Matilda, a grand old house in Punggol

SINGAPORE - Matilda who?

That was one of the most common reactions from people when asked what they thought about the name chosen for the upcoming Punggol Matilda housing estate.

While a few were aware that it was named after the iconic Matilda House, which was built in 1902 by the old Punggol seaside, many did not know the full story behind the colonial building.

The abandoned six-bedroom, red-tiled bungalow was a gift intended for the wife of Alexander Cashin, whose father was the first Eurasian millionaire in Singapore.

Its colourful history, however, seemed lost on many who spoke to The Sunday Times yesterday.

Some who claimed to know the history of the house, like insurance executive Riella Tan, however, had their own take on it and said the Housing Board should reconsider the name. "I'm aware of Matilda House but it's famous for being haunted. It should be renamed," she said.

Still, there are others, like student Isabelle Yeo, who welcomed the name because of its links to the past. "At least it combines the elements of the area," she said.

Whatever the case, the name for the new south-western Punggol district - which will have 8,000 HDB units and boulevards leading to a waterfront shopping mall - and Matilda House are here to stay. In fact, the Urban Redevelopment Authority had granted the house conservation status and it will get a new lease of life in 2015 as a condominium clubhouse.

Financial adviser Mindy Wang, on the other hand, is concerned that the history of the estate may fade away once it is integrated with the new housing project.

"I do relate it to certain places growing up, but those places are either gone or have lost their original flavour," said the 24-year-old. "I feel sad for their fate and I imagine that is how residents near Matilda (House) might feel as well."

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