Student Hub@Moberly is a favourite haunt for students, and the oldest colonial building in the SP campus, dating back to circa 1950 when it was part of the Princess Mary Barracks for British troops. Here, we peel back time’s curtain to bring you five SP memories the Moberly building has ‘seen’ happen in and about the Dover campus. Feel free to share your own SP memories too!
#1 Meet Major-General Richard James Moberly
Parade grounds of the Princess Mary Barracks. This is roughly where the Administration Building and carpark stands now. Dover Road runs across the picture, alongside the parade ground. Picture courtesy of Peter Cracknell and Peter Buckley. Contributed by Tan Chin Chye.
Moberly was named in honour of Major-General Richard James Moberly. He was a Colonel Commandant widely regarded as a co-founder of the Royal Signal Corps. This unit eventually expanded to become the British Army’s 18th Signal Regiment. When the regiment was deployed to the Princess Mary Barracks, they decided to name a building after this illustrious founding father of their unit.
#2 Elvis ‘Visits’ for a Weekend
Fact. Elvis Presley once made a ‘guest appearance’ in SP. On Easter Sunday, 1960, when the campus was still the Princess Mary Barracks, British soldiers woke up to the King of Rock and Roll looming over them, 20-feet tall and larger than life. It turns out that, as a prank, an entire plywood Elvis cut-out had been ‘appropriated’ from the Sky cinema in Great World (now Great World City), brought to Dover Road, and mounted on a balcony for all to see. All without anyone noticing. No one knows – or is willing to tell – how it happened, but it did!
The main military buildings consisted of 3 nearly identical blocks - Phillips, Rawson (with a clock tower) and Moberly. These were later used by Singapore Polytechnic’s School of Nautical Studies, Civil Engineering and Building Department, as well as the Library. Eventually, Philips and Rawson were demolished for redevelopment, leaving Moberly still standing tall today.
#3 Thumbing Rides to Get Around Poly
Two Australian soldiers posing in front of Moberly in the early days. Picture courtesy of Mr E M Maquire who is standing on the right. Contributed by Tan Chin Chye.
Daniel Tan (3rd from right) with his classmates near the Administration Block, Dover Road campus, 1978, near where they used to hitch-hike for rides to town. Picture courtesy of Daniel Tan Kim Soon.
In the early days, Singapore Polytechnic operated out of three campuses – Prince Edward Campus (PEC) in the city area, Ayer Rajah Campus (ARC), and Princess Mary Campus (now our Dover Road Campus). For staff and students, transport certainly was an issue. To get around this, they took to hitchhiking rides. Daniel Tan Kim Soon, Director of the School of Architecture and the Built Environment was an SP student during those years, from 1975 to 1978. He shares that “when classes were held at ARC, I particularly enjoyed hitch-hiking rides from passing vehicles. One of our classmates would stand by the roadside to flag down a vehicle… Sometimes it was even more inconvenient for us to make our way home from the drop-off point, but it was fun and something we could look forward to every day.”
#4 Heads or Tales? You Decide
Architecture students in the 1970s posing in front of Philips Block, when Singapore Polytechnic took over the use of the barracks for classes. Picture courtesy of Chua Bee Lay.
On an overnight camp, Marcus Chang (Civil Engineering, 2004) was catching some rest on the third floor of Moberly when he felt spooked by something. From the corner of his eye, he saw something green and slightly hazy hovering amidst the treetops. By his account, “it was the head of a man and it was looking down at us! I blinked again, and it was gone.” And, this hasn’t been the only sighting on campus. Madani Amat recalls that in the 70s, he was near Gate Two sometime past midnight when he spotted what looked like two Japanese soldiers. “When you looked at them, they would turn away. But when you were not looking, you could feel them looking at you… Then they disappeared.”
#5 The Great Moberly Makeover
Today’s Moberly looks the same as it always was, at least on the surface. On the inside, it’s a different story. Following an extensive interior makeover in 2005, Student Hub@Moberly is a far cry from the utilitarian building that used to house British soldiers, We now enjoy recreational facilities like a café, jamming and dance studios, karaoke rooms and barbecue areas. The modern Moberly building is today’s fun hangout spot of choice in SP, with new stories and memories being formed there every day.
These stories are adapted from Moberly…and untold stories of SP, a publication of the Student & Alumni Affairs Department, Singapore Polytechnic, 2007.
The Moberly Block is a historic building from the British colonial times. It has been converted into a "happening" place for relaxation and recreation.