Granite marker belonging to 19th century towkay discovered in Dover Forest


Joshua Lee | November 19, 2021, 03:02 PM

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A granite boundary marker belonging to a 19th century Peranakan merchant has been discovered in Dover Forest (also known as Ulu Pandan Forest).

The stone marker belonged to merchant, philanthropist, and community leader Tan Kim Seng who lived from 1806 to 1864.

Marker at site in Dover Forest. Image courtesy of NHB.

Boundary stones were used in the past to mark out and identify land property. During colonial times, landowners were required to place boundary markers at critical points, like corners or turning points, on their properties.

This particular granite marker used to sit along the northern boundary of Tan's former estate in southwestern Singapore

It bears Tan's initials (T.K.S) as well as the Chinese name of his business, Hong Hin (豊興). It is almost a metre long and weighs about 62kg.

What the marker looks like after removal of mud. Image courtesy of NHB.

Based on current research, Tan's estate was expansive.

It would have encompassed today’s Clementi Avenue 2 in the west to Dawson Road in the east, and the School of Science and Technology in the north to Southern Kent Ridge Park in the south.

Here's a map showing the original land boundaries:

The (estimated) original land boundaries of Tan Kim Seng’s estate based on ongoing research. Image courtesy of NHB.

The marker was extracted on October 27.

It was sent to NHB’s Heritage Conservation Centre where it was cleaned. It is currently undergoing conservation treatment and further research.

Extracting the marker. Image courtesy of NHB.

Extracting the marker. Image courtesy of NHB.

According to Alvin Tan, Deputy Chief Executive (Policy & Community) of NHB, this marker has heritage significance because it is the only known boundary marker associated with Tan.

It is also one of the few boundary markers which are engraved with both English and Chinese characters.

The Hong Hin boundary marker will become part of the National Collection where it will join 107 other objects associated with Tan and his family. It may be displayed in The Peranakan Museum after it re-opens in 2023.

Removing mud from the marker. Image courtesy of NHB.

Removing mud from the marker. Image courtesy of NHB.

Has road and bridge named after him

Aside from being a business man, Tan was appointed Justice of Peace in 1850.

He helped to establish one of Singapore’s first Chinese-language schools, the Chinese Free School, and was well known for his donation to improve the city’s water supply.

He was also known for bringing gifts of food and money to patients at Tan Tock Seng Hospital every Chinese New Year.

Tan has a road and a bridge named after him. Kim Seng Road runs right behind Great World City while Kim Seng Bridge is one of the nine bridges that cross the Singapore River.

You can find out more about Tan on Infopedia.

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Top image credit: NHB,