Yan Kit Swimming Pool

Text by Patricia Chia

Representing an emergent model for intra-town recreation, the Yan Kit Swimming Pool is fondly remembered for its water follies and coloured mosaic tiles that surrounded the bodies of water – unusual for public swimming pools in Singapore at that time.

Waiting to dive into Yan Kit Swimming Pool, c. 1950s (Photo credit: National Archives of Singapore)

Built pre-Singapore independence and self-governance by the City Council, the pool was the second public swimming pool in Singapore, after Mount Emily Swimming Pool, which was built in the 1930s. It is also interesting to note that the swimming pool tiles were not blue, as we commonly see today, but rather a pale shade of yellow, seemingly common for swimming pools built before the 1970s in Singapore.

View of Yan Kit Swimming Pool from yesteryear

Originally constructed as a filter tank for the Water Department, it was closed down during the Japanese Occupation and had its plant removed. It was then refitted and reopened in December 1949, and named after Mr Look Yan Kit – a Canton-born dentist who came to Singapore in 1877 and was involved in the founding of the Kwong Wai Shiu Free Hospital in 1910.

The activity inside Yan Kit Swimming Pool

The complex sat on a former stretch of railway land along Yan Kit Road. It contained three pools, a single-storey clubhouse and three independent structures containing changing rooms and showers. There were diving platforms at one end of the string of pools, and a lifeguard watchtower-cum-slide between two of the pools.

The queue to enter Yan Kit Swimming Pool

The pool was extremely popular in its heyday – it used to be so crowded that there was only standing room and a two-hour limit had to be imposed on swimmers. Single gender and mixed gender bathing sessions were also enforced in the 1950s; on Tuesdays, the pool was opened only to females who were too shy to appear in bathing suits in front of men.

Yan Kit Swimming Pool in 2009

Due to poor attendance and high maintenance costs, the pool closed in 2001 and the site was levelled and grassed in 2011. Under the hands of the Singapore Sports Council, it was set to open as a multi-generation community sports venue in mid-2014. However, in a favourable twist of events, it was announced in June 2013 that residents would be polled to ask if they would like a pool in the neighbourhood again. Results of this poll have yet to be announced, but there is a hope that this public recreational space will be restored in the near future.

Yan Kit Swimming Pool in 2013