Beach Road

Beach Road stretches from the junction where it meets Crawford Street and Republic Avenue to the junction where it meets Stamford Road. It was historically designated a part of the European Town.1 Once lined with beautiful villas,2 Beach Road today marks the boundary of Kampong Glam, and is well known for its two national monuments – Raffles Hotel and Hajjah Fatimah Mosque on its western side 3 – as well as specialty shops, cinemas, food outlets and more. Much of Beach Road was on the seafront before its entire coastal stretch was affected by land reclamation in the 19th century, and consequently it ceased to be a fashionable area.4 Today, Beach Road runs through three areas: Downtown Core, Rochor and Kallang. It is one of the boundaries of the historic Kampong Glam conservation area.5

In the Jackson Plan, which was based on Stamford Raffles’s vision of Singapore laid out in 1822, Beach Road ran along the coast from the mouth of the "Fresh Water Rivulet" to the mouth of Rochor River. Even after land reclamation pushed the coast much further out, it still follows virtually the same route today, from Stamford Road to Crawford Street. The Jackson Plan also showed that much of Beach Road was part of the land parcel set aside for the European community.6 As a result, the earliest buildings on this road were European dwelling houses, mostly bungalows. A portion of Beach Road was also included in the Arab and Bugis quarters including Kampong Glam.7

European quarters
Along Beach Road was a row of 20 houses with large gardens, mostly inhabited by Europeans. The Singapore Club, an exclusive club reserved for expatriates of European companies, had its origins in an annex of one of these residences.8

The row of old houses first built in the settlement was still standing in the early 1840s. Among the Europeans residents here were Jose d’Almeida, Mr and Mrs W. R. George, Alexander Martin, Mr and Mrs John Purvis, Captain Stephens, as well as Mr and Mrs D. S. Napier. After William H. Read got married in 1848, he also moved into one of the houses on Beach Road, near Kampong Glam.9

Raffles Hotel and Raffles Institution
At the corner of Beach Road and Bras Basah Road once stood a 10-room residential home known as Beach House, built in the 1830s by Robert Scott.10 By the 1870s, the residential houses along Beach Road were increasingly being used as hotels, but this was inadequate to meet rising demands. In 1878, Beach House was leased to Charles Emmerson, who opened Emmerson’s Hotel. When Emmerson died in 1883, the premises were leased to Raffles Institution as a boarding house. The Armenian Sarkies brothers subsequently took over the lease and converted the building into Raffles Hotel in 1887.11 Raffles Institution was originally located on a site between Stamford Road and Beach Road, where the Raffles City complex is currently sited.12

Land reclamation
The original shoreline was right by Beach Road until the 1840s when land reclamation began.13 The stretch of beach was composed of sand, mud and swamp; after reclamation, Beach Road ceased to be a coastal road.14 After the area ceased to be a fashionable residential enclave in the 1880s following further land reclamation,15 the Hainanese community then settled in the Beach Road area, forming an enclave.16

Clyde Terrace Market
This market was erected on reclaimed land in 1874,17 with its foundation stone laid on 29 March 1873.18 It was demolished in 1983 to make way for the 37-storey twin-tower skyscraper known as The Gateway, designed by the Chinese American architect, I. M. Pei.19

Beach Road Camp
Also on Beach Road, opposite Raffles Hotel was the former Beach Road Camp, which used to serve as the headquarters of the Singapore Volunteer Corps and later the Singapore Military Forces.20 The buildings were gazetted for conservation in 2002 and now form part of the South Beach mixed-use development.21

Beach Road Police Station and Kheng Chiu Building
Other historical landmarks on Beach include the former Beach Road Police Station22 and the seven-storey Kheng Chiu Building. The latter, built in 1962, is home to the Kheng Chiu Tin Hou Kong temple and the Kheng Chiu Hwee Kuan, a Hainanese clan association23

Two cinemas used to exist side by side on Beach Road:24 Alhambra, which opened in 1907, 25 and Marlborough, which was in operation by January 1909.26 Shaw Towers is currently sited where the cinemas used to be.27

Satay Club and Hoi How Road
The original Satay Club was situated alongside the theatres, on the now-expunged Hoi How Road, which was built on reclaimed land off Beach Road.28 In the evenings at Hoi How Road, a cluster of mainly Javanese men sold satay (barbecued meats on skewers) at the Satay Club, a popular alfresco eating place. It moved to the Esplanade in 1971.29 Hoi How Road was also the location of the bus depot for the Tay Koh Yat Bus Company.30

Istana Kampong Glam
The entry to Istana Kampong Glam, formerly the seat of Singapore’s Malay royal family, and the Bendahara House is by Sultan Gate, off Beach Road. In 1823, Stamford Raffles set aside this area for Sultan Hussein and his family.31

