by Thulaja, Naidu Ratnala
Located in the eastern part of Singapore in the Joo Chiat/Katong district, Ceylon Road connects East Coast Road and Crane Road.1 The road was named after the island Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka), as a large Ceylonese Tamil community had settled down around the area in the 19th century.2
The first group of Ceylonese came to Singapore after the Straits Settlements became a Crown colony in 1867. They arrived in large numbers from the 1880s to 1890s, and this influx was due to demand for trained men to fill the lower ranks of the Straits Settlements government service. Many Ceylonese were also attracted to work in Malaya, as there were ample job opportunities and higher wages compared to Ceylon. Hence, there was a steady stream of Ceylonese emigrating to the Straits Settlements and other parts of Malaya to take up clerical, technical and other administrative appointments in the civil service.3 In Singapore, they mostly settled around Ceylon Road, Marshall Road, Haig Road and Tanjong Katong Road.4
Ceylon Road, along with Marshall Road, defines the western boundary of Joo Chiat. The eastern part of Singapore was opened up in the early 19th century with the development of coconut plantations and country homes belonging to European settlers. Many itinerant grocers and textile merchants plied the streets, while the back lanes were filled with food vendors during the 19th and early 20th centuries.5
Today, Ceylon Road is a residential area with several commercial and eating places situated along the length of it. Private apartments and condominiums that line the street include Ceylon Residence, Ceylon Court, Bellezza@Katong, as well as Spring@Katong which has been built on the site of the demolished Leck Teck Court.6
Two of the landmark buildings on Ceylon Road are places of worship. Near the junction of Ceylon and East Coast roads is the Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple. It was established in the mid-19th century by Ceylonese Tamils who built a shrine after they discovered a statue of Lord Vinayagar washed up on the banks near a Chempaka tree in the area.7 Not far from the temple is Saint Hilda’s Church. Built in 1949 and designed to look like an English parish church, it was accorded conservation status by the Urban Redevelopment Authority in 2009.8
Located on 139 Ceylon Road is the Eurasian Community House, the Eurasian Association’s four-storey building. Opened on 5 July 2003, it was officiated by then president S. R. Nathan, who was a long-time resident of Ceylon Road.9
Naidu Ratnala Thulaja
1. Kong, L., & Chang, T. C. (2001). Joo Chiat: A living legacy. Singapore: Joo Chiat Citizens’ Consultative Committee in association with National Archives of Singapore, p. 21. (Call no.: RSING q959.57 KON-[HIS]); Streetdirectory.com. (n.d.). Ceylon Road. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from Streetdirectory.com website: http://www.streetdirectory.com/sg/ceylon-road/17624_1.html
2. Dunlop, P. K. G. (2000). Street names of Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Pub., p. 44. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS])
3. Samuel, D. S. (2010). Singapore’s heritage: Through places of historical interest. Singapore: Author, p. 240. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS]); Ramasamy, R. (1988). Sojourners to citizens: Sri Lankan Tamils in Malaysia 1885–1965. Kuala Lumpur: R. Rajakrishnan, pp. 51, 57, 59. (Call no.: RCLOS 305.8954930595 RAJ)
4. Low, S. L., et al. (2002). Life in Katong. Singapore: National Library Board, p. 6. (Call no.: RCLOS q959.57 LIF-[HIS])
5. Kong, L., & Chang, T. C. (2001). Joo Chiat: A living legacy. Singapore: Joo Chiat Citizens’ Consultative Committee in association with National Archives of Singapore, pp. 12, 84. (Call no.: RSING q959.57 KON-[HIS])
6. Streetdirectory.com. (n.d.). Ceylon Road. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from streetdirectory.com website: http://www.streetdirectory.com/sg/ceylon-road/17624_1.html
7. Kong, L., & Chang, T. C. (2001). Joo Chiat: A living legacy. Singapore: Joo Chiat Citizens’ Consultative Committee in association with National Archives of Singapore, p. 103. (Call no.: RSING q959.57 KON-[HIS]); Streetdirectory.com. (n.d.). Ceylon Road. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from streetdirectory.com website: http://www.streetdirectory.com/sg/ceylon-road/17624_1.html
8. Tay, S. C. (2009, January 17). Marked for preservation. The Straits Times, p. 93. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Nirmala, M. (2003, July 4). All are welcome at new Eurasian House. The Straits Times, p. 27; Nirmala, M. (2003, July 6). Eurasians reach out to neighbour – the President. The Straits Times, p. 35. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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.