[dropcap size=small]I[/dropcap]n the thick forests on the eastern part of Pulau Ubin is a charming vestige of old colonial history – located next to the Chek Jawa Wetlands and now used as its visitor centre, House No. 1 was originally a resort home for British Chief Surveyor Langdon Williams.
It was built in the 1930s and modelled after the traditional Tudor-style homes of England during the first half of the 16th century.
This influence can be seen from the black timber frames with masonry infill walls, steep pitched roofs with clay tiles and a working fireplace in the sitting room on the ground floor.
The architect’s attention to detail was such that even the techniques used to construct the home follow the traditional Tudor-style, says architect Alisdair Ferrie, senior partner at architecture firm James Ferrie and Partners. He was the architect behind the restoration of Thian Hock Keng Temple in Telok Ayer.
His father, pioneering Singapore architect James Ferrie, was close friends with House No. 1’s last owner, businessman Lee Thor Seng.
The younger Ferrie often visited the home when he was growing up.
Pointing to the timber joints, the corner granite quoins (an exterior corner of two connecting walls) of the house and terracotta floor tiles, he says: “This house was probably built by Indian labourers who had experience and skill in building such homes.”
The modest two-storey building is set on sprawling 43,324 sq ft grounds, complete with its own water tower and jetty. The house, which occupies a gross floor area of 4,036 sq ft, has outdoor terraces for hosting and nooks and crannies where one can escape to for some quiet, surrounded by lush subtropical conifer trees.
The house changed owners through the years, eventually ending up in the hands of Lee before it was acquired by the Government in the 1990s. It was then left vacant for about a decade and the building deteriorated, with termite infestation in parts of the timber frames.
Over two years from 2005, restoration took place – timber frames and broken floor tiles were repaired and replaced and the inner walls were given a fresh coat of paint. The house was gazetted for conservation at the end of 2003 and became the Chek Jawa Visitor Centre in 2007.
This story first appeared as part of The Straits Times‘ monthly column on heritage buildings. Photos: SPH / Nivash Joyvin