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  • Notes on 'Sketch of the Land round Singapore Harbour, 7 February 1819'
  • Marcus Langdon (bio) and Kwa Chong Guan

Lieutenant P. Jackson's 1823 sketch 'View of Singapore from the Sea' completed for Sir Stamford Raffles is currently the earliest known drawing of Singapore.1 However, earlier sketches have now been found. The lead author of this note, Marcus Langdon, while researching Pinang history in the National Archives, Kew, found in a recently deposited British Admiralty file, ADM344, the sketches that are described in this note.

Both sketches are unsigned. The first, and primary, focus for detailed attention here is dated 7 Feb. 1819, suggesting it was drawn by a member of the Bombay Marine's survey ships the Discovery, under the command of Captain Daniel Ross,2 or the Investigator under Captain John Garritt Fisher Crawford. These two survey ships were accompanying the armed ship Indiana, Captain James Pearl, with Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles aboard; the armed cruiser Nearchus, LieutenantWilliam Maxfield;3 the brig Ganges, Francis James Bernard with Major William Farquhar aboard; the Mercury, Captain J. R. Bowman; and the schooner Enterprise, Captain Richard Harris.

Raffles had seconded the Bombay Marine vessels from their survey of the Malacca Strait and sent them to survey the Karimon Islands as a possible site for a port, but finding that place unsuitable Captain Ross had suggested, in a meeting with Raffles, Farquhar and Maxfield, that Singapore should be considered. Almost immediately the potential of the port was evident, and while Raffles and Farquhar negotiated for settlement by the British, Ross and Crawford began a survey of the harbour, setting up base lines using sound from cannon-fire to measure the distance between the two vessels.4

Copies of the survey were completed by 6 February, the same day Raffles finalized negotiations for settlement. The following day a member of Captain Ross's hydrographic team sketched a panoramic view of the coastline of Singapore, [End Page 1]

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Fig 1.

Sketch of the Land Round Singapore Harbour 7 Feb 1819, courtesy of the National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey ADM 344/1307.

[End Page 2]

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Fig. 2.

Plan of Singapore Harbour by Capt D. Ross 1819, engraved by John Bateman, published by James Horsburgh, 1 January 1820.

©British Library Board. All rights reserved. 074684.

including the village, harbour and vessels attached to the mission. As the sketch is unsigned, one can only speculate upon who its creator may have been and whether this person was aboard HCS Discovery or HCS Investigator; however it is very likely to have been Bombay Marine draughtsman Lt John Michael Houghton (1797-1874). Raffles and these two survey ships departed from Singapore the same evening.

The view is broken into five adjoining sections commencing in the top left-hand corner with the silhouette of a hillock with a flagstaff on its peak, marked 'S by W Flagstaff'. There is then a landmass marked 'St John's Id.', to the right of which are silhouettes of two smaller and one larger island. A channel with a ship sailing through it is then sketched, after which is a landmass that stretches through to the second line of the sketch. A 'Village of Singapore' at 'N.73°30'W' is marked at the beginning of the third row of the sketch. This 'Village' extends to a point marked 'Watering-place' [End Page 3] and has two smaller and two larger vessels anchored in front of it. To the left of the 'Village', behind a row of vegetation appear to be the masts of two larger vessels, and to the right of the 'Watering-place' is another vessel at anchor. The next feature marked on the map is a 'Ryat Village' at 'N38°W'. The fourth line of the sketch records 'Sandy Pt.' at 'N30°W' along with a vessel under sail off the point, and an East Indiaman at anchor in the roads to the east. The sketch of Singapore Island's shoreline ends on the fifth line showing another East Indiaman at anchor and an identification of 'Red Cliffs', before recording 'Johore hill' on the mainland at...


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