Streets and Places in Singapore

Introduction

The history of Singapore is indelibly imprinted on the streets and places we pass by every day – revealing true-life accounts about our British colonial days, the harrowing times during the Japanese Occupation, Singapore’s tumultuous separation from Malaysia and our emergence into a cosmopolitan metropolis. The history of streets and places is replete with stories and memories of people and events associated with these places. Through these stories, we can learn about the lives and times of our forefathers and how their contributions have helped to transform Singapore in to a first-world nation today.

This guide provides a list of resources where you can find information about the streets and places in Singapore. It serves as a starting point for anyone interested to find out more about the history and heritage of the place in which we live. As this list is not intended to be exhaustive, please search the NLB catalogue or the Internet for more resources using the suggested search terms provided below.

Search Terms Call Numbers
Street names Singapore 959.57
Historic sites Singapore 959.57
Historic buildings Singapore 720.95957
Monuments Singapore 959.57
Singapore Description and Travel 915.957
Trails Singapore 959.57

 

Books

(listed in alphabetical order)

A stroll through old Singapore

by Pugalenthi Sr.

Call no.: RSING 959.57 PUG

This slim volume provides a narrative tour to buildings which have survived to the present day and identifies key places around the Esplanade from Singapore’s colonial times.

All rights reserved, Singapore: VJ Times, 1993.

Ang Mo Kio: A heritage trail

by Tan Chui Hua, Thangamma Karthigesu and Singapore National Heritage Board

Call no.: RSING 959.57 TAN

Ang Mo Kio was first referred to Amokiah in an 1849 report on agriculture in Singapore. Once a forest and farmland, it is now a revitalized residential town. The trail takes you to interesting attractions such as the one and only public circular flat in Singapore.

All rights reserved, Singapore: National Heritage Board, 2011.

Balestier: A heritage trail

by Singapore National Heritage Board and Central Singapore Community Development Council

Call no.: RSING 959.57 BAL

Balestier Road was named after Joseph Balestier who first developed the area in 1834. Follow the trail provided in the book to visit the Goh Chor Tua Pek Kong temple, feast on local fares tucked in the shop houses and visit the elegant colonial-style villa, Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall.

All rights reserved, Singapore: National Heritage Board, 2006.

Bishan heritage trail: 10 places to see

by Singapore Kwong Wai Siew Peck San Theng

Call no.: RSING 959.57 BIS

Bishan derived its name from the large Cantonese burial ground, commonly known as Peck San Theng that previously occupied the plot of land it is now standing on. This trail gives the history and role that the burial ground played for the Chinese immigrants and other landmarks at Bishan.

All rights reserved, Singapore: Singapore Kwong Wai Siew Peck San Theng, 2009.

Bukit Merah: From a hilly kampong to a modern town

Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUK

Bukit Merah has evolved from farms and cottage industries in to a public housing estate built with Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) flats to a modern Housing Board estate. This book gives a historical overview of Bukit Merah and includes an interesting folk story behind its name, which in English means “a hill dyed red”.

All rights reserved, Singapore: Federal Publications, 1996.

Bukit Timah: Established in 1955

by Shirley Tan-Oehler, K. F. Seetoh and Celeste Tan

Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUK

Bukit Timah road was used by the Japanese troops to march into Singapore from Johor and the road also witnessed Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival walking along it with a white flag to surrender at the old Ford Motor Factory. This book captures the events and changes at Bukit Timah through the years.

All rights reserved, Singapore: OracleWorks for PAP Bukit Timah Branch, 1995.

Chinese names of street and places in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula

by H. W. Firmstone

Call no.: RQUICK 959.5 JMBRAS (available at Lee Kong Chian Reference Library Level 11 Information counter)

This publication contains a list of Chinese equivalents and translations for the names of important places in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula compiled in 1904. The list includes bridges, police stations and public buildings. This article is extracted from the Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, No. 42, February 1905, pp. 53-208.

All rights reserved, Malaysia: Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.

Discover Singapore heritage trails

by Singapore National Heritage Board

Call no.: RSING 915.95704 DIS

Features seven walking trails which introduce Singapore’s history, architecture, cultures and natural heritage. Includes photographs, drawings and nuggets of information at several “hot spots” through each of the trails.

All rights reserved, Singapore: National Heritage Board, 2006.

