Friday, August 17, 2007
History Project CT 5 : George Dromgold Coleman
The birth and growing up years.
George Dromgold Coleman was born in Drogheda country, Louth, in Ireland.
His mother’s family were famous merchants and his father, James Coleman was a merchant as well. At the age of 19 in the year 1815, he left Ireland and trained to be an architect in Calcutta, and then in 1820, he moved on to Batavia.
He was married in the year 1829 with a Dutch-Eurasian lady, Takoye Manuk and they had a daughter, Meda Elizabeth Coleman on 10 March.
When his daughter was 8 years old, she was christened by the first Church of St. Andrew on the 30th July 1837. It happened to be the church that George Coleman designed it.
He got married to Maria Frances Vernon who was aged 21 in London on 17th September 1842. 27 December 1843, she bore a son in Singapore , named George Vernon Coleman.
Contribution to Singapore.
In June 1822, Coleman left Batavia for Singapore, four months of waiting upon arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles’ return to Singapore from Bencoolen. Meanwhile, he designed a Residency House, which caught Raffles’s attention who then asked him to design a garrison church.
Coleman received fees for both designs, and Raffles built the Residency in 1822, at the top of Bukit Larangan now named Fort Canning. The building was later renamed the Government House. The design of the garrison church submitted on 7 November 1822, was approved shortly, but it took George Coleman more than ten years to build this first church for the European community in Singapore.He was therefore the first Government Superintendent of Public Works in 1833, a position which made him Superintendent of Convicts. He then constructed the North and South Bridge Roads.
With the construction of a number of well-known buildings with a particular slant toward Palladian and Georgian architecture, he has reflected his great skills as an architect. His many achievements include the construction of many prominent buildings with existing ones like the Parliament House, which is also the oldest building in Singapore; Armenian Church of St. Gregory; Caldwell's House was the start of the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus buildings, the original Telok Ayer Market and two remaining monuments in Fort Canning Old Christian Cemetery.
Despite the extensive activities he had, he also took on responsibilities of a publisher in partnership with William Napier and they established the Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser Newspaper which was first issued in October 1835.
After his trip to Europe and Ireland, he came back to Singapore on 25th November 1843 and had plans of being a permanent resident in Singapore. However not too long after, he was down with a fever due to the exposure of the sun and he soon passed away. He was probably one of the oldest residents in Singapore at the time of his death on 27th March 1844. Coleman Street and Coleman Bridge are named after him.
1815 : Coleman went to Calcutta and started training as an architect at Fort William.
1820 : He spent nearly two years in Batavia, as surveyor of large sugar plantations in the interior, he designed private buildings and sugar mills and, erected machinery for sugar milling.
1822 : Came to Singapore in June 1822 and designed a Residency House on speculation which Raffles built in November 1822, completing it in January 1823. It became the Government House until it was demolished in 1859 to make way for colonial military occupation, after which the hill was renamed Fort Canning.
1823 : In June, Raffles departed from Singapore for the last time, and Coleman went back to Java about the same time. Staying for about two and a half years and busy with extensive agricultural speculation, he constructed large embankments and reservoirs for the irrigation of ricelands. Also surveyed sugar plantations and developed schemes for buildings on sugar estates.
1825: Coleman returned to Singapore because of troubles between Dutch and native Javanese.
26 Jan 1826 : Coleman was given his first important commission -- designing a large Palladian house for David Skene Napier.
1826 : He next designed and built a palatial brick residence for John Argyle Maxwell which Maxwell never occupied, renting it first before selling it to the Government. The Coleman Mansion was completed in July 1827, and it became a Court House complex, housing Government Offices and a Recorder's Office. The building was sold to Government on 26 October 1841 for 15,600 Spanish Dollars. The original form of the Court House can only be seen in early paintings and photographs, but it survives to this day in the core of Singapore's present Parliament House, although much altered.
Jun 1827: Coleman was employed as a Revenue Surveyor and first surveyed land titles issued mostly to cover shop-house lots in the town.
1828 : Designed and built his own residence which was completed in May 1829, and later known as "Coleman House" on No. 3 Coleman Street. This was demolished in December 1965, and the site is now occupied by the 21-storey Peninsula Hotel and Shopping Complex.
1829 : As Topographical Surveyor, he surveyed in minute detail the islands that would form the new harbour of the port; all the shoals, slopes and heights of the hills along the coast for the possible fortification of the harbour. This survey resulted in the first comprehensive map of the Town and environs in 1836. Plans for the town were approved by the East India Company in London in 1843.
19 Oct 1833 : Appointed the first Government Superintendent of public Works, and North and South Bridge Roads were constructed under his jurisdiction between 1833-1835.
1834 : Designed the Armenian Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator, which was completed in 1835
1835 : Designed and built the first Church of St. Andrew's, completed by 1837
1835 : Built an iron suspension bridge across Kallang river, imported in sections from a foundry in England.
Oct 1835: With William Napier, established the Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser Newspaper
May 1836 : Coleman presented plans and cost estimates to complete the badly constructed, unfinished ruins of the central building of the Singapore Institution, first built by Lieutenant Philip Jackson in 1823. Coleman's plans were accepted, and under his directions, the restoration and extension of the Singapore Institution was completed in December 1837 and the building became ready for occupation. The first wing extension was completed in May 1839, with the second wing completed at the end of 1841. The Institution was renamed Raffles Institution and remained there until it was demolished in 1972.
1840 : Designed a bridge with a brick structure of nine arches, costing $8,690, and later called Coleman Bridge.
1840-1841 : Designed and built a house for H. C.Caldwell. Caldwell's House was sold to Rev. Fr. Jean-Marie Beurel for $4,000 which was the start of the Convent complex (CHIJ) in Bras Basah Road/Victoria Street in 1852.
25 Jul 1841: Left Singapore for Europe and then to London after 15 years continuous work on the island. However, unhappy in Europe, he sailed back to Singapore via Calcutta, arriving on 25 November 1843.
1842-1843 : Baba Yeo Kim Swee's godown was designed by Coleman.
27 Mar 1844 : After a short illness, George Coleman dies, aged 48, and was buried at the Old Christian Cemetery at Fort Canning.
Unfortunately, George Coleman illness caused him the pass away at the age of 48. Although he has already passed away, his great architecture skills are admired by many. Buildings which he has designed will leave memories behind for people.
Jochebed, Chiyou and Szehui
George Dromgold Coleman's grave.