Neil Road

Singapore Infopedia


Neil Road in Chinatown is a one-way road that begins at South Bridge Road and ends at two points – one leads into Kampong Bahru Road1 and the other to the junction of New Bridge Road and Eu Tong Sen Street.2 Originally known as Silat, Selat or Salat Road, it was renamed as Neil Road in 1858 after Colonel Neil of the Madras Fusiliers, a hero of the 1857 Indian mutiny.3

Neil Road was part of a nutmeg plantation owned by Dr. Montgomerie, which covered Duxton Hill until the 1850s.4 It was called Salat Road (Selat or Silat, meaning “straits”) at that time and was a simple track, the first to be laid, in the plantation.5 Salat Road was so named as it led to Keppel Harbour, which was known as Silat until 1819. In 1858, the Municipal Council renamed the road in honour of Colonel Neil who served with the Madras Fusiliers in India and was one of the heroes of the 1857 Indian Mutiny.6 Neil Road, then being located within a plantation, developed much later than the surrounding parts of Chinatown.7

At the beginning of the road is the Jinrikisha Station, located at the junction of Tanjong Pagar Road and Neil Road. Built in 1903 and restored in 1987, this conserved building has been refurbished into a shopping and recreational centre.8 Many of the shophouses and terrace houses around the Jinrikisha Station that were built (likely between 1890 and 1910) have also been restored.9 Some terrace buildings built in the 1940s in European architectural styles further away from the station have also similarly been restored.10 A conserved three-storey neo-classical building built around 1924 at 89 Neil Road was once the Eng Aun Tong building where the famous herbal ointment Tiger Balm was manufactured.11 At 147 Neil Road is a house that was owned by Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s grandfather, Lee Hoon Leong, who bought it in 1920. The former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had lived in the house with his grandfather and parents for a few years.12 The Fairfield Girls’ School moved to Neil Road in 1912 and is a Victorian-style three-storey building. In 1958, the school was renamed Fairfield Methodist Girls’ School. In 1983, it relocated to Dover Road as two schools (Fairfield Methodist Primary and Fairfield Methodist Secondary) and also became co-educational.13 The original building remained vacant until 2013 when it was fully restored for conservation by the Urban Redevelopment Authority. It is now the Home Team Career Centre managed by the Ministry of Home Affairs.14

Variant names
Chinese name: Gu-chhia-chui kia (Hokkien), meaning “steep part of Kreta Ayer”, referring to Neil Road being a steep road that led to the central part of the nutmeg plantation on Duxton Hill; Ngau-chhe-shui pin ma-ta-liu chek sheung (Cantonese), meaning “near Kreta Ayer, straight up past the police station”, probably referring to the police station on Pearl’s Hill.15


Naidu Ratnala Thulaja

1. Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 473. (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
2. Mighty Minds Street Directory (Singapore: Angel Publishing Pte Ltd., 2014), 37, map 132D. (Call no. RSING 912.5957 MMSD)
3. Peter K. G. Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore (Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, 2000), 221. (Call no. RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS])
4. Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 459.
5. Ray Tyers and Siow Jin Hua, Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & Now (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993), 191. (Call no. RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
6. Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore, 221.
7. Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 473.
8. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 191; Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 462.
9. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 191.
10. Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 473.
11. “Chinatown (Includes Maxwell No. 38 and 89 Neil Road),” Urban Redevelopment Board, accessed 29 June 2016.
12. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 269. (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
13. “School History,” Fairfield Methodist School (Secondary), accessed 10 August 2016; Melody Zaccheus, “101-Year-Old Fairfield Girls’ Building Gets Total Makeover,” Straits Times, 1 November 2013, 14. (From NewspaperSG)
14. Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 463; Zaccheus, “101-Year-Old Fairfield Girls’ Building.”
15. 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): 56–57. (Call no. RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS)

Further resource
89 Neil Road Conservation Area,” Urban Redevelopment Authority, accessed 5 July 2003.

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 project. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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The information on this page and any images that appear here may be used for private research and study purposes only. They may not be copied, altered or amended in any way without first gaining the permission of the copyright holder.

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