Emerald Hill, the story of a street in words and pictures

by Lee Kip Lin

Call no.: Reference Donor Lee Kip Lin 959.57 LEE

Learn about Emerald Hill’s rich history through the camera lenses of Lee, whose photographs have captured in beautiful coloured stills the distinct Peranakan architecture of the shop houses in the area.

All rights reserved, Singapore: National Museum, 1984.

Evolution of a retail streetscape : DP Architects on Orchard Road

by Collin Anderson

Call no.: RSING 725.21095957 AND

Discover what Orchard Road was like during the British colonial era in this book, which outlines its growth and development into a shopping and entertainment destination for both locals and tourists alike.

All rights reserved, Mulgrave, Vic.: Images, 2012.

Fortress Singapore: The battlefield guide

by Siang Yong Yap et al

Call no.: RSING 959.5703 FOR

Gives vivid accounts of the World War II battle in Singapore with photographs depicting the terror of war, Japanese Occupation and the triumphs of liberation. Includes details of the war sites from battlefields, war memorials and POW camps and maps and routes of the Japanese invasion.

All rights reserved, Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2011.

Heritage places of Singapore

by Wan Meng Hao and Jacqueline Lau

Call no.: RSING 959.57 WAN

Documents historically important places and landmarks in Singapore. The full-coloured photographs and scenic pictures make this an appealing book to read.

All rights reserved, Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2009.

History of Changi

by Henry Probert

Call no.: RSING 959.57 PRO

A first-hand account of Changi from veterans and scholars. The detailed information charts the dramatic transformation of the area from a rural jungle to a regional air hub.

All rights reserved, Singapore: Changi University Press, 2006.

Jalan Besar: A heritage trail

by Singapore National Heritage Board and Central Singapore Community Council

Call no.: RSING 959.57 JAL

Jalan Besar Stadium was once a landmark in the area where soccer matches were played. New World, which closed in the 1980s, was an entertainment hub where thousands flocked to watch boxing and wrestling matches, variety shows and small cabaret programmes. Many roads there were named after famous World War II battle sites and personalities.

All rights reserved, Singapore: National Heritage Board, 2006.

Labrador Park: The adventure begins

by David Lim Kee Ann and Esmund Chua

Call no.: RSING 959.57 LIM

This entertaining book presents facts, maps, personal accounts and sequencing of events from 1819 to World War II about the scenic park which sits on a historical site. Written by two school teachers, the book attempts to bring history alive through interesting notes and captivating visuals.

All rights reserved, Singapore: SNP Panpac, 2005.

Malayan place names

by S. Durai Raja-Singam

Call no.: RCLOS 959.5 RAJ (available upon request at the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library Level 11 Information counter)

Originally published as Post Weld to Kuantan: A study of Malay place names, the final section of the book on “Place names in Singapore” give the origins and meanings of more than 60 place names in Singapore.

All rights reserved, Kuala Lumpur: The Author, 1962.

Malayan street names: What they mean and whom they commemorate

by S. Durai Raja-Singam

Call no.: RQUICK 959.5 RAJ (available upon request at the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library Level 11 Information counter)

This book provides an alphabetical listing of nearly 500 Singapore street names, detailing their history and unraveling the origins behind their names.

All rights reserved, Ipoh: Printed by The Mercantile Press, 1939.

On a little hill in Chinatown: Singapore’s Ann Siang Hill

by Kevin Tan

Call no.: RSING 959.57 TAN

This book captures the history of Ann Siang Hill and its surrounding environment as well as documents the lives of early migrants and inhabitants of the area, such as Chinese businessman and community leader, Hoo Ah Kay, whose family lived on Club Street. It also traces the transformation of Ann Siang Hill from the colonial era to the present day, including the development of the guilds, schools and businesses in the area.

All rights reserved, Singapore: Mileage Communications Pte Ltd, 2018.

Portraits of places: History, community and identity in Singapore

by Brenda S. A. Yeoh and Lily Kong

Call no.: RSING 959.57 POR

This publication contains a collection of essays on the history and stories of places, people and life in Singapore, such as Tiong Bahru, Chong Pang and Kampung Wak Selat, Singapore’s second last kampong.

All rights reserved, Singapore: Times Editions, 1995.

