A number of girls' schools was also set up. A Tamil Boys' School was established opposite the present 'Tekka' market in Serangoon Road.

A continuation School was also added to the School at Coleman Street and was named Oldham Methodist School. In 1923 it was decided to build a new school at Cairnhill and in 1928 the building opened as a secondary school.

During the Japanese invasion of Malaya and Singapore the building at Cairnhill was damaged; there were foxholes and trenches and a tunnel ran round the entire building. With the Japanese Surrender the school reopened on 1 October 1945 after repairs were carried out with the help of Japanese prisoners of war.

Just before the fall of Singapore, Bishop Edwin F Lee and 22 American missionaries left Singapore on the advice of the American Consul but several remained in Singapore. Rev H.B. Amstutz (later Bishop) was a prisoner of war. He returned after captivity to re-establish the Church and Schools in Malaya and Singapore.

In 1950 the building was taken over by the government and it became the first teachers' Training College for Singapore. The school occupied the new premises at Barker Road.

The old Anglo-Chinese School Building at Cairnhill is now an Arts Centre. Its unique architecture is retained.