Outram is a planning area in Singapore’s Central Region.1 It is bounded by Havelock Road and Pickering Street to the north, Telok Ayer Street, Peck Seah Street and Stanley Street to the east, Gopeng and Kee Seng streets to the south, and Cantonment Road and Outram Road to the west. Covering a total area of approximately 136.2 ha, Outram comprises four subzones: Pearl’s Hill, People’s Park, China Square and Chinatown. The area is home to many places of worship, five of which are gazetted national monuments including Sri Mariamman Temple, Thian Hock Keng and Al-Abrar Mosque.2
Outram Road stretches from Havelock Road to New Bridge Road. Once known as Cantonment Road, it referred to the area that Stamford Raffles had instructed William Farquhar to set aside for the living quarters of troops.3
The resolution of the municipal council in 1858 renamed three roads after the heroes of the 1857 Indian Mutiny – Neil Road, Havelock Road and Outram Road.4 Outram Road was named after James Outram.5
There are two hills in the Outram area: York Hill and Pearl’s Hill.6
York Hill is primarily a public housing estate developed by the Housing and Development Board. Located within York Hill is the access road to Outram Secondary School.7
The Police Operational Headquarters was formerly located at Pearl’s Hill Terrace, which housed the Operations Command, Radio Division, Criminal Investigation Department, public affairs team and the police national service headquarters.8
Pearl’s Hill was the location of many early institutional buildings, such as the Seamen’s Hospital, Tan Tock Seng Hospital, and one of Singapore's earliest prisons – Pearl’s Hill Prison (also known as Outram Road Gaol).9 The prison complex was demolished in the 1960s and replaced by Outram Park Complex, a public housing and shopping project.10 Opened in 1970 by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, it was one of the largest public housing projects undertaken by the Urban Redevelopment Authority in its second five-year Home Building Programme, which started in 1966.11 The complex was demolished in 2003 for redevelopment.12 Adjoining this is the 38-storey Pearl Bank Apartments.13 In February 2018, the horseshoe-shaped residential building comprising 288 units was bought over by developer CapitaLand through a private treaty collective sale.14
From 1965 to 1972, the Ministry of Interior and Defence (present-day Ministry of Defence) was located at Pearl’s Hill.15 Another landmark in the estate was Outram Secondary School which was demolished in late 1968.16 The hilltop service reservoir, began construction in 1898 and was completed in 1904, provides fresh water supply to Chinatown.17
Outram Park Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) station is an underground station located near the junction of Outram Road, Eu Tong Sen Street and New Bridge Road, connecting the East West Line as well as the North East Line.18 By 2021, Outram Park will also be an interchange station on the Thomson-East Coast Line.19
Si-pai po in Hokkien and Cantonese, which refers to “sepoy plain” or “sepoy’s field”. Sepoy Lines, the Outram Police Station and parade ground, used to be at one end of Outram Road. Outram is still known by this name amongst the Chinese.
Si-kha teng in Hokkien, which means “four-footed pavilion”. There was a pavilion in the cemetery adjoining Outram Road which was known by this name.20
Si-pai po ma-ta chhu in Hokkien and si-pai-lin ma-ta liu in Cantonese, which means “Sepoy Plain or Sepoy Lines police house”.21
1. Ray Tyers and Siow Jin Hua, Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & Now (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993), 184 (Call no. RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS]); Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Outram Planning Area: Planning Report 1995 (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1995), 4. (Call no. RSING 711.4095957 SIN)
2. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Outram Planning Area, 4, 20.
3. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 63, 287. (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
4. K. Hack, “Chinatown as a Microcosm of Singapore,” accessed 11 May 2017; Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 184.
5. Peter K. G. Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore (Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, 2000), 232. (Call no. RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS])
6. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Outram Planning Area, 8.
7. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Outram Planning Area, 8, 20.
8. S. Ramachandra, Singapore Landmarks, Past and Present (Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, 1961), 15 (Call no. RCLOS 959.57 RAM); Tee Hun Ching, “A Hidden Emerald,” Straits Times, 29 June 2003, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
9. Hack, “Chinatown as a Microcosm of Singapore”; Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Outram Planning Area, 7.
10. Hack, “Chinatown as a Microcosm of Singapore”; “New Homes for 12,500 At the Old Jail for 760,” Straits Times, 12 May 1970, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
11. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 184.
12. “Tiong Bahru Heritage Trail,” National Heritage Board, 22, accessed 3 October 2018.
13. Calvin Low, “The Puzzle on Pearl’s Hill,” Straits Times, 2 September 2006, 16. (From NewspaperSG)
14. Louisa Tang, “Pearl Bank Apartments Sold for S$728 Million, CapitaLand to Launch New Project in 2019,” Today, 13 February 2018.
15. “The Ministry of Interior and Defence,” MINDEF Singapore, accessed 11 May 2017; Ramachandra, Singapore Landmarks, Past and Present, 13.
16. Outram Secondary School, “History”; Ramachandra, Singapore Landmarks, Past and Present, 15.
17. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Outram Planning Area, 7.
18. “Outram Park MRT Station,” Land Transport Guru, accessed 3 October 2018.
19. “Thomson-East Coast Line: Stages,” Land Transport Authority, accessed 3 October 2018.
20. 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): 144, 163. (Call no. RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS)
21. H. T. Haughton, “Native Names of Streets in Singapore,” Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 42, no. 1 (215) (1969): 203. (From JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website)
The information in this article is valid as at October 2018 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.