Dunlop Street

Believed to be named after Colonel Samuel Dunlop, Dunlop Street in Little India is a one-way road connecting Jalan Besar to Serangoon Road. The most significant landmark along this street is the Abdul Gaffoor Mosque.1

The street was probably named after Colonel Samuel Dunlop who served in Singapore as the Inspector-General of Police of the Straits Settlements in 1875 and as a member of the Municipal Commission in 1887. It is also likely that this street was named after A. E. Dunlop, Secretary of the Race Course Committee of the Serangoon area. Before the 1870s, this street was known as Rangasamy Road.2 Dunlop Street is a part of the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) conservation area of Little India.3

Predominantly lined with modest two-storey shophouses, which are good examples of terrace shophouse architecture, Dunlop Street also features a few decorative houses. The eateries on the bylanes of this street serve a wide variety of food, and are frequented by tourists and locals. In recent years, pubs and backpackers hostels have developed in the area. 4

Abdul Gaffoor Mosque, one of Singapore’s oldest mosques, was originally built with timber partitions and a tiled roof in 1881. In 1910, the old mosque building was demolished when a new brick mosque building (which had started construction in 1907) was partially built with Saracenic architectural features.5 Abdul Gaffoor, a trustee of the mosque in the late 1880s, was instrumental in constructing eight shophouses and nine sheds in the 1880s and using the rent collected from them to build the new mosque, as well as to provide financial assistance for the mosque’s maintenance.6 The mosque was gazetted as a national monument in July 1979.7 The mosque went through restoration work in the early 2000s and won the URA's Architectural Heritage Award in 2003.8

Variant names
Chinese names:
(1) In Hokkien, Kam-kong ka-poh hua koi or Kam-kong ka-poh tua koi.9
(2) In Cantonese, Kam-pong ka-pok wang kai or Kam-pong ka-pok tai kai.10
Both meaning “Kampong Kapor Cross (or big) street”.11 It is only presumed that this was the biggest street in Kampong Kapor as no specific Chinese names were given to streets in Kampong Kapor.12


Thulaja Naidu

1. Gregory Byrne Bracken, Singapore: Sketches of the Country's Architectural Treasures... Journey Through Singapore's Urban Landscape, 4th ed (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2014), 100. (Call no. RSING 915.957 BYR-[TRA]); Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 104–05. (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
2. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 104.
3. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Little India: Historic District (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1995), 21. (Call no. RSING q363.69095957 LIT)
4. Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 115, 129, 136 (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA]); Sandhya Iyer, “The Changing Face of Dunlop Street,” Tabla, 2 January 2011, 16–17. (From NewspaperSG)
5. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Abdul Gaffoor Mosque Preservation Guidelines, vol. 1 (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1991), 4. (Call no. RSING 363.69095957 ABD)
6. Ida Bachtiar, Help Wanted: Funds to Restore a Little Mosque,” Straits Times, 11 September 1994, 24 (From NewspaperSG)
7. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Abdul Gaffoor Mosque Preservation Guidelines, 4.
8. Karl Ho, “Awards Laud Fusion,” Straits Times, 17 October 2003, L3. (From NewspaperSG)
9. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 105.
10. 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): 86. (Call no. RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS)
11. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 105; Firmstone, “Chinese Names of Streets and Places,” 87.
12. Firmstone, “Chinese Names of Streets and Places,” 87.

The information in this article is valid as at August 2020 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.

Street names--Singapore
Streets and Places