This was what Tampines looked like in the 1980s

Tampines was really spelt as 'Tampenis' last time.

Belmont Lay | April 6, 2017 @ 05:20 pm

Tampines in the 1980s was barren.

So barren it looks like parts of underdeveloped Punggol today.

The National Heritage Board has put up three photos on April 6 showing the iconic Tampines Round Market & Food Centre in its infancy as part of its throwback series.

According to the NHB, the round market and the surrounding shophouses were completed by the HDB in 1983, one of the earliest parts of the estate to be built.

Since then, it has been a landmark when Tampines was gradually developed as a satellite town from the 1980s.

Among the first stallholders there were 72 hawkers from Toa Payoh Lorong 2, where a market was demolished to make way for the Mass Rapid Transit line.

This area quickly became a commercial and social hub for the town in its early decades, with banks, shops of various stripes and other amenities being established around the market

Residents familiar with the area will recall the abject disappointment collectively felt whenever the market was closed or stallholders took a day off.

Tampines before it was developed was an area used for sand quarrying.

Farmers and villagers in scattered squatter settlements in the area had to be cleared out and the barren landscape flattened as a result of sand quarrying which left behind undulating hillocks and deep craters.

At its peak, there were more than 26 sand quarries in the area. After the high plains in the vicinity were cut away to further level the area, 45 million cubic metres of sand was later used as fill material for the East Coast Reclamation project.

Once Tampines was built up, it became the third largest new town in Singapore by area, after Bedok and and Jurong West. It is home to about 240,000 HDB residents.

Moreover, Tampines was originally named after a highly-valued timber tree tempinis, which were abundant in the area.

In the early days, there were several variations of the name Tampines, such as Tampinis, Tempines, Tampenis and Tampenes, that appeared in maps and newspapers. The name tampenis, in particular, was commonly used in Kedah as a reference to the tree.

In 1939, after consulting the Malay Union in an effort to standardise the spelling, the Singapore Rural Board began erecting new street signs bearing the name Tampines.

Although the spelling had changed, the pronunciation of the name remained the same — which was thought to be confusing to Europeans who might believe there are pines in Singapore.

Tampenis was also casually used in books and newspapers until the early eighties, when the construction of Tampines New Town started.

But by then people perhaps realised the old name was not very appropriate for the new upcoming housing estate.


Related article:

MRT breakdown leads to spelling breakdown as ‘Tampines’ becomes ‘Tampenis’


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About Belmont Lay

Belmont can pronounce "tchotchke".

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