In October 2020, I wrote about plans for a Sang Nila Utama Road in Bidadari Estate, an up-and-coming housing estate at the junction of Upper Serangoon Road and Upper Aljunied Road.
Sang Nila Utama Road will evoke the spirit of ancient Singapura’s first king, and modern Singapore’s first Malay-medium secondary school - the trio share the same name.
Almost two years on, Sang Nila Utama Road is going to open to vehicular traffic. In turn, a nearby road named Vernon Park will be permanently closed on 25 September - as I had predicted in my October 2020 post.
Vernon Park connects Upper Aljunied Road and Mount Vernon Road. Both Vernon Park and Mount Vernon Road were laid down in the 1950s; their names were lent by Royal Navy Admiral Edward Vernon (1684-1757, below).
Vernon Park provides access to and serves the Gurkha Cantonment in Mount Vernon Camp, built to house the training and residential facilities of the Gurkha Contingent and their families.
Most of Vernon Park is actually inside the Gurkha Cantonment. On the street directory, the segment inside the camp is labelled Vernon Park too. However, I do not know whether this is the reality on the ground, as I have never entered the camp, and probably never will.
Below is the entrance to the Gurkha Cantonment from Vernon Park. This is where the public Vernon Park ends and the rest of Vernon Park inside the camp begins.
Below is a 1979 street directory map of the area, showing the segments of Vernon Park open (blue) and closed (green) to public access today. Sang Nila Utama Secondary School was at the junction of Upper Aljunied Road and Vernon Park; it closed in 1988 and has been demolished.
The small segment of Vernon Park between Upper Aljunied Road and Mount Vernon Road is open to public access. This segment of road once served Mount Vernon Columbarium and Crematorium. The latter was Singapore’s first public crematorium, opened in 1962.
Change came when Bidadari Cemetery was exhumed by 2006 and replaced by Bidadari Park, and then developed into Bidadari Estate.
Because of the estate, the western part of Upper Aljunied Road was realigned to the south. The original stretch is being redeveloped into a heritage walk.
Mount Vernon Crematorium closed in 2004, while the columbarium closed in 2018. Both have been torn down.
As the land around the public part of Vernon Park was freed up, it became possible to build a new, wider road to straighten the two curves that are parts of Vernon Park and Mount Vernon Road. This new, wider road will be Sang Nila Utama Road.
However, Sang Nila Utama Road will be built in two stages, perhaps to allow time for the Gurkha Cantonment to replace the current entrance at Vernon Park.
When Sang Nila Utama Road opens in a week’s time, it will be a meandering road with two U bends (below). The bends will eventually be straightened.
Below is a present-day aerial view of the area, showing the former and realigned Upper Aljunied Road, the segments of Vernon Park to be expunged and inside the Gurkha Cantonment, and the soon-to-be-opened Sang Nila Utama Road with the two U bends. The dark blue dotted line is the segment of Sang Nila Utama Road still under construction, to replace the two U bends in the future.
Below is the present junction of Vernon Park and the realigned Upper Aljunied Road. This spot was where Sang Nila Utama Secondary School once stood. This short stretch of road will be renamed Sang Nila Utama Road in a week.
Just up ahead is the future Sang Nila Utama Road, opening in a week.
The public road that is Vernon Park is left over from another era - a narrow carriageway with one lane in either direction, surrounded by trees on one side and the imposing fence of the Gurkha Cantonment on the other.
Vernon Park, a few steps from the future Sang Nila Utama Road, facing east.
Heading east towards the entrance of the Gurkha Cantonment.
The former site of Mount Vernon Columbarium, now the site of a future funeral parlour complex, to be completed in 2025.
Vernon Park facing west.
As Sang Nila Utama Road is meandering, it meets Vernon Park again.
The junction of Vernon Park (left) and Sang Nila Utama Road (right). The short stretch of Vernon Park between this junction and the entrance to the Gurkha Cantonment (off-photo to the right) will be renamed Sang Nila Utama Road in a week.
Sang Nila Utama Road will be one of Singapore’s longer street names, hence the length of its name plate.
Let’s see how the area looks like in a year!