Outram Prison, also known as Pearl's Hill Prison or Civil Jail, was a prison at Pearl's Hill, Outram, Singapore. Originally occupied by the Civil Jail, Outram Prison was opened in 1882 and served as the main prison complex before the construction of Changi Prison in 1936.[1]

Outram Prison
Former namePearl's Hill Prison

It was demolished in 1963 and replaced by Housing and Development Board (HDB) blocks and a shopping complex.



Civil Jail

Outram Prison, then known as the Civil Jail, in the 1850s.

In 1847, Charles Edward Faber built the Civil Jail,[2] also known as Her Majesty's Gaol, at the present site at Pearl's Hill, Outram.[3] Two time capsules were buried at the base of the foundation, containing parchment with revenue figures and different types of currency.[4]

In 1872, a Commission of Inquiry into the prison system suggested that current prison regimes had 'lost sight of the punitive aspect of prison life'.[3] After the riot at Bras Basah Jail, a plan to build an extension that would be more secure was considered at either Bras Basah Jail or the Civil Jail; they later decided to build the extension at Civil Jail.[5][6]

Outram Prison

Original proposed plan of Outram Prison by McNair that was never built, circa 1880s.

When Outram Prison was built between 1879 and 1882 at the Civil Jail site by J. F. A. McNair, they adopted a more cellular concept that included stricter control of the prison perimeter.[3] Outram Prison was also built using convict labour from Bras Basah Jail.[7]

The public executions of the convicted sepoys at Outram Prison, circa March 1915

After the 1915 Singapore Mutiny, 47 sepoys were publicly executed by firing squad at Outram Prison while others were sentenced to imprisonment for up to 20 years.[8] The executions were witnessed by an estimated 15,000 people.[9]

In the 1930s, Outram Prison suffered from overcrowding and was considered a hazard.[10] The prison was designed to hold up to 1,080 prisoners but, in the 1920s, gained an average daily number of convicts of 1,043 and had reached up to 1,311 by 1931.[11] This led to plans for a new prison to be built at Changi.

After the construction of Changi Prison, Outram Prison was used to hold convicts serving short sentences whilst Changi Prison was used for longer sentences.[12]

A prisoner after his release from the Japanese occupied Outram Prison, circa 1945.

During the Japanese occupation of Singapore, Outram Prison was known as Outram Road Gaol and was controlled by the Japanese and used to hold prisoners of war. 1,470 prisoners died of starvation, torture, and diseases while only 400 survived by 1945.[13] As a result, 44 Japanese officers were convicted of war crimes committed at Outram Prison[14] with 3 generals executed.[15] The prison was handed back to the British following the end of the occupation.[16]

In 1952, a new block for female convicts was made, replacing the block for European convicts.[17] In 1954, a new block for remanding convicts was made.[18] In 1956, a centre for reforming youths was opened at Outram Prison, replacing the remanding block.[19]



In 1963, then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew announced plans to demolish Outram Prison and replace it with a Housing and Development Board (HDB) estate.[20] Convicts from Outram Prison were transferred to Changi Prison and Bedok Reformation Centre.[21]

Outram Prison was replaced by Queenstown Remand Prison in 1966, which cost S$2 million to build.[22] In 1966, works began to build 1,000 housing units and 400 shops.[23] In 1970, public housing and a shopping complex called Outram Park Complex were built.[24]

See also



  1. ^ Chye, Kiang Heng (17 October 2016). 50 Years Of Urban Planning In Singapore. World Scientific Publishing Company. p. 13. ISBN 9789814656481.
  2. ^ Victor R., Savage; Yeoh, Brenda (15 October 2022). Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (4th ed.). Marshall Cavendish. p. 345. ISBN 9789815009231.
  3. ^ a b c Roth, Mitchel P. (30 November 2005). Prisons and Prison Systems: A Global Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 242. ISBN 9780313060427.
  4. ^ "Untitled". The Singapore Free Press. 11 February 1847. p. 2. Retrieved 7 May 2024 – via NewspaperSG.
  5. ^ "From the Daily Times, 10th January. LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL". The Straits Times. 17 January 1879. p. 4. Retrieved 8 May 2024 – via NewspaperSG.
  6. ^ "From the Daily Times, 15th November. PAPERS LAID BEFORE COUNCIL". The Straits Times. 16 November 1878. p. 2. Retrieved 8 May 2024 – via NewspaperSG.
  7. ^ "MONDAY, 10th MARCH". The Straits Times. 15 March 1879. p. 6. Retrieved 8 May 2024 – via NewspaperSG.
  8. ^ Wynn, Stephen (30 December 2020). Etaples: Britain's Notorious Infantry Base Depot, 1914–1919. Pen & Sword Books. p. 5. ISBN 9781473846067.
  9. ^ "The Mutiny". The Straits Times. 26 March 1915. p. 7. Retrieved 7 May 2024 – via NewspaperSG.
  10. ^ "A POTENTIAL PRISON DANGER". The Straits Times. 23 January 1933. p. 12. Retrieved 7 May 2024 – via NewspaperSG.
  11. ^ "Possibilities Of Penang Hill Development". The Straits Times. 17 January 1933. p. 12. Retrieved 7 May 2024 – via NewspaperSG.
  12. ^ "NEW CHANGI GAOL OPENS ITS DOORS". The Straits Times. 31 January 1937. p. 14. Retrieved 8 May 2024 – via NewspaperSG.
  13. ^ "DEATHS IN OUTRAM ROAD GAOL DURING JAPANESE OCCUPATION". The Straits Times. 25 February 1946. p. 4. Retrieved 8 May 2024 – via NewspaperSG.
  14. ^ "OUTRAM GAOL TRIAL". The Straits Times. 16 August 1946. p. 3. Retrieved 8 May 2024 – via NewspaperSG.
  15. ^ "JAP GENERALS HANGED". The Straits Times. 18 April 1947. p. 5. Retrieved 8 May 2024 – via NewspaperSG.
  16. ^ Piccigallo, Philip R. (26 August 2013). The Japanese On Trial: Allied War Crimes Operations in the East, 1945–1951. University of Texas Press. ISBN 9780292758278.
  17. ^ "He wanted gaol without bars". The Straits Times. 18 June 1952. p. 6. Retrieved 8 May 2024 – via NewspaperSG.
  18. ^ "TO EACH A CELL IN THIS GAOL SOON". The Straits Times. 12 October 1954. p. 5. Retrieved 8 May 2024 – via NewspaperSG.
  19. ^ "BORSTAL INSTEAD OF JAIL NOW —BID TO 'RECLAIM' YOUTHS". The Straits Times. 6 December 1956. p. 7. Retrieved 8 May 2024 – via NewspaperSG.
  20. ^ "Lee launches spearhead to remodel 'old S'pore'". The Straits Times. 16 March 1963. p. 6. Retrieved 8 May 2024 – via NewspaperSG.
  21. ^ "Outram jail is to be demolished". The Straits Times. 21 March 1963. p. 9. Retrieved 8 May 2024 – via NewspaperSG.
  22. ^ "Wok opens $2 mil. prison at Queenstown". The Straits Times. 24 September 1966. p. 8. Retrieved 8 May 2024 – via NewspaperSG.
  23. ^ "A prison makes way for 1,000 flats". The Straits Times. 5 October 1966. p. 5. Retrieved 8 May 2024 – via NewspaperSG.
  24. ^ "New homes for 12,500 at the old jail for 760". The Straits Times. 12 May 1970. p. 4. Retrieved 8 May 2024 – via NewspaperSG.