Botanic Gardens' Tyersall site dates back to 1854

Singapore Botanic Gardens director Nigel Taylor (left) in the planned Tyersall Learning Forest extension.

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Botanic Gardens' Tyersall extension, which will feature tropical forest and marsh habitats, towering tembusu trees and an aerial walkway when it is completed, has a long history.

The 9.8ha is part of a larger 24.4ha swathe which was first occupied by lawyer and newspaper editor William Napier who, in 1854, built a house on it named Tyersall.

Later, the area became the estate of the Sultanate of Johor.

Sultan Abu Bakar built the Istana Tyersall, his Singapore residence, on it, as well as Woodneuk, a house which he gave to his wife Khadijah.

The Istana Tyersall was lost in a fire in 1905 and the land fell into disuse.

In 1990, the Government first announced plans to acquire a slice of the site.

Today, the 9.8ha strip is under the Singapore Botanic Gardens' purview, while a larger plot to the west, bordering Holland Road, is private land.

The extension was first announced by then National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan in 2009, but its completion date was pushed back from 2012 to this year and now to 2015, as plans for a stormwater detention pond had to be worked out. Work will begin on the project later this year.

The new Botanic Gardens extension will do double duty as a visitor attraction and flood protection facility: Under its carpark for coaches and cars will sit a detention pond to protect the Stamford Canal catchment area from flooding during heavy storms.

The pond, with the capacity of some 15 Olympic-size pools, will hold excess stormwater temporarily to protect flood-prone areas.

When it rains, water from the catchment area will be channelled into the pond before it is released later into Marina Reservoir via Holland Road drains, a diversion canal and the Singapore River.

Finally, when the Tyersall extension takes shape, it will be part of a green network that extends north to the Central Catchment reserve and includes residents' gardens and community planting in Kheam Hock Road, and that will allow birds and butterflies to move in an ecological corridor.

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.

Become a fan on Facebook