I have always fantasised about seeing a bell tower in a gothic cathedral, and the Hunchback of Notre Dame fantasy finally came true in 2021. I had a rare opportunity recently to view Singapore city from a different perspective, via access to Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall by climbing the iconic grand Clock Tower.
During a one-hour tour, I got to see the mechanism up-close and learnt more about the clock’s history and its role in Singapore for more than 150 years. I must say that the climb to the top of the Clock Tower was not an easy task – there were steep climbs and two cat ladders. It is important to wear comfortable walking shoes. Visitors were asked to wear safety helmets throughout the tour and slippers are definitely not allowed for safety reasons. Aside from the panting, the walk down the tower may be slightly unnerving for those with acrophobia.
At the top of the tower, I managed to soak in glorious city views while immersing myself in history. There, I was also greeted with five majestic bells, weighing about 5,000 kg in total. These bells have played the same Westminster jingle since 1905, chiming every 15 minutes. They complete the full melody every hour.
This big plaque was seen on the walls of the Victoria Theatre. The coat of arms of the Singapore Municipal Commission in Victoria Theatre, with the motto "Majulah Singapura". Victoria Theatre was the venue for the first public performance of "Majulah Singapura" on 6 September 1958 according to Wikipedia.
Not only does this wondrous experience offered me an interesting space to snap photos, but you also get to explore a historical site that is brimming with educational opportunities. I explored the building’s history, architecture, new installations, and learnt more about the Clock Tower itself.
I also had the chance to stop by at the Victoria Theatre, which went through renovations and refurbishment in 2014. Known for its neoclassical facade and state-of-the-art facilities, the wooden-looking panels on the new Victoria Theatre walls are made of cast-iron components recycled from theatre chairs from the 1950s.
The concert hall, which served as the home of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) from 1979 until the SSO shifted to the Esplanade in 2002, was actually a 1905 addition to the building, built in the memory of Queen Victoria.
After the first cat ladder, I was captivated by gorgeous clock faces from inside the tower.
When I finally reached the top of the tower, I was again amazed by the five majestic bells that sound the same Westminister jingle since 1905, chiming every 15 minutes, and playing the complete melody at every full hour.
It was such a rare sight and chance to see these giant bells up close and it was indeed fantastic experience to hear them chiming, right in front of me and just next to my ears !
At the top of tower, I also enjoyed the wind breeze and beautiful views flanked by large columns.
After the stair climb, I also managed to see the large, intricate machine that operates the clockwork. According to the tour guide, the clock required manual winding every four or five days, but became fully automated during the 2014 refurbishment.
A glass roof allows light into a pleasant looking and air-conditioned courtyard, the Central Atrium, partially on the side of the concert hall. This allows a wonderful view of the clock tower.
It is not every day in Singapore that you get to visit a dame. So of course I seized the opportunity to see the internal workings of the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall, with a visit to the top of what to me has always been the mysterious clock tower since my childhood thrown in.
As Singapore’s second oldest building, the clock tower is steeped in rich history. If you are big on history and architecture or if you just want to be like Hugo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, you’ll be happy to know that the Clock Tower is now open to the public. At exactly 199 steps, the climb up is definitely not going to be the easiest, but you’ll be rewarded with a stunning view of the city at the top.
Tickets are priced at $30 per person. For more information, click here.