Queenstown: A heritage trail

by Singapore National Heritage Board

Call no.: RSING 959.57 QUE

Highlights many “Singapore firsts” which took place in Queenstown, such as the first satellite town, first HDB town, first library branch, first neighbourhood shopping centre and first sports complex in the country.

All rights reserved, Singapore: National Heritage Board, 2008.

Radin Mas: Heritage trail: A tale of hills

by Central Singapore Community Development Council

Call no.: RSING 959.57 RAD

Showcases the unique appeal of rustic old charms with a modern feel at Radin Mas such as flats built under the Singapore Improvement Trust, black and white colonial houses, the Carmelite Monastery and the Henderson Waves Bridge.

All rights reserved, Singapore: Radin Mas Citizens’ Consultative Committee in collaboration with Central Singapore, 2009.

Ray Tyers’ Singapore then & now

by Ray K. Tyers

Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE

Provides valuable information and pictures of major landmarks in Singapore.

All rights reserved, Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993.

Serangoon Gardens: 35th anniversary 1959-1994

Call no.: RSING 959.57 SER

Ang Sa Li (red zinc) is the Chinese dialect name for Serangoon Gardens. Kew Ong Yah Temple owned by Ong Kew is the most well-known Chinese temple in the Serangoon Gardens Division. This information and other interesting facts are parts of the commemorative magazine, devoted to tracing the history of Serangoon Gardens.

All rights reserved, Singapore: Serangoon Gardens Commemorative Magazine Editorial Committee, 1994.

Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places

by Norman Edwards and Peter Keys

Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW

Describes the buildings, streets and places in Singapore in alphabetical order and gives related historical information such as people and events.

All rights reserved, Singapore: Times Books International, 1988.

Singapore’s 100 historic places

by G. Uma Devi et al

Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN

Provides information on 100 historic sites, buildings, institutions and places in Singapore that are unique recorders of our past history. Comes with maps showing where these places are located and an index.

All rights reserved, Singapore: Archipelago Press in assoication with National Heritage Board, 2002.

Singapore landmarks

by S. Ramachandra

Call no.: RSING 959.57 RAM

A cyclostyled transcript of Ramachandra’s radio talks that describe the history, origins and meanings of many streets, places and buildings in Singapore.

All rights reserved, Singapore: Radio Singapore, 1969.

Stories behind Singapore streets : Exhibition guide, 12 January – 29 June 2012

by National Library Singapore

Call no.: RSING 959.57 STO

This slim publication provides an overview of streets and place names in Singapore dating back to pre-Raffles Singapore. Of interest is the chapter on “Colonial, colloquial and expunged street names” and the sections on street names which have been Malayan-ised, given pinyin translations and streets named after recent contributors to Singapore’s development, such as McNally Street, Lien Ying Chow Drive and Zubir Said Drive.

All rights reserved, Singapore: National Library Board, 2011.

Streets of old Chinatown: Singapore

by Sumiko Tan

Call no.: RSING 915.957 TAN

Catch a glimpse into the lives of early migrants who made Singapore’s Chinatown their home. This book also reveals stories behind the major landmarks, places of interest and tips on what to see and do in Chinatown.

All rights reserved, Singapore: Page Media, 1990.

Street names of Singapore

by Peter K. G. Dunlop

Call no.: RSING 959.57 DUN

Provides an A-Z listing of street names in Singapore, their history and how they got their names.

All rights reserved, Singapore: Who’s Who Pub., 2000.

Tanjong Pagar: Singapore’s cradle of development

by Tanjong Pagar Citizens’ Consultative Committee

Call no.: RSING 959.57 TAN

A collection of essays on the economic, social and political development of Tanjong Pagar. Contains historical photographs, maps, archival sources and oral history interviews describing the transformation of Tanjong Pagar from a home of sea nomads to the world’s busiest port. Also includes a chapter on street names of prominent places and their history in the area.

All rights reserved, Singapore: Tanjong Pagar Citizens’ Consultative Committee, 1989.

Singapore street names: A study of toponymics

by Victor Savage and Brenda Yeoh

Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV

Highlights the history and value systems of place names through time. Also includes photographs and reference listings.

All rights reserved, Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013.

