Sago Street

Sago Street is a one-way road that connects South Bridge Road to Trengganu Street. The street name was derived from the many sago factories that were located there in the 1840s.1

Making sago flour from sago, a starchy ingredient used in making delicacies, was a profitable business in 19th-century Singapore. So profitable was the business that in the 1850s, nearly 30 sago factories were operating in Singapore, producing 8,000 tonnes of sago flour annually. Sago was also exported to India and Europe from Singapore then. Most of these sago factories were located around Sago Street, including the adjacent Sago Lane. However, the street gained infamy for the brothels that sprang up there in the early 20th century.2 In 1901, there were about 14 prostitute dens on Sago Street.3

One of the landmarks on Sago Street was the Chinese Tua Pek Kong temple. Constructed in 1895, the temple was dedicated to the deity, Tua Pek Kong.4

Variant names
Gu-chhia-chui hi-hng-koi cheng koi in Hokkien and ngau-chhe-shui hei yun chhin kai in Cantonese, both of which mean “the street in front of the theatre (street) in Kreta Ayer”. Smith Street was known as Theatre Street due to the presence of a famous theatre, Lai Chun Yuen.5


Naidu Ratnala Thulaja

1. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 337. (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
2. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 337; Lisa Kong, “Comfort in History,” Straits Times, 23 July 1992, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 337.
4. Archives and Oral History Department, Singapore, Chinatown: An Album of a Singapore Community (Singapore: Times Books International, 1983), 100 (Call no. RSING 779.995957 CHI); Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 337.
5. Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 485, 487 (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA]); 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): 126–7. (Call no. RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS)

The information in this article is valid as of 2016 and correct as far 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.

Street names--Singapore
Streets and Places