Cross Street

Cross Street is a one-way street beginning from Raffles Quay. After meeting with South Bridge Road, the street becomes Upper Cross Street. Upper Cross Street then branches into 2 points, one to connect to Havelock Road, and the other to the junction of Havelock Road and Upper Pickering Street.

Cross Street, one of the older streets of Singapore, is featured in the first implementation of Raffles' Plan for Chinatown. It was originally much shorter, made up of the present Upper Cross Street that stretches from Havelock Road to South Bridge Road. After land reclamation work in 1881, the street was extended. The extended part was given the name Cross Street whereas the original Cross Street was renamed Upper Cross Street.

The whole stretch of Cross street and Upper Cross Street is an important link, connecting the civic district to Chinatown. The road is also one of the few major or big roads that link New Bridge Road and South Bridge Road. Cross Street divides Chinatown into 2 zones - the north, which became the hub for the Teochews and the Hokkiens, and the South, the hub for the Cantonese and the Kheks. Though the actual reason why Cross Street is so named is unknown, it is probable that it gets its name from peoples' habit of using the street to "cross" from other major streets into New Bridge Road. Cross Street forms junctions with historically significant nearby streets such as Robinson Road, Cecil Street, Telok Ayer Street, Amoy Street, China Street, South Bridge Road and New Bridge Road.

Before becoming a part of the present day Chinatown, it was an Indian residential area enclosed within the boundary of two roads - Cross Street and Chulia Street. In the 1820s, Indian boatmen lived and sold goat's milk, herbs and mutton from their shops located on Cross Street. As the Indians there were descendants of the Kalinga Empire (or Kling empire as it was called by the Chinese), the Chinese used Kling Street as reference to the street. However, the term Kling soon became a derogatory word as it was associated with Indian convicts who were imported into Singapore from the 1850s onwards. The nearby Chulia Street was also called Kling Street. The Northern Indians, however, named it Chulia Street as the Kalinga Kingdom was known to them as Chulia. Cross Street was marked with Kling houses and a Kling temple in Lieut. Philip Jackson's 1828 town plan of Singapore. As Chinatown expanded from around the second half of the 19th century, the Indians moved to other areas.

After Cross Street became part of Chinatown, it turned into a well-frequented place made glamorous by the myriad of street shows like the wayangs. From the 1950s to the 1970s, Cross Street was popular for its innumerable books shops and Chinese stationary shops. Infamously, Upper Cross Street came to be called "Hai Han Street", after a Chinese secret society named "Hai Han" located their operations there. The secret society gained notoriety for its violent conflicts in the 1860s and 1870s. The "Sook Ching" centre, where all Chinese males were rounded up in the Japanese army's clean-up operation during World War II, was located at the junction of South Bridge Road and Cross Street. A bronze historic marker now marks the site. One of the earliest English schools in Singapore -- the government-run Cross Street English School, that began in 1874, was located along this street. In 1885, a few Tamil schools on Cross Street were incorporated into this English school. In 1901, the school established a training school at Outram Road which later became the Outram Road School. The old Cross Street English School, however, continued to function as a preparatory school for Outram Road School until it moved to Pearl's Hill in 1914.

Lau Pa Sat, a popular eatery which was formerly the Telok Ayer Market, is situated right at the junction of of Cross Street and Raffles Quay. It has been a gazetted national monument since 1973. Opposite to it, on the other side of Cross Street, is a 44-storey commercial-cum-residential unit, the Hong Leong Building, which was constructed in 1974. A multi-storey carpark, constructed in 1963, at the junction of Cross Street and Market Street, stands till today. Landmark commercial buildings on street are the City House, Indian Overseas Bank Building, PWC Building, Far East Square, Chinatown Point and the popular People's Park Centre. Opposite the People's Park Centre is the former Great Southern Hotel, a conserved building which is now a departmental store called Yue Hwa. Cross Street is also lined with shophouses, eateries, clan associations, housing units and entertainment places. The street has been a part of The Great Singapore Sale, a shopping carnival since 2002. The Fuk Tak Chi Temple, Singapore's oldest Chinese temple established in 1824, is located at the junction of Telok Ayer Street and Cross Street. A conserved building, it became Singapore's first museum in 1998. The junction of Eu Tong Sen Street and Upper Cross Street was removed to make way for the construction of the underground Chinatown MRT station. The octagonal shaped Subordinate Courts Complex, built in 1975, is in Havelock Square which islocated at the junction of Upper Cross Street and Havelock Road.

Variant Names
Chinese names: In Hokkien Kit-ling-a koi, meaning "Kling Street", in Cantonese Hoi-san kai-ha kai, where Hoi San meant Lower Street and was used to refer to Upper Cross Street.
Malay naeme: Kampong susu, which literally means "milk village", a reference to the Indian settlement or village where goat's milk were sold.
Tamil name: Palkadei saddaku, meaning "milk shop street".

Naidu Ratnala Thulaja

Dunlop, P. K. G. (2000). Street names of Singapore (p. 62). Singapore: Who's Who Publications.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 DUN)

Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places (pp. 426, 428, 429-430, 454, 451). Singapore: Times Books International.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 EDW)

Haughton H. T. (1973). Native names of streets in Singapore. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (pp. 208-219). Singapore: Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.
(Call no.: RSING 959.5 JMBRAS)

Lee, E. (1990). Historic buildings of Singapore (p. 74). Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board.
(Call no.: RSING 720.95957 LEE)

Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (p. 470). Singapore: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE)

Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2003). Toponymics: A study of Singapore street names (p. 103). Singapore: Eastern Universities Press.
(Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV)

Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then and now (p. 136). Singapore: Landmark Books.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE)

Yeo, S. C. (1984). Singapore memento (pp. 48, 144). Singapore: FEP International.
(Call no.: SING 959.57 YEO)

Firmstone, H. W. (1905, February). Chinese names of streets and places in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula. Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 4, 82-83.
(Call no.: RSING 959.5 FIR-[IC])

Koh, B. P. (2000, July 14). Chinatown's history lives on. The Straits Times, p. 42. 

Further Readings
Oon, C. (1998, November 19). No more termites, step in. The Straits Times, Life, p. 3.

Subordinate Courts of Singapore. (2003). About Us - Brief History. Retrieved May 8, 2003, from

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 an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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