North Bridge Road
North Bridge Road is one of the earliest roads in Singapore. It runs through the downtown core and Rochor and Kallang areas in the central region.1 The road begins at Crawfurd Street and ends where Elgin Bridge crosses into South Bridge Road.2
North Bridge Road was carved out of the dense jungle, with the help of convict labourers under the direction of Lieutenant Henry Ralfe. Ralfe was a gunnery officer who accompanied Sir Stamford Raffles when the latter first arrived in Singapore.3
North Bridge Road had already existed by the time Lieutenant Phillip Jackson’s 1823 Plan of the Town of Singapore was published in 1828. Jackson was engaged in road alignment works in Singapore from 1822 onwards and was instructed by Raffles, through William Farquhar, to develop North Bridge Road. When Jackson left the service in 1827, George Coleman took over the survey of the land in Singapore. He was appointed superintendent of public works and surveyor of lands in 1833, and headed the construction of North Bridge Road and South Bridge Road from 1833 to 1835.4
Back then, North Bridge Road ran from Arab Street to the Singapore River.5 It was extended beyond Arab Street in 1925, and thereafter began from Crawfurd Street by the Rochor River.6 North Bridge Road was Singapore’s main road then.7
There were previously five movie theatres on North Bridge Road, namely Theatre Royal and Diamond Theatre (both Indian cinemas), Jubilee Theatre, Odeon Cinema and Capitol Theatre.8 Of these, only the Capitol Theatre building still stands.9
Along North Bridge Road, there are still some very distinctive buildings, like Raffles Hotel, CHIJMES, the rear facade of Sultan Mosque and the front facades of Golden Landmark Building.10 Others include Blanco Court, Bras Basah Complex, Raffles City Complex, Capitol Building, Adelphi Building, Funan Centre,11 as well as Bugis Junction, Hotel Intercontinental Singapore, Odeon Tower, City Hall MRT station,12 Peninsula Plaza, Treasury Building, Parliament Complex, and High Street Centre.13
Variant Chinese names
Seoh Poh: meaning “small town”, in contrast with South Bridge Road which is Twa Poh or “big town”, because the south had more shops and was the location of Chinatown.
Seoh Poh Twa Beh Lor: meaning “main road of the small town”.
Chui-sien Mng: meaning “water-fairy gate”.
Sio-po Hue-chhia Lo: meaning “small town tramway”.
Lo-ma Pano-jiang Toa Be-chhia Lo: meaning Rumah panjang or “big horse-carriage road” (rumah panjang is derived from the Malay term for “long house”).
Chwi Sian Moi Hui Chia Lo: literally meaning “water-fairy door fire cart road”.
Kam-pong Taik Ma: meaning “kampong (Glam) big horse-carriage road”.
1. Ray Tyers and Siow Jin Hua, Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & Now (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993), 43 (Call no. RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS]); “URA Integrated Map System,” Urban Redevelopment Authority, accessed 19 June 2016.
2. Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 504. (Call no. RSING 915.957
3. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 43.
4. National Library Board, Singapore and National Archives (Singapore), Visualising Space: Maps of Singapore and the Region: Collections from the National Library and National Archives of Singapore (Singapore: National Library Board, 2015), 88, 91 (Call no. RSING 911.5957 SIN); Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 49.
5. National Library Board, Singapore and National Archives (Singapore), Visualising Space, 91.
6. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 78; Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 504.
7. “Street Names of Singapore,” Goodwood Journal, 1st Qtr., (1978): 7. (Call no. RSING 052 GHCHJ)
8. “Theatre Royal,” Straits Times, 1 October 1934, 19; “Theatre Now Restored,” Straits Times, 20 January 1954, 8; Prabhavathi Nair, “New Life for Tamil Films,” Straits Times, 13 March 1992, 13; Teo Lian Huay, “Curtains to Come Down on Another Theatre,” Straits Times, 29 September 1978, 2; “Bigger and Better Cinemas on the Scene,” Straits Times, 9 October 1978, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
9. Hong Xinyi, “Capitol Theatre Slated for Redevelopment,” Straits Times, 3 April 2008, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
10. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 54, 78; Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 266, 275–6, 279–80 (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA]); Tong Suit Chee, “$55 Million Facelift for an Old Lady,” Business Times, 25 February 1988, 18; Mathew Yap, “Bugis St Stalls May Move into New Home,” Straits Times, 16 January 1985, 38. (From NewspaperSG)
11. Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 266, 277–8, 369, 382.
12. “New Festival Village at Bugis Junction,” Straits Times, 9 January 1994, 5; Sangeeta Mulchand, “Bugis Junction Developers to Tap Banks for $450M,” Business Times, 3 June 1992, 4; Collin Tan, “UOL to Woo tenants for Odeon Towers Soon,” Business Times, 24 August 1991, 2; Rav Dhaliwal, “MRT Work Arrives at the Crossroads,” Straits Times, 5 May 1984, 14. (From NewspaperSG)
13. Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 371; Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 50; “Contact Us,” Ministry of Finance, Singapore, accessed 2016; Lilian Ang, “Govt Unveils $80M New Parliament Complex to Be Completed By 1998,” Business Times, 30 November 1994, 2; “High Street Centre,” New Nation, 26 April 1975, 14. (From NewspaperSG)
14. “Street Names of Singapore,” 7; 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): 114–7 (Call no. RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS); Mubin Sheppard, ed., Singapore 150 Years (Singapore: Times Books International, 1982), 215. (Call no. RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
15. Firmstone, “Chinese Names of Streets and Places,” 116–7.
The information in this article is valid as of 16 March 2016 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.