What’s in the name?: How the streets and villages in Singapore got their names

by Ng Yew Peng

Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 NG

This book provides comprehensive annotations of all the place names in Singapore since 1936 and analyses naming trends using newspaper sources, old maps, municipal records, Chinese books and Malay dictionaries.

All rights reserved, Singapore: World Scientific, 2018.

NLB Databases

The NLB eResources provide a wide range of electronic resources including ebooks, newspapers, magazines, databases, full-text journal articles and indexes.

JSTOR is a database which provides access to important scholarly journals, mainly in the humanities and social sciences. High-resolution, scanned images of back issues of journals and pages are available. New titles are added on an ongoing basis. Below are some articles from JSTOR pertaining to Singapore’s streets.

(articles are listed in alphabetical order)

 

  • An index in romanised Hokkien and Cantonese to the Chinese names of streets and places in Singapore
    by K. S. Tan, H. W. Firmstone, A. W. Bailey and F. M. Baddeley
    Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol 46, (Dec, 1906), pp. 195-213.
    This is an A-Z index of the Chinese (in Romanised Hokkien and Cantonese) names of streets and places in Singapore.

 

  • Chinese names of streets and places in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula (continued)
    by H. W. Firmstone
    Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society
    , Vol 42, (Feb, 1905), pp. 53-208.
    Firmstone provides an alphabetised list of Chinese (with Hokkien and Cantonese pronunciations) street names in Singapore and Penang, with brief explanations of their origins.

 

  • Native names of streets in Singapore
    by H.T. Haughton
    Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol 42, No.1, (Jul, 1969), pp. 196-207.
    Haughton provides an alphabetical list of the principal streets and roads in Singapore in English as well as their accompanying Chinese and Tamil names as given by the local communities.

 

  • Street names in colonial Singapore
    by Brenda Yeoh
    Geographical Review
    , Vol 82, No.3, (Jul, 1992), pp. 313-322.
    Two systems of street naming conventions existed in colonial Singapore. One was based on the European perception of landscape ordering and urban functioning, while the second originated from the immigrant Asian communities with the emphasis placed on purpose and function.

 

  • Street-naming and nation-building: Toponymic inscriptions of nationhood in Singapore.
    by Brenda Yeoh
    Area, Vol 28, No. 3, (Sep, 1996), pp. 298-307.
    In post-independence Singapore, street-naming was influenced by socio-political sentiments. In this article, Yeoh examines street-naming as an integral ideological component of Singapore’s nation building and its impact on citizens.

 

NLB Portals

(listed in alphabetical order)

Infopedia
URL: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/

Singapore Infopedia is an electronic encyclopedia on Singapore published by the National Library Board (NLB). It holds a collection of articles on Singapore and covers a wide range of topics, including but not limited to historical events, arts, culture, economy, government and key personalities.

To search for Infopedia articles on streets and places in Singapore, check out this URL: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/Streets_and_Places.html

A list of 273 articles on Singapore streets and places are provided. Featured below are some of the articles you can find from Infopedia.

 

  • Arab Street
    by Vernon Cornelius-Takahama and Dahlia Shamsuddin
    Extract from article: Arab Street lies between Victoria Street and Beach Road in the Kampong Glam area, and was part of the Rochor Planning Area of Singapore’s Central Region. Sir Stamford Raffles had designated the Kampong Glam area as the most appropriate area for Arabs to live in. Other streets nearby are also named after Arabian cities. These include Bussorah Street, Muscat Street and Baghdad Street. Arab Street is the centre of Muslim activities in that area, and is famed for its specialty shops, Muslim restaurants and more.

 

  • Serangoon Road
    by Heirwin Mohd Nasir
    Extract from article: Serangoon Road is one of the earliest roads built in Singapore. It passes through Singapore’s Little India, which is the commercial, cultural and religious centre for both the local and foreign Indian community in Singapore. It also served as a highway between town and the Serangoon harbour in the northeast.

 

  • Telok Ayer Street
    by Sharon Teng
    Extract from article: Telok Ayer was designated a Chinese district by Stamford Raffles in 1822 and gained prominence in the 1820s because it served as the landing site for early immigrants. This led to a concentration of religious buildings and Chinese clan associations along the street. The street thus gives a useful insight into the life of early Chinese immigrants.

 

 

PictureSG
URL: https://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/pictures

PictureSG is a collection of pictures, be it photographs or artworks, which provide information about Singapore. It contains NLB’s own pictures, pictures donated to NLB by donors and others contributed by our partners.

