HOW IT CAME ABOUT.
In 1890, Istana Woodneuk was built by the then Sultan of Johore, Sultan Abu Bakar, for his wife Sultanah Khadijah. In 1904, just before The Sultanah’s passing in the house, the palace was sold to Sultan Abu Bakar’s son, Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar. By 1935, Sultan Ibrahim’s plans to expand the palace was completed to celebrate his 62nd birthday and 40 year reign as Sultan of Johore. The expansions was built to impress his Scottish-Born wife, Helen Bartholomew, whose he had married in 1930. She was made Sultanah Helen Ibrahim in 1931.
INVASION OF SINGAPORE.
During World War II, in 1940, part of the palace was mainly used as the Indian Regiments’ Head Quarters. However, it was also used by soldiers of different nationalities. A famous historical figure in the South-East Asian context who occupied the palace at one time included Governor General Malcolm MacDonald. A military hospital was also set up in the palace. On the 12th of September 1942, the Japanese bombed the palace in an air raid killing 700 medics and patients.
By 1948, Istana Woodneuk was finally returned to Sultan Iskandar after military use. With the death of the Sultan in 1959, there are many questions as to how the palace was utilised afterwards. Some sources indicate that the house continued to be utilised by close friends of the Sultan as a form of a place of stay. However, there are very little sources that indicate when the house was eventually vacated and left abandoned. Since it was abandoned, graffiti artists have been intruding the palace to do some “wall art”, and there were possibilities that Satanic Cults used the palace as a place of worship. In 2006, a fire engulfed the palace, devouring everything including the blue-tiled roof. It was deemed uninhabitable ever since.
A friend of mine and I agreed to visit this palace when we were scrolling through places to visit in Singapore. Istana Woodneuk caught our eyes because when we saw all of the cool graffiti that littered the house, we thought that it was a great opportunity to take a few pictures.
It was in the afternoon that day so Holland Road was quite busy. We tried our best not to look too suspicious and get caught so we went in through a small trail next to the overhead bridge opposite Peirce Road that was paved in the woods, rather than the other popular trail to get in (It had a Police perimeter set up around it, and a signboard warning trespassers).
When I first went inside, I was confused as to where to go because there was no distinct trail to follow. This was all I saw.
Eventually, I had to use Google Maps to make sure that I was walking in the right direction. Along the journey, there were obstacles like cobwebs, large monitor lizards, vines that can trip you over, holes to jump over, and also steep hills to climb. On top of that, we also had to be aware that were are actually trespassing private property, and be aware of people who happen to pass by.
After a couple of mosquito bites and spiderwebs sticking in our faces, we were overjoyed to finally find the palace at the end of a dirt trail.
There was more vegetation than I expected. I mean, I saw the photos posted by other urban explorers and there was supposed to be a clearer view of the building from a distance, not covered by the trees and grass.
When we reached the entrance, we were greeted warmly by old furniture at the entrance.
As we went further inside, we saw more and more unused furniture that people dumped inside the living room.
On the first room to the left, there were a bunch of unwanted water containers.
We didn’t really explore further into these rooms. In fact, we went straight to the second floor through the old rickety wooden steps that could seemingly collapse at any time. But before that, we took some photos of the living room.
As we went up the steps, on the stair landing, we saw this chair oddly placed in the middle, and so we thought that it was a great place to take a photo!
When we looked up, we saw the effects of the fire that burned down the roof. There were even black canvas that were lined on the ceilings to catch the falling tiles.
From the top of the steps, we could see multiple rooms and corridors since most of the doors were taken down, and the most of the walls collapsed.
Well, sadly, again, we didn’t explore too deep on the second level either.
So this was why we stopped exploring the palace. When we were at the top of the steps, we actually heard footsteps moving from the right to the left in the living room. There were plastics sheet on the left side of the living room which made some rustling noises when the footsteps passed it too. Freaked out, we decided to leave immediately. But of course, we took a photo before leaving the territory completely.
Overall, it was really an exhilarating experience!
P.S. I set up a new Facebook page here!