Tanjong Rhu Road

Singapore Infopedia


Tanjong Rhu Road begins from the junction of Fort Road and Meyer Road, and ends near the Marina Reservoir. It runs parallel to the East Coast Parkway while part of the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway runs under Tanjong Rhu Road.1 This road used to be a marine yard and the centre of shipbuilding and repair in Singapore before the shipyard industry moved to Jurong in the 1980s, and thereafter the Tanjong Rhu Road area was converted into a residential estate.

Tanjong Rhu Road was named after the casuarina trees that grew along the coasts of Kallang and Rochor. Casuarina trees are known as pokok rhu in Malay, rhu being the Malay name for the casuarina littoria variety of the tree.2 It is unknown when the road was named Tanjong Rhu but the name has been in use since at least the early 17th century, as the area is labelled “Tanjon Ru” in Emanuel Godinho de Erédia’s1604 map featuring Singapore.3 Other roads that connect to Tanjong Rhu Road are named similarly, such as Tanjong Rhu Place, Tanjong Rhu View and Tanjong Rhu Cross.

According to Stamford Raffles’s town plan prepared by Philip Jackson and published in 1828, Raffles had intended for Tanjong Rhu to be a “marine yard”. Only the tip of Tanjong Rhu, which was historically known as Sandy Point,is depicted in the map.6 One of the pioneers of the shipbuilding business was William Flint, who set up a company in Tanjong Rhu in 1822.George Lyons and his brother also set up a shipbuilding yard there in the 1850s.8 Other shipbuilding companies followed suit, including Thornycroft9 and United Engineers.10 By the early 20th century, Tanjong Rhu had become known for its shipyards.11

Tanjong Rhu shipyards
Vessels of various sizes were built and repaired at the Tanjong Rhu shipyards – such as high-speed patrol boats, warships, launches, tankers and tugboats. The orders came from local clients like the Singapore Marine Police Force and overseas government agencies such as the Ceylon Navy.12 During the war, Thornycroft’s shipyard was taken over by the Japanese and was severely damaged. When the war ended, Thornycroft regained possession of the shipyard and took several years to restore the shipyard to its former condition.13 In January 1968, Vosper Thornycroft Uniteers, as the company was later known, opened a $1.5 million administrative building and boatyards at Tanjong Rhu.14

In addition to being home to shipbuilding businesses, the Bugis fleet coming from the Celebes (Sulawesi) also anchored at the Kallang Basin by Tanjong Rhu during the 19th and early 20th centuries for trade.15 The Bugis fleet continued to dock at Kallang Basin until as late as the early 1960s,16 after which they started to anchor off Telok Ayer Basin instead.17

Developments and landmarks
By the 1980s, most of the shipyards had been relocated to Jurong as the government had begun its plan to clean up the waterways.18 Today, Tanjong Rhu is a private residential area boasting waterfront condominiums including The Waterside, Tanjong Ria, Water Place, Sanctuary Green, Parkshore and Pebble Bay. It has the distinction of being Singapore’s first waterfront residential enclave.19

The East Coast Parkway (ECP) runs parallel to Tanjong Rhu Road, while an underground section of the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE) passes under Tanjong Rhu Road.20 Other new landmarks that have sprung up recently in the area include the Singapore Sports Hub, officially opened in 2015.21 The Singapore Swimming Club, which was established in 1893, is still situated along Tanjong Rhu Road. Club members travelled to the original clubhouse by boat from Johnston’s Pier.22 In 1995, Dunman High School relocated from Dunman Road to Tanjong Rhu.23

Tanjong Rhu Bridge, Singapore’s first suspension bridge, was built in 1998, linking pedestrians from Tanjong Rhu to the Singapore Sports Hub.24

