Telok Kurau Road

Singapore Infopedia

by Thulaja, Naidu Ratnala


Telok Kurau Road connects Changi Road to Marine Parade Road. Named after a fishing village called Telok Kurau on East Coast Road, the road has been a popular middle-class residential district since the 1960s.1

The word telok kurau is Malay for “mango fish bay” – telok means “bay” and kurau is “mango fish”.2 Before kampongs were phased out by the 1980s, a Malay village known as Telok Kurau used to be located on East Coast Road.3

In the pre-war days, it was common to see Indians in Telok Kurau. They reared cows, leading the animals about freely on public roads. The cows were led from one house to another and milked whenever someone wanted to buy milk.4

Telok Kurau Primary School, formerly called the Telok Kurau English School, was established in 1926. Originally a two-storey wooden building set in the middle of a coconut plantation,5 it shared the same football field with the Telok Kurau Malay School which lay in the adjacent compound.6 During the Japanese Occupation (1942–45), the school was used as a screening centre for the Japanese military’s Sook Ching massacre.7

Later in 1950, the road also had its share of violence during the Maria Hertogh riots.8

Since the 1960s, Telok Kurau has been a sleepy and tranquil suburbia in Katong, known mostly as a middle-class residential enclave. The suburb roughly covers Telok Kurau Road, which is intersected by several smaller roads: Lorongs G, H, J, K, L, M and N Telok Kurau; Jalan Baiduri; St Patrick’s Road; Joo Chiat Avenue; and Joo Chiat Place. The charm of this area has been attributed to the presence of unimposing buildings: a mix of modest bungalows, terrace and semidetached houses as well as low-rise apartments that exist among coffeeshops and small businesses. Despite the thronging urban development in nearby Katong, the Telok Kurau area has managed to retain its charm.9

Since the 1990s, new housing projects have altered the landscape of Telok Kurau, though not drastically. Low-rise buildings still dominate the landscape, with few tall condominiums in the area. New semidetached houses have sprung up and, together with freshly painted terrace houses, they constitute a notable feature in the changing landscape of Telok Kurau.10


Naidu Ratnala Thulaja

1. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 380 (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA]); Eunice Low, et al., Life in Katong (Singapore: National Library Board, 2002), 19. (Call no. RCLOS q959.57 LIF-[HIS])
2. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 380.
3. Lily Kong and T. C Chang, Joo Chiat: A Living Legacy (Singapore: Archipelago Press, 2001), 49 (Call no. RSING 959.57 KON-[HIS]); Peter K. G. Dunlop, Street names of Singapore (Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, 2000), 307. (Call no. RSING 959.57 DUN-HIS])
4. Kong and Chang, Joo Chiat, 73. 
5. Tracy Quek, “SM Lee Returns to Bid Farewell to Old School,” Straits Times, 6 December 2000, 2 (From NewspaperSG); Kong and Chang, Joo Chiat, 127.
6. “I Grew Up Completely at Ease with Malays,” Straits Times, 30 September 2003, 17. (From NewspaperSG)
7. Kong and Chang, Joo Chiat, 127.
8. “Police Make 700 Riot Arrests,” Straits Times, 15 December 1950, 1 (From NewspaperSG); Low, et al., Life in Katong, 9.
9. Lisa Kong, “New Telok Kurau,” Straits Times, 5 December 1992, 14 (From NewspaperSG); Kong and Chang, Joo Chiat, 25.
10. Kong, “New Telok Kurau.” 

Further resources
Chua Chong Jin, “It’s Off to Market for Fresh Lessons,” Straits Times, 26 October 1989, 25. (From NewspaperSG)

Mary Rose Gasmier, “A Multi-Faceted View of…,”  Straits Times, 22 December 1992, 4. (From NewspaperSG)

The information in this article is valid as at May 2020 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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