Craig Road begins from the junction of Neil Road and Keong Saik Road and ends at Tanjong Pagar Road. Named after Captain James Craig, an officer in the Merchant Service Guild and member of the Freemason Zetland Lodge, the road was where the poor people in Chinatown lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.1
The area around Craig Road was originally a nutmeg plantation owned by the medical doctor, William Montgomerie. His plantation, which included a portion of the current Tanjong Pagar Road, comprised 13 ha of land and 1,800 trees with two properties known as Craig Hill and Duxton nestled amongst the trees.2 In 1856, following Montgomerie’s death, the whole plantation, including the houses, was auctioned off to Ker, Rawson & Co. Craig Road, along with two other nearby roads, Duxton Road and Duxton Hill, were presumably constructed after the 1856 sale and named after the aforementioned dwellings.3
In the years that followed, Craig Road became a residential area for the poor. Rickshaw pullers, prostitutes, dock workers and triad gangsters set up home along the street.4 However, rapid urbanisation that followed after Singapore’s independence in 1965 saw Craig Road gain an image makeover. Currently part of the Tanjong Pagar Conservation Area, the road has become a posh locale populated with shops, restored shophouses, eating places, terrace buildings, pubs, private residential units, hotels, commercial units and a few Housing and Development Board blocks of flats. Other big commercial-cum-residential units found on the road are Craig Place and Chinatown Plaza. Duxton Plain Park and the Poo Thor Jee temple, which used to accept patients on behalf of the Singapore Buddhist Free Clinic, are also nearby. The Tanjong Pagar branch of the Singapore Buddhist Free Clinic relocated to Craig Road in 1997.5
Hokkien: gu chia chui kia, meaning “next to Kreta Ayer”.6 To avoid confusion with similar sounding roads located around Kreta Ayer, Craig Road was also called ka-lek lut, which has only phonetic significance and was used to mean Craig Road and the road where the Peranakans lived.7
Cantonese: san yiong tai uk pin, meaning “beside San Yiong’s big house”. San Yiong was a Peranakan who owned a big house on this road.8
Naidu Ratnala Thulaja
1. Peter K. G. Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore (Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, 2000), 61. (Call no. RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS])
2. “Page 3 Advertisements Column 5,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), 9 October 1856, 3 (From NewspaperSG); Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 459. (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
3. “Page 3 Advertisements Column 5”; Charles Burton Buckley, An Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1984), 636. (Call no. RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
4. Chan Kwee Sung “Volatile Mix in Tanjong Pagar,” Straits Times, 9 April 2001, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
5. “A Brief History of SBFC,” Singapore Buddhist Free Clinic, accessed 3 June 2016.
6. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013). (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
7. H. W. Firmstone, “Chinese Names of Streets and Places in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula,” Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 42 (February 1905): 82. (Call no. RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS)
8. Firmstone, “Chinese Names of Streets and Places, 83.
The information in this article is valid as of 2016 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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