A commemoration to a Singapore who was responsible for the supply of fresh water to the Town of Singapore  and erection of the Singapore Water Works.

Tan Kim Seng came from Malacca to Singapore in 1840. He had a humble beginning but through perseverance rose to be a very wealthy man. He founded Kim Seng and Company, a trading house on Boat Quay. Tan Kim Seng was a leader among the Chinese; he was often asked to settle disputes among them.

On 18 November 1857 Tan Kim Seng offered a sum of $13,000 for a supply of water to the Town from Bukit Timah. This water was to be carried through pipes on the main roads in Singapore.  The Secretary of State for India praised the public spiritedness of Tan Kim Seng.

Plans were made and various schemes had been suggested but nothing was actually done with regard to the water supply. There were meetings of the Municipal Council and much correspondence with the government on the subject sbout the unnecessary delay in implementation. Several places were proposed for reservoirs which included the New Harbour, Bukit Timah and Thomson Road.

During this period especially in 1862 Singapore had experienced severe droughts and no plans had yet been implemented for water supply into the Town. Money was, however, spent on a lot of earthenware drain pipes which were of no use for the project. A number of these pipes was laid at Kandang Kerbau. There was even an advertisement in the local paper stating that unless a large quantity of water pipes on board a vessel in the harbour had been taken delivery, the captain of the ship would get rid of them in the manner he desired. Money was also wasted by the Government Engineer who hoped that water would run uphill through pipes.

In recognition of Tan Kim Seng’s farsightedness and generosity the Municipal Council erected in 1882 a large fountain in Fullerton Square in front of the Exchange Building (Fullerton Building)  to commemorate him. On 19 May 1882 an opening ceremony was performed by the President of the Municipal Commission, Mr Thomas Scott, in the presence of the Chief Justice Sir Thomas Sidgreaves, the Colonial Secretary Sir Cecil Clementi Smith and Tan Kim Seng’s son, Tan Beng Swee. Scott paid tribute to Tan : “Without Tan Kim Seng’s generous gift, probably our water supply would have been a thing of the future instead of an accomplished fact.”

The fountain was built by Andrew Handyside and Co Ltd, Derby and London. Around the fountain is inscribed the following : “This fountain is erected by the Municipal Commissioners in commemoration of Mr Tan Kim Seng’s donation towards the cost of the Singapore Water Works.”

In 1925 the fountain was moved to the Esplanade (Queen Elizabeth Walk) next to the “Satay Club” when Fullerton Building was being constructed.

Singaporeans are deeply indebted to Tan Kim Seng.