The story of Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church began with the life of one man - Rev
Benjamin Peach Keasberry (1811 - 1875). As a missionary from the London Missionary Society
(LMS), he heard Gods calling for him to preach the Gospel to the Malays and Chinese
population in Singapore while many missionaries were heading to serve in China.
(Rev Benjamin Keasberry)
With support from the local residents, Rev Keasberry built the
Malay Chapel in 1843 on the site in what was then known as Kampong Bencoolen, and now
known as Prinsep Street. It was named as the Malay Chapel to reflect the ministry among
the Malay community in the areas of education, missions and the translation and publishing
of English religious texts into Malay. The church was also popularly known as Greja
Keasberry or Keasberrys Church. When the LMS closed its Malaya mission
in 1847 for China, Keasberry stayed behind as an independent missionary to continue his
work with the Malays. He did so until his sudden death on 6 September 1875, whilst
preaching at the pulpit.
Up till 1885, the Malay Chapel was still the legal property of
the LMS. Under the leadership of Rev J.A.B. Cook, the English Presbyterian Mission
purchased the Malay Chapel from the LMS. Thereafter, the Malay Chapel became the Straits
Chinese Church in recognition of its growing ministry to the Straits Chinese population.
(Rev J.A.B. Cook)
The history of Prinsep also saw the birth of the Boys
Brigade movement in Singapore. In 1930, Mr James Milner Fraser, an old Boy of the 23rd
Aberdeen Company and an ex-officer of the 23rd London Company, started the Boys
Brigade 1st Singapore Company in the Straits Chinese Church together with other pioneering
members from the 1st Swatow Company.
(The Boys Brigade 1st Singapore
The Straits Chinese Church underwent rebuilding in 1930. The old
chapel was demolished and the foundation stone for the new building was laid by Song Ong
Siang, who later became the first Straits Chinese to be knighted by the English crown.
(Sir Song Ong Siang)
The sanctuary was completed and dedicated on 4 February 1931.
Its architecture was designed by architect C. J. Stephens of Swan and Maclaren. Its most
notable features are its deep red bricks and the raised brickwork on the tower and belfry.
In November 1931, the church joined the Synod of the English Presbytery and was thus
renamed as Straits Chinese Presbyterian Church.
(The New Sanctuary)
The post-war years saw a fall in the Straits Chinese
congregation and the church was thus renamed as Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church in
1956. Its non-Straits Chinese congregation increased and in the mid 1980s, a new
four-storey block was added to accommodate the needs of a growing congregation. As the
founding place of the Boys Brigade movement in Singapore, Prinsep Street
Presbyterian Church was gazetted as a national monument on 12 January 2000 by the
Preservation of Monuments Board.
(Current church building)
Prinseps illustrious history since 1843 is a testimony of
Gods faithfulness as well as the sacrificial service of countless missionaries,
pastors and congregation members. As we look back to give thanks for Gods blessings
for these 164 years, it is our prayer that He will continue to strengthen us to build His
kingdom in the years ahead - To God be the Glory!