When Raffles first caught sight of Singapore, the hill now taken up by Fort Canning Park was known locally as Bukit Larangan (Forbidden Hill). Malay annals tell of the five ancient kings of Singapura who ruled the island from here six hundred years ago, and unearthed artefacts prove it was inhabited as early as the fourteenth century. The last of the kings, Sultan Iskandar Shah, reputedly lies here, and it was out of respect for – and fear of – his spirit that the Malays decreed the hill off-limits. Singapore’s first Resident (colonial administrator), William Farquhar, displayed typical colonial tact by promptly having what the British called Government Hill cleared and erecting a bungalow, Government House, on the summit; the fateful Anglo-Dutch treaty of 1824 was probably signed here. The building was replaced in 1859 by a fort named after Viscount George Canning, governor-general of India, but only a gateway, guardhouse and adjoining wall remain today.

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