Beginnings of the expansion of Roman Catholicism and Catholic education in Singapore.

Site on which stood the first Roman Catholic Church in Singapore.

St Joseph's Institution was founded by Father Jean-Marie Beurel who arrived in Singapore at the time when the Chinese were building the Thian Hock Keng Temple in Telok Ayer Street.

As early as 1833 the Catholics worshipped in a small chapel 20 metres by 10 metres in Bras Basah Road. Father Beurel during his 30 years of service to Singapore built the Church of the Good Shepherd, the St Joseph's Institution and the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus. To meet the cost of these buildings and land he paid a proportion of his own personal income.

In 1847 Father Beurel wrote to his Queen Marie-Amelia for support for his projects in Singapore for both personnel and paintings.

The centre section of St Joseph's Institution was designed by Brother Lothaire and was opened in 1867 and the wings of the institution was planned by Brother Nain and built around 1900 but St Joseph's Institution was started in 1852 with 3 Brothers and the enrolment by 1900 had reached 426. The growth of the School was attributed to Brother Michael Noctor, the Governor of the Straits Settlements Sir John Anderson, Tan Jiak Kim and Charles Benedict Noin the priest of the Church of the Good Shepherd. The Institution did extremely well academically for in 1905 both the Queen's Scholarships were awarded to its students.

For the expansion of the Institution, money was raised from various sources and one who stands out was Tan Jiak Kim, a prominent resident and chairman of the appeal committee; the donated $14,000 in the first year of the appeal.

The staff comprised Brothers of different nationalities; in 1933 there were French, Germans, Chinese, Eurasians and a Bengali. It is interesting to note that when the Institution began students did not wear school uniforms; they wore a variety of attire of complete suits called 'baju tutup'.

During the Battle for Singapore all schools were closed in Singapore and St Joseph's Institution suffered from Japanese bombing - the centre of the inner courtyard and a classroom were hit. Miraculously there were no casualties. The Institution was also used by the military authorities as a hospital to receive military casualties. Forty-two classrooms were converted into words and the Map Room into an operation theatre for amputation of legs and arms to save the lives of the soldiers especially the survivors of the battleships, 'Prince of Wales' and 'Repulse' which were sunk in the South China Sea on 10 December 1941. At that time at St Joseph's Institution 'the human had collapsed, the Divine shone.'

During the Japanese Occupation (1942-1945) for a period, the Institution became temporary barracks for Japanese soldiers. Classes began under the new name of Bras Basah Boy's School which initially admitted boys from Standard VI to Standard IX but in May 1942 it was converted into a primary school. Classes were conducted on ethnic lines; separate classes were held for Chinese, Indian, Malay and mixed groups. Subject taught included singing, gymnastics, drama, handicrafts, drawing, gardening and Japanese Language. Training classes for teachers were also conducted there.

St Joseph's Institution began to function normally after the return of the British in 1945. Between January and April 1946 Raffles Institution occupied the school premises in the afternoon while Raffles Institution was temporarily taken over by the British military authorities.

Today St Joseph's Institution occupies new buildings in Malcolm Road. The old St Joseph's Institution will be converted into an Arts Centre. The school today is an independent school but the spirit of the founder of this Institution still pervades it.