Visitors can browse through over 23,000 pictures featuring the streets and places of Singapore at this URL: https://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/pictures/Browse/Streets_and_Places

Keyword searches of a particular street, road, building or bridge can also be done at the search bar located at the top right-hand corner of the PictureSG website.

 

NewspaperSG
URL: https://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/newspapers/

NewspaperSG is an online repository of Singapore newspapers. It contains a digital archive of newspapers published since 1827, such as the Singapore Chronicle and Commercial Register, The Singapore Free Press and The Straits Times.

Featured below are some articles from NewspaperSG, covering the history and origins of Singapore’s streets and places.

 

  • A road into history
    by Kezia Toh
    The Straits Times, 8 July 2013, Page 3
    http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/newspapers/Digitised/Article/straitstimes20130708-1.2.52.3
    (article is only viewable in NLB libraries)
    Features a newly published 408-page third edition of Singapore street names: A study of toponymics which contains over 1,700 entries of road names and also contains stories from relatives of Singapore’s pioneers after whom many of the roads were named.

 

 

  • Learn our street names
    The Straits Times, 11 November 1977, Page 8
    http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/newspapers/Digitised/Article/straitstimes19771111-1.2.45.1
    As a result of a February 1970 report by a special Ministry of Culture standardisation committee highlighting the confusing Chinese translations of Singapore street names, government departments, statutory boards, the mass media and the public have adopted the standardised street names in Chinese.

 

 

  • Want to know why there are so many ‘chu kangs’?
    by Janadas Devan
    The Straits Times, 12 June 2005, Page 27
    http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/newspapers/Digitised/Article/straitstimes20050612-1.2.29.9
    (article is only viewable in NLB libraries)
    Interesting anecdotes about the meanings behind Singapore’s street names are liberally sprinkled throughout this article, such as Serangoon Road being named after a long-legged water-bird called the rang-gung or why there are so many “chu kangs” in Singapore’s history.

 

 

Websites

(listed in alphabetical order)

The following websites contain useful information and resources on this topic.

 

 

  • Remember Singapore
    URL: https://remembersingapore.org/
    This blog provides photographs and write-ups that aim to relive memories of Singapore and increase awareness of the fading heritage and vanishing landmarks in the midst of Singapore’s rapid development.

 

Accessing National Library Board Singapore Resources


Accessing the Print Materials

You can search the library catalogue (for physical materials) in the library and from home (http://catalogue.nlb.gov.sg). The easy search function allows you to search/browse by author, title, keyword, subject and ISBN/ISSN whereas the advanced search allows you to narrow your searches to specific media types or language holdings. In both instances, you will also be able to limit your search to search only specific libraries by clicking on the “limit by branch” option.

To search Lee Kong Chian Reference Library’s Holdings

If you wish to search for only materials available in the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library, please always click on the “Limit by Branch” button at the bottom of the page, after you have keyed in your search term. This brings you to a new page whereby you will be able to select the library of your choice. Choose “Lee Kong Chian Reference Library” and select “yes” under the “Display only items available in the selected branch below” and then click on search.

Things to note:

Once you have identified the title that you need, please double check through the following information and write down the necessary info:

i. The “Status” of the item: the item is not available in the library, if the status displayed is “in transit”, “in process” or “not ready for loan”.

ii. Double check that the item is in Lee Kong Chian Reference Library under “Branch”.

iii. Write down the Location Code and the Call Number of the item. This helps you to locate the item within Lee Kong Chian Reference Library. Please refer to the table below for more information (Note: Please feel free to approach the counter staff for help in locating the books.)

All featured books and periodicals are located at the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library.


Accessing the Databases

The National Library Board (NLB)’s eResources are free for all NLB members. Click here to find out how to register as a member.

If you’re having problems registering or logging in, please contact us. If you wish to find information in the databases but am not sure where to begin, or need recommendations on which databases to use, please use the “Ask A Librarian” function or send an email to ref@nlb.gov.sg for help. The librarian will get back to you within three working days.

 

Author

Sharon Teng

 

The information in this resource guide is valid as at August 2019 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

All Rights Reserved. National Library Board Singapore 2019.

Written by Sharon Teng