According to the Malay Annals (Sejarah Melayu) Raja Chulan a great king of South India encamped in Temasek on his voyage to conquer China. He abandoned his enterprise and later married a princess and their son was Sang Nila Utama who became ruler of the Indianesed Srivijaya Empire based in Sumatra. He took the title of Sri Tri Buana. When he landed in Temasek in 1297 he mistook an animal to be a lion and named the settlement Singapura meaning 'lion city'.

He built his palace on the hill nearby (Fort Canning) and fortified it; the hill became known as Bukit Larangan (the forbidden hill) because the ruler lived there and his subjects were forbidden from ascending the hill. It was only after 1819 (the year modern Singapore was founded by Stamford Raffles) that Bukit Larangan became known as Government Hill (Raffles built his house there) and in 1859 it was renamed Fort Canning after Viscount George Canning, Governor of India (1857 - 1862).

Bukit Larangan

Bukit Larangan was protected by a wall 16 feet broad at the base and about 9 feet high; it ended in a moat at the base of the hill which was protected on three sides - the salt marsh on the left, the sea in front and the wall on the right.

There was a monolith 10 feet and 10 feet and 2.5 feet thick with writing at the mouth of the Singapore River. It was a tragedy that this ancient piece of historical evidence was blown up by the British soon after the founding of Singapore. The writing on the monolith would have thrown some light on the early history of Temasek.

Archaeological work undertaken by the National Museum and the National University of Singapore shows evidence of ruins of buildings on the summit of the hill. They can be interpreted to be the remains of a Buddhist temple or Chandi and monasteries of Buddhist priest. The excavations unearthed Malay wares, pieces of Chinese porcelain, brass coins and other artifacts.

In 1822 Raffles built his own house on the Hill and therefore it became the first Government House in Singapore. Government House was a neat bungalow 100 feet by 50 feet deep with rough plank walls, Venetian windows and an attap roof. It was later substantially reconstructed and stood on the Government House in brick and tile after 1826. Coleman also extended the first Botanic Gardens on the North-East of the Hill and this covered the area now occupied by the Anglo-Chinese School, Coleman Street, the Armenian Church and the National Museum. Unfortunately the Botanic Gardens were abandoned in 1829 because of the lack of funds to maintain it.

The first Christian cemetery was established on the Hill which was now known as Government Hill; it ceased to be used in 1822 and the new one was consecrated in 1834.

Between 1923 and 1927 the old fort was demolished and what remains today is only the massive gateway.

A gun was fired from Fort Canning as a salute and to warn the public of fires in the Town; it was also a time gun fired at 5.00 a.m., 12 noon and 9 p.m. This ceased in 1896.

Battle Box

When World War I had started Singapore Based District at Fort Canning had arranged that in case of an emergency a big gun would be fired from the Hill. It was a signal for all units of armed forces to report to their respective headquarters at once; these included all units in the East and West coast, those in the Clubs and homes lying within a certain distance of Fort Canning. The gun was fired when the mutiny of Indian soldiers occurred in 1915 and all units reported to their headquarters including the Straits Settlements Volunteer Force which comprised Chinese, Malays, and Eurasian. These volunteers reported to the Drill Hall at Beach Road.

During the Japanese occupation Fort Canning became the Defence Headquarters of the Japanese Imperial Army headed by Major-General Kawamura.

In 1945 September the British returned and soon after occupied Fort Canning.

When Singapore was part of British from 1963 to 1965 Fort Canning was taken over by the Malaysian Armed Forces; the 4th Malaysian Infantry Brigade under Brigadier Alsagoff occupied the Fort.

After separation from Malaysia the Malaysian forces withdrew to Malaysia and the Singapore Armed Forces took over Fort Canning.

The first Singapore and Command Staff College was established in 1970 in the main administrative block (after extensive renovations) once occupied by Percival and Brigadier Alsagoff. It was officially opened by the Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew on 13 February, 1970. The author was appointed (the first Singaporean) to be a member of the Directing Staff of the College. The College later moved to Ayer Rajah and finally to its present premises in Seletar. See Battle Box of For Canning

Today Fort Canning has been converted into a Historical Park and most of the buildings have been converted for the Arts. What still remain on the Hill are the Old Gateway, the tombstone inscriptions, the Administrative Block, the old barracks, the underground reservoir and the bunkers.