Construction of the cathedral was meant to start in 1822, soon after Sir Stamford Raffles allocated the land for an Anglican Church. It ended up taking over a decade to fund the entire project and the original Church finally held its first service in 1837 with the church being consecrated the following year. Parishioners complained about the church’s austere appearance, which led to a spire being added in 1842. The spire, however, did not have a lightning rod — a poor decision in Singapore, a region that has one of the highest lightning rates in the world. After the building was struck by lightning twice, it was deemed unsafe and finally demolished in 1855.
The foundation for the second church was laid in 1856 and construction was completed by 1861. The majority of the construction was carried out by Indian convict labourers and overseen by Colonel Ronald McPherson, who was the Superintendent of convicts. Using convicts as laborers was common at the time in Singapore and in fact, they contributed to the construction of many of the landmarks across the city-state. The design for this second church was inspired by a 13th century English church, the Netley Abbey. In 1870, the church was consecrated as a cathedral. Originally, the church sported stained glass windows that commemorated key figures in Singapore’s history. Like many Singapore landmarks, the hospital had a role in World War II history. Before the Japanese occupation in 1942, the cathedral was an emergency hospital due to the semi-constant air raids of the island.
Today, much like in the past, Saint Andrew’s exists as a place of worship and to help people learn about Catholicism. Besides daily masses, the cathedral also offers confessional times three days a week and morning prayers on certain days. Saint Andrew’s will be celebrating its 125th Anniversary in 2017. Visitors can also enjoy complimentary guided tours of the cathedral.