Change Alley


Change Alley, alley way, is located in the Downtown Core of the Central Region. The original narrow spot stretched from Raffles Place to Collyer Quay. Unlike its namesake in London where stockbrokers congregated, Change Alley was world famous for its money-changers and inexpensive shopping.

In the 1920s, Change Alley was not yet a famous tourist place, rather a recognised meeting place for European buyers and Asiatic brokers.  Since there were only a few stalls then, it was easier to walk through from Collyer Quay to Raffles Place, unlike decades later when tourists had to push and shove their way through a narrow congested space in between the ubiquitous stalls that had sprung up.

From the 1940s, Change Alley was swarmed by bargain-hunting servicemen and tourists. Visitors and seafarers arriving at the waterfront would make their way from the seafront at Collyer Quay to the commercial centre, Raffles Place, through this alley which was narrower than Petticoat Lane (in London). The mixture of cramped and dingy shops and stalls offered everything from clothes, batik cloth, bags, brief cases, watches, toys, fishing accessories to handicrafts and other souvenirs. The goods could be bargained for and part of the attraction of Change Alley was the opportunity to practice this interactive exchange. The shopkeepers conducted business in various languages including 'broken' French, English, German, Italian and Russian. The money-changers, many of them Indian Muslims, ran their business within their own little retail shops. There were also many illegal money-changers stationed at both entrances of the alley, touting their currencies at 'bargainable exchange rates'.

On Sunday 30 April 1989, the shops in Change Alley opened for the last time.  Business at the Alley, which sat on prime land, was hit hard by the dwindling number of soldiers and sailors visiting the country.  On the last day, shopkeepers waved bargains at an attempt to clear their stock before they shifted to other government-provided stalls. 
After more than 100 years of trading activities, this former bartering and bargain bazaar ceased to exist when the Singapore Rubber House and Winchester House, between which Change Alley stood, were demolished. 

Change Alley is now a modern, sanitized building complex of shops and offices.

Variant Names
Chinese names: In Hokkien, Thor Khor Harng meaning "Lane of European firms", reflecting the proliferation of British and foreign companies around it.

Vernon Cornelius

Edwards, N. & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places (p. 454). Singapore: Times Book International.
(Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW)

Peet, G. L. (1985). Rickshaw reporter (p. 54). Singapore: Eastern Universities Press.
(Call no.: RSING 070.924 EDW)

Samuel, D. S. (1939). Malayan street names: What they mean and whom they commemorate (p. 91). Ipoh: Mercantile Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.5 RAJ)

Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers' Singapore Then and Now (p. 133). Singapore: Landmark Books.
(Call no.: RSING q959.57 TYE)

(1978). Goodwood Journal, 1st Qtr., 7.
(Call no.: RSING 052 GHCGJ)

Change Alley to close for good on April 30. (1989, April 18). The Straits Times, p. 19.

The end of S'pore Change Alley. (1989, May 2). The Star, p. 18.

A Singapore landmark falls to progress. (1988, December 3). The Nation, p. 23.

The information in this article is valid as at 1999 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.

Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Commercial Buildings
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