Temple Street is a one-way street connecting South Bridge Road to New Bridge Road. Situated in the heart of Chinatown, the road runs parallel to Pagoda Street and Smith Street.1
Temple Street was originally called Almeida Street after Joaquim d’Almeida, who owned land at the junction of Temple Street and Trengganu Street.2 At the time, there were two other roads named after members of the d’Almeida family – D’Almeida Street at Raffles Place and Almeida Road near the former Mount Victoria, where the patriarch of the family, Jose d’Almeida, lived. In 1908, Almeida Street was renamed Temple Street after a fire brigade got confused between D’Almeida Street and Almeida Street.3
To avoid any further mix-up, Almeida Road was renamed Balmoral Road, while D’Almeida Street retained its name. Although some believe that Temple Street got its name from the Sri Mariamman Temple located at the junction of Temple Street and South Bridge Road,4 it is also probable that the road was named such due to the presence of many temples in the vicinity.5 Built in 1827, Sri Mariamman Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore.6
In the 19th century, the area around Temple Street was home to not only the Chinese but also Malays and Indians , which led to the presence of Muslim and Hindu places of worship nearby.7 Many Indians and Malays lived on the nearby Cross Street and Chulia Street.8
Until 1927, Temple Street was popular for Cantonese operas. Lai Chun Yuen Theatre, famed for its Cantonese operas, was located on nearby Smith Street,9 and surrounding streets were thus associated with it. Temple Street was also known as hei yuen hau kai, meaning “theatre back-street”.10
Tinsmith shops were another common sight at the area bound by Temple Street and Smith Street.11 In 1997, a part of Temple Street was converted into a pedestrian mall.12
Naidu Ratnala Thulaja
1. Mighty Minds Street Directory (Singapore: Angel Publishing Pte Ltd., 2015), 132 (Call no. RSING 912.5957 MMSD); “Old Shophouses Put to New Uses,” Straits Times, 29 April 1995, 46. (From NewspaperSG)
2. Archives and Oral History Department, Singapore, Chinatown: An Album of a Singapore Community (Singapore: Times Books International, 1983), 89, 96 (Call no. RSING 779.995957 CHI); Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 486 (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA]); Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 382. (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
3. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 28; “Page 8 Advertisements Column 1,” Straits Times, 4 March 1908, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 16, 28, 382; Ray Tyers and Siow Jin Hua, Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & Now (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993), 183. (Call no. RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
5. Peter K. G. Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore (Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, 2000), 307. (Call no. RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS])
6. Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 406; Archives and Oral History Department, Singapore, Chinatown, 80; Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 183.
7. Chan Kwee Sung, “Chinatown’s Non-Chinese Legacy,” Straits Times, 21 May 2001. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
8. Archives and Oral History Department, Singapore, Chinatown, 90, 97; Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 382.
9. Archives and Oral History Department, Singapore, Chinatown, 88, 90, 97; Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 382.
10. Leong Weng Kam, “Opera Group Moves to Smith Street,” Straits Times, 28 March 1998, 63. (From NewspaperSG)
11. Archives and Oral History Department, Singapore, Chinatown, 97; Margaret Sullivan, ‘Can Survive, La’: Cottage Industries in High-Rise Singapore (Singapore: Graham Brash, 1993), 140–3. (Call no. RCLOS 338.634095957 SUL)
12. “Street Closed to Make Way for Pedestrian Mall,” Straits Times, 27 June 1997, 57. (From NewspaperSG)
The information in this article is valid as of 2016 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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