Albert Street, located in the Rochor area, begins from the junction of Queen Street and New Bugis Street and ends at Selegie Road. It was named after Prince Albert, the consort of Queen Victoria of England.1 Hindus used to perform the annual firewalking ceremony of Theemithi on this street until the ritual was moved to the Sri Mariamman Temple in 1840.2
Albert Street forms junctions with Waterloo Street, Bencoolen Street, Prinsep Street and Short Street. In March 1858, the municipal commissioners of Singapore named the street in honour of Prince Albert, the consort of Queen Victoria of England.3 Prior to this, the street was just an unnamed side road located between Selegie Street and Waterloo Street that led to Rochor Road.4 Theemithi, the Hindu firewalking ceremony, was originally performed on this street because of the street’s proximity to Serangoon Road and its large Indian community. The ritual was later moved to the Sri Mariamman Temple on South Bridge Road in 1840.5 In the early days, the street was a part of Kampong Bencoolen, an enclave of Muslims from Bencoolen, Sumatra.6
Albert Street was originally lined with two-storey shophouses, and was famous for its Chinese restaurants, bars, medicine shops and food stalls.7 The most sought after eatery along this street was the Wing Seong Restaurant, commonly called Fatty’s Restaurant. It moved to Albert Complex in 1986.8 Albert Street has been converted into a pedestrian mall and is no longer open to vehicular traffic. The street is now part of the Bras Basah.Bugis Precinct, the arts, culture, learning and entertainment district in the city’s centre.9
Such is the fame of Albert Street that many of its buildings have taken on the name of the street. The Albert Court Hotel comprises pre-war conservation shophouses and features Peranakan interior décor and furniture.10 Albert Court is a mall made up of two rows of 30 refurbished shophouses, most of them eateries.11 The 20-storey Burlington Square, which comprises an office building, retail space and three residential towers, stands at the junction of Albert and Bencoolen streets.12
Other commercial buildings on Albert Street include Sim Lim Square, Fu Lu Shou Complex and Albert Centre.13
(1) Kam kong mang ku lu (Hokkien) or “Kampong Bencoolen” which means “Bencoolen Village”.
(2) Ba mua lu koi (Hokkien) which means “the street where sesame seeds are squeezed for their oil”.
(3) Mo ma-yau kai (Cantonese) or “grind oil of sesamum street” which means “the street where oil is expressed from sesamum”.
Tamil name: Thimiri thidal which means “the place where people tread on fire”.
Naidu Ratnala Thulaja
1. Dhoraisingam S. Samuel, Singapore’s Heritage: Through Places of Historical Interest (Singapore: Elixir Consultancy Service, 1991), 231. (Call no. RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS])
2. E. Sanmugam, et al. eds., Sacred Sanctuary: The Sri Mariamman Temple (Singapore: Sri Mariamman Temple, 2009), 15 (Call no. RSING 294.535095957 SAC); Leong Weng Kam, “Walking on Fire for His Dead Parents,” Straits Times, 8 October 1998, 27. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 13. (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
4. Charles Burton Buckley, An Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore, vol. 2 (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1984), 667. (Call no. RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
5. Sanmugam, E., et al., Sacred Sanctuary, 15; Leong, “Walking on Fire for His Dead Parents.”
6. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 13.
7. Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 282 (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA]); Samuel, Singapore’s Heritage, 231.
8. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 13; Audrey Pereira, “Fatty Passes His Wok to Skinny after 47 Years,” Straits Times, 30 March 1986, 1; Mara Fernandez, “New $35-Million Shopping Centre,” Straits Times, 1 November 1986, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
9. Fernandez, “New $35-Million Shopping Centre”; Ann Williams, “Bugis-Rochor Area to Be Arts, Entertainment Hub,” Straits Times, 9 September 1995, 48; “No Cars on These Roads,” New Paper, 2 October 1996, 48 (From NewspaperSG); Bras Basah. Bugis, “Precinct Map,” accessed 30 June 2017.
10. “New Hotel Sports ’30s Style,” Straits Times, 20 July 1995, 22. (From NewspaperSG)
11. Sit Yin Fong, “Albert Court? Where’s That?” Straits Times, 27 November 1995, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
12. Kalpana Rashiwala, “Wing Tai Set to Launch Burlington Sq Project,” Straits Times, 2 July 1998, 63. (From NewspaperSG)
13. Fernandez, “New $35-Million Shopping Centre”; Lim Soo Neo, “New Shopping Belt at Rochor Road Area,” Business Times, 30 December 1983, 2; Lim Soo Neo, “Another Project from Goldhill Developments,” Business Times, 28 December 1982, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
14. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 13; Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 282; Peter K. G. Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore (Singapore: Who’s Who Publications, 2000), 3 (Call no. RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS]); H. W. Firmstone, Chinese Names of Streets and Places in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula. Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 42 (February 1905): 54–55 (Call no. RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS); Sagittarius, “Singapore Street Names,” Straits Times, 9 July 1933, 13. (From NewspaperSG)
The information in this article is valid as at 2017 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.