Duxton Road



Duxton Road is a one-way street that connects Neil Road to Craig Road. Situated on Duxton Hill, this road was infamous in the 19th and early 20th centuries for its opium and gambling dens.1

History
Duxton Road was originally part of a nutmeg plantation owned by William Montgomerie (b. 1797–d. 1856),2 who was said to be the first to introduce gutta-percha to Europe in 1842.3 Montgomerie’s plantation, which spanned 13 ha with 1,800 trees, included a portion of the current Tanjong Pagar Road. Two dwelling houses were nestled among the trees, namely the Craig Hill and Duxton House.4 The latter was built by Hugh Syme5 and was home to Montgomerie and his family. The plantation and the houses were sold in an auction to Ker, Rawson & Co. in 1856, and later demarcated into building lots.6

Duxton Road was notorious for its opium and gambling dens throughout the early 19 and 20 centuries. Cheap brothels were situated along the length of the road, adding to the seedy reputation. It was also popularly known by the Cantonese as “jinricksha place” (and sometimes Kampong Ah Lai) because of the many rickshaws (also known as jinricksha or jinrikisha) parked here by their pullers every day as the rickshaw station was located nearby.7

Many of the rickshaw pullers came from the county of Hui’an in China’s Fujian province, and they bore surnames such as Teo, Ho and Chng. Because of strong clan ties, the rickshaw pullers created their own territorial domains in the street, which led to a lot of fighting in the area. Despite the area’s notoriety, many wealthy Chinese families built and occupied beautiful residences and shophouses on Duxton Hill.8 Currently, the area is part of the Tanjong Pagar Conservation Area.9

Many conserved two- and three-storey shophouses and terrace houses still exist on Duxton Road and Duxton Hill.10 Buildings in the vicinity of Duxton Hill include the Craig Place, Chinatown Plaza and Apartments and the Singapore Institute of Architects. A portion of Duxton Hill is currently a pedestrian mall. The Berjaya Duxton Hotel, which opened in the early 1990s on Duxton Road, is made up of a row of converted shophouses.11

Variant names
Chinese name: Gu chia chui kia (Hokkien), meaning “at the side of Kreta Ayer”, referring to Craig Road, which is where Duxton Road begins.
Kam-kong-a lai (Hokkien), kampong kia nai (Hokkien), both meaning “within a little kampong”. This term was probably used to refer to the slum dwellings of rickshaw pullers.12



Author

Naidu Ratnala Thulaja



References
1. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 106. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
2. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 106. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA]); Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. (Vol. 2). Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 636. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
3. The Discovery of Gutta Percha in Singapore. (1884, March 15). Straits Times Weekly Issue, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. (Vol. 1). Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 406. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
5. Dunlop, P. K. G. (2000). Street names of Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Publications, p. 71. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS])
6. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013).Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 106. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA]); Dunlop, P. K. G. (2000). Street names of Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Publications, p. 71. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS])
7. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p.106 (Call no.: RSING915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
8. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 106. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA]); Chan, K. S. (1997, December 23). Chan, K. S. (2002, June 17). Fares were haggled before the ride. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. URA sale gets overwhelming response. (1988, April 29). The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2015, February 25). Conservation: Tanjong Pagar. Retrieved from URA website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/conservation/conservation-xml.aspx?id=CNTWN
10. Tan, C. (1999, October 28). Shophouses in Tg Pagar snapped up. The Straits Times, p. 68. Retrieved from NewspapaerSG.
11. Duxton Hotel only one in S-E Asia to gain membership of small-hotels group. (1996, February 14). The Straits Times, p. 22; Aleshire, I. (1987, February 6). Tg Pagar plans unveiled. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Corporate Space. (n.d.). Duxton Hill shophouse. Retrieved 2016, April 6 from Corporate Space website: http://www.corporatespace.com.sg/listings/duxton-hill-shophouse/
12. 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, 42, 86–87. (Call no.: RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS); Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 106. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])



The information in this article is valid as at 2003 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.

 

Subject
Street names--Singapore
Streets and Places
Arts>>Architecture>>Public and commercial buildings
People and communities>>Social groups and communities
Architecture and Landscape>>Streets and Places