Merchant Road

Singapore Infopedia

by Thulaja, Naidu Ratnala


Merchant Road connects New Bridge Road and Clemenceau Avenue. At its junction with Keng Cheow Street, Merchant Road branches into four one-way roads. Two roads lead to highways, while the other two connect Clemenceau Avenue and Eu Tong Sen Street.1

Merchant Road used to connect New Bridge Road to Merchant Lane.2 The road was called “Theatre Street”,3 referring to the cluster of Chinese opera houses and regular street performances in the area. It was later renamed Merchant Road for the many merchants that began congregating and residing there.4

The most popular features of the road, when it was still Theatre Street, were the Thong Chai Medical Institution built in 1892 and a small hawker-cum-market centre5 located there in the early 20th century. The Thong Chai Medical Institution, at the junction of Merchant Road and Eu Tong Sen Street,6 was frequented by Chinese immigrants for free medical treatment.7 Read Bridge, near Merchant Road, was named after William Henry Macleod Read, a businessman and a popular public figure.8 Read Crescent Park is enclosed by the semi-circular Read Crescent and borders Merchant Road on one side.9

As part of urban renewal during the 1990s, the Urban Redevelopment Authority put up many sites on Merchant Road for sale.10 Currently, hotels such as Swissotel Merchant Court and Park Regis can be found on either side of Merchant Road.11

Variant names
Sin koi-a khau in Hokkien and san kai hau in Cantonese, both meaning “new street mouth”. Chin Hin Street, now expunged, used to connect to Merchant Road. Chin Hin street was referred to as a new street because of its then recent construction.

Sin koi-a khau hi-hng koi
in Hokkien means “the theatre street at the mouth of the little new street”, a reference to the Chinese opera houses found there.12


Naidu Ratnala Thulaja

1. Mighty Minds Street Directory (Singapore: Angel Publishing Pte Ltd, 2015), map 132B. (Call no. RSING q912.5957 MMSD)
2. Ministry of Culture, Singapore, Singapore Street Directory (Singapore: Ministry of Culture, 1988), 9. (Call no. RCLOS 959.57 SSD)
3. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 254 (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA]); Linda Berry, Singapore’s River: A Living Legacy (Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, 1982), 90. (Call no. RSING 959.57 BER-[HIS])
4. Peter K. G. Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore (Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, 2000), 209. (Call no. RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS])
5. Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 401, 409. (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
6. Mighty Minds Street Directory, map 132B.
7. Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 401.
8. Ray Tyers and Siow Jin Hua, Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & Now (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993), 26–27. (Call no. RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
9. Mighty Minds Street Directory, map 132B.
10. “Number of Completed Private Homes Hit Record High in February,” Straits Times, 9 April 1993, 44; “URA Offers Merchant Road's 'Hakuei Site' for Sale Again,” Straits Times, 28 May 1993, 48. (From NewspaperSG)
11. Mighty Minds Street Directory, map 132B.
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): 108–09 (Call no. RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS); Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 254.

Further resources
Cephah Tan, “$120 M Scheme to Make It More Pleasant to Walk,” Straits Times, 1 December 1992, 3. (From NewspaperSG)

Sharon Chin and Cheryl Tan, “S’pore River Waiting for New Lease of Life,” Straits Times, 20 April 1993, 25. (From NewspaperSG)

The information in this article is valid as of 2017 and correct as far as we can 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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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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