Flint Street

Singapore Infopedia


Flint Street stretches from Battery Road to Boat Quay and is flanked on each side by the Bank of China building and Malayan Banking building.1 It was named after Captain William Flint, the brother-in-law of Sir Stamford Raffles.2 Upon his arrival in April 1820, he assumed the post of Master Attendant from Francis James Bernard, the son-in-law of William Farquhar. Flint Street was probably named before 1861.3 The original Flint Street was renamed Prinsep Street, according to the Municipal Council resolution of 8 March 1858.4

Near Flint Street was Tanjong Tangkap, a popular reference given by merchants to the godowns of Alexander Laurie Johnston & Co., which was set up in 1820. The godowns were so named because they were the nearest to the river mouth and from there, Alexander Laurie Johnston, who owned the firm, could approach the merchant captains for trade as soon as they sailed in. Tanjong Tangkap remained until 1848.5

Flint’s Building (also known as Flint’s Estate or Cavenagh Bridge Buildings), was a long rambling building that stood at the corner of Battery Road. It comprised a collection of houses that belonged to the Flint family.6

Next to Cavenagh Bridge, there used to be a famous lunch-time spot called the Emmerson’s Tiffin Rooms. Established in 1866 and occupying part of Flint’s Building, the Tiffin Rooms was owned by Charles Emmerson (d. 1883), who first came to Singapore in 1860 as a veterinarian (the first on the island). Very popular especially on Saturday afternoons, the Tiffin Rooms was frequented by ships’ officers and others who plied the sea. Emmerson was also a hotelier, and managed the Clarendon Hotel on Beach Road. His Tiffin Rooms also gained popularity for being the haunt of writer Joseph Conrad when he was in Singapore between 1833 and 1888.7

Flint’s Building, which also housed James Motion Jeweller, Watchmaker and Optician, was pulled down after a fire seriously damaged it in 1906. It was replaced in 1910 by a block of office buildings belonging to Whiteaway, Laidlaw & Co. Within this building was a three-storey department store called Whiteaways which was popular for shopping in the 1950s and ’60s. In 1962, Maybank took over the building and named it Malayan Banking Chambers. In 1965, three more storeys were added to the building and it was renamed the Malayan Bank Chambers, or Maybank Chambers.8 This building was demolished in 1998 to herald in the new 32-storey Maybank Tower.9

Opposite Maybank Tower is the 18-storey Bank of China, which has been there since 1954 and was one of the region’s first skyscrapers and Singapore’s first building to be air-conditioned.10 Another bank, the Chartered Bank, occupied Battery Road at the corner of Flint Street from 1895 to 1904.11

Variant names
Chinese names: 

(1) In Hokkien, tho kho bue.12
(2) In Cantonese, the-fu me means “the end of the godowns”,13 as Flint Street marked the end of the stretch of godowns on Boat Quay.


Vernon Cornelius

1. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 125. (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
2. S. Durai Raja Singam, Place-Names in Peninsular Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur: Archipelago Publishers, 1980), 103–4. (Call no. RSING 959.5 RAJ) 
3. C. A. Gibson-Hill, “The Master Attendants at Singapore, 1819-67,” Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 33, no. 1 (May 1960): 1–64 (From JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website); “Correspondence,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), 20 March 1862, 3; “The Singapore Free Press,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), 15 August 1861, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 285 (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA]); Charles Burton Buckley, An Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1984), 667 (Call no. RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS]); Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 125.
5. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 125; Buckley, Anecdotal History of Old Times, 667.
6. “Whiteaway’s,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 31 May 1915, 10; “A Big Land Deal,” Straits Times, 11 July 1913, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
7. Margaret Chan, “A Chip Off the Old China,” Straits Times, 3 March 1991, 5; “Untitled,” Straits Times, 2 June 1883, 2 (From NewspaperSG); Buckley, Anecdotal History of Old Times, 681.
8. Ray Tyers and Siow Jin Hua, Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & Now (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993), 11. 116 (Call no. RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS]); Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 415.
9. “SingLand Wins Maybank HQ Contract,” Business Times, 5 February 1998, 13. (From NewspaperSG)
10. Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 416.
11. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 130.
12. 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): 88 (Call no. RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS); Mubin Sheppard, ed., Singapore 150 Years (Singapore: Times Books International: Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1982), 212. (Call no. RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
13. Firmstone, “Chinese Names of Streets and Places,” 88–89.

The information in this article is valid as of 2013 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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