New Bridge Road


New Bridge Road, a one-way road, begins from the junction of Hill Street, River Valley Road and the Promenade, and ends at the junction of Eu Tong Sen Street and Kampong Bahru Road. Built in 1842, it is named after Coleman's New Bridge which was constructed over the Singapore River in 1840. The road is closely associated with the history of Chinatown.

New Bridge Road, along side Eu Tong Sen Street, was the meeting place of Chinese immigrants. Clan associations and Chinese movie theatres made this street a second home for these immigrants. A Teochew enclave, this road was dominated by their businesses, mainly vegetable and fruit trade. The Ellenborough Building , between Boat Quay, Fish Street and Ellenborough Street, was a large triangular block of two-storey shophouses built originally for Tan Tock Seng by John Turnbull Thomson (1845-47). About half of the block was demolished in 1986 to make way for the approach to Coleman Bridge. Flats built by Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) in 1938 in this area were demolished in 1975, being replaced by the Kreta Ayer Centre. The Oriental Theatre on this street was originally known as the Palacegay and then as Toho Gekizyo during the Japanese occupation. In 1927, it became the first theatre in Singapore to screen Chinese movies that were accompanied by sound. Before then, only silent movies were shown. The theatre was renamed "Oriental Theatre" in 1946 when the Shaw Brothers bought it after the war.

In the late 1980s, an eight-lane dual-carriageway was constructed to merge New Bridge Road and Eu Tong Sen Street. Despite the developments and construction of new buildings, the road's popularity did not wane. Chinese new year decorations every year keeps the street vibrant. The road was brought under the Bukit Pasoh (Chinatown) Conservation Area which was given conservation status on 7 July 1989.

The street is dotted with old and charming 2 and 3-storey conserved shophouses, terrace houses and town houses. An entire block of Chinatown covering New Bridge Road and Cross Street is lined with architecturally-distinct 4-storey shophouses built in the 1930s by the SIT. Well known clan associations on this street include the Tung On Wui Kun association built in 1876 by immigrants from Tung On and Puo On counties in China; the Poon Yue Association established in 1879 with financial assistance from Hoo Ah Kay (Whampoa) and the Kong Chow Wui Koon and a Cantonese clan association built in 1924.

Newer and taller buildings include the Riverwalk Apartments, Chinatown Point, Lucky Chinatown, New Bridge Centre, Ann Kway Association Building, Oriental Plaza, Tai Sun Building, Police Cantonment Complex and the Grace Fellowship Building. Hong Lim Park, developed here in 1876, is among the first neighbourhood parks in Singapore. It was previously called Dunman Green and then Hong Lim Green, after the donor of the site, Cheang Hong Lim (b. 1841- d. 1893). Today, this 0.8 ha. park is most well-known for its Speaker's Corner. The Chinatown MRT station, which was opened in 2003, is built underneath New Bridge Road and Eu Tong Sen Street.

Variant names
Chinese names: Sin pa-sat ma-ta chu cheng (Hokkien) and Sin pa-sat ma-ta liu chhin (Cantonese), both meaning "in front of the new market police station". The Ellenborough Market, situated near Boat Quay's junction with New Bridge Road, used to be known as the New Market. A police station used to be located there and served as entrance to New Bridge Road.

Gu-Chhia-chui (Hokkein) and Ngau-chhe-shui (Cantonese), meaning "Kreta Ayer", a reference to the fact that New Bridge Road was a part of Kreta Ayer, the greater district of Chinatown, on account of being more developed and prosperous than other parts of Chinatown.

i ma lo or Yi -ma -lo (Cantonese), meaning "number two horse way". Although the exact reason why this name came about is not known, it is probable that when New Bridge Road and Eu Tong Sen Street were laid, they were meant to be lanes for horse carriages.

Naidu Ratnala Thulaja

Dunlop, P. K. G. (2000). Street names of Singapore (p. 222). Singapore: Who's Who Publications.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 DUN)

Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places (pp. 399, 401, 404, 489, 503). Singapore: Times Books International.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 EDW)

Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2003). Toponymics: A study of Singapore street names (pp. 276-277). Singapore: Eastern Universities Press.
(Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV)

Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then and now (pp. 188, 189). Singapore: Landmark Books.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE)

Chinatown: An album of a Singapore community (pp. 120-143). (1983). Singapore: Times Books International.
(Call no.: RSING 779. 995957 CHI)

Firmstone, H. W. (1905, January). Chinese names of streets and places in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula. Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 4, 112-113.
(Call no.: RSING 959.5 FIR-[IC])

Chew, Y. (1993, December 30). Bright bridges and riverside revelry. The Straits Times, p. 22.

Goh, G. (1998, June 3). Take me to The Great Horse Way. The Straits Times, Life, p. 3.

Leong, C. T. (2003, May 25). Staying on the Line
. The Straits Times, Commentary.

Brighter lights, strong buzz. (2002, August 17). The Straits Times, Singapore.

List of Images
Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then and now (p. 189). Singapore: Landmark Books.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE)

The information in this article is valid as at 2003 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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