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Malay Heritage Centre (Istana Kampong Glam)

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Malay Heritage Centre is a cultural centre in Singapore that showcases the heritage, culture and history of Malay Singaporeans. It is housed within Istana Kampong Glam. The work of the Malay Heritage Foundation, the centre is the fruit of a restoration project which started in 1999, and the heritage centre was launched on 27 November 2004.

The Malay Heritage Centre is located at Sultan Gate. As mentioned, it was formerly Istana Kampong Glam, the palace of the Sultan of Johor. The original Istana Kampong Glam was built by Sultan Hussein Shah of Johor around 1820. The original structure occupied an area twice the size of the present compound. The compound was reduced in 1824 when North Bridge Road was constructed.

Malay Heritage Centre, Singapore
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The present structure was commissioned by Sultan Ali Iskandar Shah, the son of Sultan Hussein in 1835. It was built between 1836 and 1843. The architect is believed to be George Drumgoole Coleman, who designed many other buildings in Singapore that are now heritage sites, including the Old Parliament House and the Armenian Church. Coleman employed a Palladian style but blended in Malay motifs.

The compound of the Istana was enclosed by a perimeter wall. The Sultan's kin, servants and artisans lived in kampong-style houses around the perimeter. Sultan Ali's son, Tengku Allum, lived at Istana Kampong Glam until his death in 1891. He was buried at the royal grave at Sultan Mosque. After his death, a succession dispute erupted in 1896 among members of the royal family over rights to the Kampong Glam estate. The matter went to court, which ruled that no one could rightfully claim to be the successor of the Sultan, and that the estate belonged to the Crown.

In 1904, the Sultan Hussein Ordinance was enacted to provide the descendants of Sultan Hussein with income derived from the Kampong Glam estate. The amount was capped at S$250,000 in 1991, revised by the government in 1999. Under the new scheme, the beneficiaries could opt either for a share of S$350,000 a year for 30 years or for a lump sum payment.

The Istana compound continued to be the private residence of the Sultan's descendants until the building underwent conservation works, when they were resettled. The Istana was restored according to Coleman's original design, with special emphasis on retaining its compound, walled enclosure and road leading to it. Timber and cement were used to replicate the interior flooring of the former building.

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