Wessex Estate


Wessex Estate: An example of British heritage in Singapore.

Wessex Estate
- Mariko

Discover Wessex Estate

Situated in the low hills of the western Buona Vista district, Wessex Estate represents a former chapter in Singapore’s history. Constructed just before or after World War II, this residential neighbourhood of less than a dozen bungalows and 26 small blocks of flats has a unique and quaint charm.

During the Malayan Emergency (1948—1960) the buildings served as a residential kampung for British personnel. Today, this hidden gem continues to captivate with its black and white colonial bungalows and a labyrinth of roads named after English towns.

Explore the neighbourhood's historical water tank and venture through its abandoned remnants, which are a testament to the historical significance of Wessex Estate's past.

Wessex Estate 1
- Alan Fraser

The History of Wessex Estate

Dating back to the 1940s, Wessex Estate served as a residential community for non-commissioned British personnel (and their families) working at the nearby military installations in Alexandra and Pasir Panjang. The estate featured walk-up apartments for junior officers and semi-detached houses for those of higher rank. In its heyday, Wessex Estate was pretty self-sustaining complete with a village square, canteen, and convenience stores. But in 1971 the British vacated Singapore, and the homes were returned to the Singaporean Government, where they were re-purposed for modern-day use.

The Architecture at Wessex Estate

While not architecturally distinctive, Wessex Estate captivates with its remnants of the past. For instance, the flats bear the names of military feats from British history. But aside from its historical significance Wessex Estate attracts attention with its black and white coloured houses.

Wessex Estate 4
- Ethan Koh

The black and white style is typical of colonial bungalows in Singapore but they are of Indian origin and feature thatched rooves and long eaves protruding from the top of the exterior walls. With wooden supports, the eaves formed large verandas that sheltered the bungalows from rain whilst preventing the interior from overheating in the tropical climate.

When the British introduced them to Wessex Estate they changed the design, swapping out the mud walls for bricks and tiles, and implementing classical columns and tall shuttered windows. Today, the colonial houses are few and far between in Singapore, which adds to their appeal.

Wessex Estate in the Present

After the Singapore Government assumed control of the colonial buildings in the 1970s they began meticulously preserving and preparing them for a new purpose. Today, Wessex Estate is managed by JTC, and accommodates a mix of residential dwellings and studio spaces for a small enclave of artists. These studios often hold free art walks and workshops where visitors can drop in to learn about printmaking, clay sculpting and pottery. Or simply make a purchase and have a chat with the artists.

Wessex Estate 3
- Mariko

Cafe Colbar at Wessex Estate

As you explore the picturesque neighbourhood (and please do so from a distance as the houses are inhabited), you'll encounter Cafe Colbar. Colbar, short for 'colonial bar', was once a canteen for the British military personnel stationed at Wessex Estate. Today it is a relic from the past that invites you to step back in time with its vintage photographs and old-world decor.

Wessex Estate 2
- Lilian Foo

The Abandoned Water Tank at Wessex Estate

For those eager to explore everything the Wessex neighbourhood has to offer why not check out the abandoned water tank on Portsdown Road. While the rusty hanging ladder, once an entry point for daring explorers, has been removed, the remnants of its existence stir tales of past adventures. Urban Explorers of Singapore ventured into the tank's depths in 2019, capturing a time capsule of graffiti-laden walls that bear witness to trespassers dating back to 1997. Though the ladder may be gone, the spirit of exploration lives on in the vivid images preserved by those who dared to enter.

Wessex Estate 5
- HG Tan

From the abandoned water tank it is possible to extend your walk further by making your way onto the Tanglin Halt Green Corridor that connects to Clementi forest and other trails. Just make sure that visiting Clementi Forest isn’t a spontaneous trip as it needs a little preparation, read more about it here to find out why!

Our Thoughts…

In essence, Wessex Estate is not just a residential area; it's an example of British heritage merging with Singaporean history, culture, and modernity. Whether you're strolling along its curiously named lanes, immersing yourself in the art workshops, or simply enjoying the sense of community, Wessex Estate is a wander through Singapore's past and present.

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