Variant names
Sha tsui: Cantonese for “sand pit”.25


Thulaja Naidu Ratnala 

1. Singapore Land Authority, One Map, map, n.d.
2. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 375–76 (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA]); Ray Tyers and Siow Jin Hua, Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & Now (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993), 510. (Call no. RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
3. J. V. Mills, “Eredia’s Description of Malaca, Meridional India and Cathay,” Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 8, no. 1 (109) (April 1930): plate VI, 224–25 (From JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website); Makeswary Periasamy, “The Rare Maps Collection of the National Library,” in Visualising Space: Maps of Singapore and the Region (Singapore: National Library Board, 2015), 67, 74. (From BookSG)
4. Mighty Minds Singapore Street Directory (Singapore: Mighty Minds Pub, 2015), 111D, 112. (Call no. RSING q912.5957 MMSSD)
5. National Archives (Singapore), Singapore 1822–3, 1822–1833, survey map, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. SP004502)
6. Survey Department, Singapore, Plan of the Town of Singapore by Lieut Jackson, 1828, survey map, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. SP002981)
7. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 375–76; Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 510.
8. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 510.
9. “Shipbuilding Firm’s $9M. of Contracts,” Straits Times, 23 January 1968, 4; “Thornycroft Shipyards at Tanjong Rhu, Singapore,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 13 April 1927, 14 (From NewspaperSG); Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 510.
10. “Singapore Launch Ceremony: A Diesel-Engined Tug Ordered by Railways,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942), 18 September 1935, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
11. “The Waterfront in the Past,” Straits Times, 14 January 1935, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
12. “They Build Ships for Many Lands in East Asia,” Singapore Free Press, 29 October 1955, 27; “Tanjong Rhu-Built Launches Sold to Iraq, Ceylon and Pakistan Governments,” Singapore Free Press, 26 December 1960, 2; “Shipyard Wins $10.9 Mil Worth of Contracts,” Straits Times, 5 May 1977, 17; “Speed Boats for Police,” Singapore Free Press, 7 August 1947, 5; “Local Firm Gets a Big Order from Ceylon Navy,” Straits Times, 15 July 1966, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
13. “T’croft Expands Tg. Rhu Shipyard: Land to Be Reclaimed,” Singapore Standard, 29 September 1954, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
14. “Shipbuilding Firm’s $9M. of Contracts,” Straits Times, 23 January 1968p. 4. (From NewspaperSG)
15. “Notes from the Kampong,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 30 October 1886, 8; “The Bugis Fleet Arrives,” Straits Times, 5 April 1936, 14. (From NewspaperSG)
16. “Bugis Fleet Waits at Kallang for a Monsoon Deflection to Sail Home to the Celebes,” Singapore Free Press, 14 October 1961, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
17. R. Chandran, “The ‘Bugis Fleet’ Slips Out of Kallang Basin,” Straits Times, 30 September 1966, 13. (From NewspaperSG)
18. Peter K. G. Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore (Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, 2000), 303 (Call no. RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS]); “‘Shape Up or Ship Out’,” Straits Times, 29 June 1985, 12; “Key Dates in the Kallang Basin and Singapore River Clean-Up,” Straits Times, 25 June 1987, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
19. Singapore Land Authority, One Map; “Shipping Out the Old, Shaping Up the New,” Straits Times, 17 December 2004, 26. (From NewspaperSG)
20. Mighty Minds Singapore Street Directory, 111D, 112.
21. Samantha Boh, “PM Marks Youth Day, Opens Sports Hub in Front of 50,000 Crowd,” Straits Times, 26 July 2015. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website): 
22. Tan Chung Lee, The First 100 Years: Singapore Swimming Club 100th Anniversary (Singapore: YTJ Total Communications. 1994), 7–8, 24–25. (Call no. RSING 797.210605957 TAN)
23. Ho Sheo Be, “Saying Goodbye in a Unique Way,” Straits Times, 4 December 1994, 4; “Better Design, Facilities at New Buildings for Two Schools,” Straits Times, 28 May 1995, 26. (From NewspaperSG)
24. “Foot-Bridge Link,” Straits Times, 5 August 1998, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
25. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 376.

Further resources
British Royal Air Force, Singapore Photomap Tanjong Rhu, 28 January 1950, survey map, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. SP000795)

Eunice Low, et al., Life in Katong (Singapore: National Library Board, 2002), 8–9. (Call no. RCLOS q959.57 LIF-[HIS])

Survey Department, Singapore, Tanjong Ru (Rhu), 1920, survey map, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. SP000212)

The information in this article is valid as at 24 January 2018 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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