Pickering Street

Singapore Infopedia


Pickering Street and Upper Pickering Street are located in the Downtown Core of the Central Region.1 The streets were named after William Alexander Pickering, the first Protector of the Chinese and head of the Chinese Protectorate.He was popular among the Chinese population for his ability to speak four Chinese dialects and Mandarin.3

Pickering Street and Upper Pickering Street were originally known as Macao Street and Upper Macao Street respectively, where the Chinese Protectorate was located between 1881 and 1885. The street names were renamed to Pickering in January 1925 in honour of William Pickering.4

Pickering street
Singapore’s first civil jail was one of the former landmarks on Pickering Street (then still known as Macao Street). It was built around 1823 and rebuilt between 1829 and 1830.5 The site was later converted into the Central Police Station in 1849. A new building for the station, designed by the government’s chief architect Frank Dorrington Ward, was constructed in the early 1930s.6

In 1978, the Central Police Station was demolished. The site was then replaced by Pidemco Centre in 1984, which housed the Immigration Office Department. Pidemco Centre was subsequently demolished to make way for a 23-storey office building, One George Street, which began construction in 2003.7 Another prominent landmark along the street is the Pickering Operations Complex, which was built in 1986 and opened in 1988.8

Upper Pickering Street
Landmarks along Upper Pickering Street includes Hong Lim Park. Originally named after the first Superintendent of Police, Thomas Dunman, the park was renamed in 1876 to Hong Lim Green in honour of Cheang Hong Lim, a businessman who donated the land. In September 2000, the park was designated as the venue for Speakers’ Corner.9

In the 1950s, the three nine-storey housing blocks along the Upper Pickering Street became notoriously known as “suicide flats”; as many as 20 people jumped to their death from these blocks. Upper Pickering Street gained the nickname “suicide street” and tio lou kai, which means jump off the tower. To deter suicides, the Singapore Improvement Trust – which had built the blocks – put up barbed wire and barricades on balconies and the stairways. The flats have since been torn down.10

Vernon Cornelius and Shereen Tay

1. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Downtown Core (Part) Planning Area: Planning Report 1995 (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1995), 6. (Call no. RCLOS 711.49095957 SIN)
2. Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 456 (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA]); Ray K. Tyers and Siow Jin Hua, Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & Now (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993), 190. (Call no. RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
3. Walter Makepeace, Gilbert E. Brooke and Roland St. J. Braddell, eds., One Hundred Years of Singapore, vol. 1 (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1991), 277. (Call no. RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
4. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 296 (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA]); Ray Tyers, “Pickering’s Progress,” New Nation, 20 July 1973, 9. (From NewspaperSG).
5. Anoma Pieris, Hidden Hands and Divided Landscapes: A Penal History of Singapore’s Plural Society (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2009), 79 (Call no. RSING 365.95957 PIE); Singapore. Survey Department, Street Directory and Guide to Singapore with Sectional Maps (Singapore: Survey Department, 1954), 10. (Call no. RCLOS 307.1216095957 MAS)
6. Singapore. Survey Department, Street Directory, 10;” New Six-Storey Police Building,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, 25 May 1932, 11 (From NewspaperSG); National Heritage Board, Police Heritage Trail Pamphlet (Singapore: National Heritage Board, n.d.).
7. Tyers, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 258; “Landmark to Make Way for Road Project,” New Nation, 1 September 1977, 2; “Pidemco Centre Gives Way to $ 190m Building,” Straits Times, 6 February 2003, 16. (From NewspaperSG).
8. Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 449; Telecoms Complex to Be Opened on Friday, Straits Times, 27 July 1988, 13. (From NewspaperSG).
9. Tyers, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 258; Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 401; Yap Chuin Wei, “Speakers' Comer to Open on Sept 1,” Straits Times (Overseas ed), 12 August 2000, p. 2. (From NewspaperSG)
10. “Suicide Street Is Its New Name,” Singapore Free Press, 24 April 1953, 3; “Suicide Leaps at S.I.T Flats Over Now-Tenants,” Singapore Free Press, 18 March 1955, 7; “How to Stump a Death Jump?,” Straits Times, 13 January 1956, 5; Chan Kwee Sung, “Take Me to Watercart Street,” Straits Times, 4 February 2002, 6; “Housing, Straits Times, 30 May 2009, 98. (From NewspaperSG).

The information in this article is valid as at June 2021 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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