Golden Mile
A stretch of Beach Road known as the Golden Mile comprises developments completed in the 1970s and ’80s. Among these are: Golden Mile Complex (1973; formerly known as Woh Hup Complex);32 the 36-storey Shaw Towers with retail outlets and offices (1976);33 and the former Merlin Hotel (1971).34

Besides The Gateway, which was completed in 1990,35 another skyscraper along the Golden Mile is The Concourse, designed by American Paul Rudolph and opened in early 1994. The Concourse has earned international praise for its architecture.36

Civilian War Memorial
Right opposite Swissôtel The Stamford hotel is a parkland of about 1.2 ha (3 ac),37 centred around the 222-foot-high monument, the Civilian War Memorial. Officially unveiled by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on 15 February 1967, the memorial is dedicated to civilians killed during World War II and the remains of some unknown victims are buried beneath.38 The memorial was gazetted as a national monument in 2013.39

Variant names40
Hokkien: sio po hai ki (small town sea shore), where sio po (small town) refers to the area north of Stamford Road; ji chap keng (20 houses street), referring to the row of mansions on Beach Road.
Tamil: kadal karai sadakku (seaside road).


Vernon Cornelius-Takahama

1. Edwin Lee, Historic Buildings of Singapore (Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, 1990), 3. (Call no. RSING 720.95957 LEE)
2. Lee, Historic Buildings of Singapore, 3.
3. Norman Edwards and Keys Peter, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 256. (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
4. Ray Tyers and Siow Jin Hua, Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & Now (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993), 203 (Call no. RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS]); Edwards and Peter, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 255.
5. Singapore Land Authority, Singapore Street Directory (Singapore: SingTel Yellow Pages, 2003), maps 321, 360–61. (Call no. RSING 912.5957 SSD)
6. Mok Ly Yng, “Mapping Singapore: 1819–2014,” in Visualising Space: Maps of Singapore and the Region (Singapore: National Library Board, 2015), 91 (Call no. RSING 911.5957 SIN); Lee, Historic Buildings of Singapore, 3.
7. Jackson, Plan of the Town of Singapore (London: Hentry Colburn, 1828) (From BookSG); Mok, “Mapping Singapore” 91; Buckley, Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore, 367.
8. Lee, Historic Buildings of Singapore, 3.
9. Buckley, Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore, 367, 376–77.
10. Gretchen Liu, Raffles Hotel (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1992), 17. (Call no. RSING q647.94595701 LIU)
11. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 84.
12. Buckley, Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore, 376; “The $600M Raffles City,” Straits Times, 17 April 1979, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
13. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 32. (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
14. Lee, Historic Buildings of Singapore, 3.
15. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 203.
16. Lai Chee Kian, “Multi-Ethnic Enclaves Around Middle Road: An Examination of Early Urban Settlement in Singapore,” BiblioAsia, 2 no. 2, (July 2006): 6–7; Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 86; Lea Wee, “How Did Its Chicken Rice Come About?” Straits Times, 15 February 2001, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
17. “Retrospect,” Straits Times Overland Journal, 15 January 1874, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
18. “The Masonic Ceremony,” Straits Times Overland Journal, 10 April 1873, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
19. “Work on $500M Gateway Begins,” Straits Times, 3 June 1983, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
20. Francis Dorai, South Beach: From Sea to Sky (Singapore: South Beach Consortium, 2012), 34, 55. (Call no. RSING 959.57 DOR-[HIS])
21. Serene Tng, “All A-Buzz at Beach Road,” Skyline (September–October 2007). (From BookSG)
22. Rennie Whang, “URA Releases Historic Beach Road Site,” Straits Times, 27 November 2014, 14. (From NewspaperSG)
23. “Kheng Chiu Building and Tin Hou Kong (琼州会馆, 海南会馆),” National Heritage Board Singapore, accessed 25 July 2016.
24. Survey Department, Singapore, Singapore Town Subdivision Numbers XI-1 and XI-0 and Ttown Subdivision Number XII, 1952, survey map, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. SP005746)
25. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 87.
26. “Cinematograph Shows,” Straits Times, 25 January 1909, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
27. “Shaw Cinemas in Asia, Pre-War,” Shaw Organisation, accessed 22 July 2016.
28. “Farewell, Second Time Around,” New Paper, 20 January 1995, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
29 Tan Wan Joo, “Satay in New Found Style…,” Straits Times, 2 January 1971, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
30. Fong Sip Chee, oral history by Robert Chew Yew Hock, 23 June 1980, transcript and MP3 audio 34:14, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 000024), 9.
31. Jane Perkins, Kampong Glam: Spirit of a Community (Singapore: Times, 1984), 12. (Call no. RSEA 959.57 PER-[HIS]); Edwards and Peter, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 256.
32. Edwards and Peter, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 270.
33. “Another Shaw Cinema to Open on Thursday,” Straits Times, 21 November 1976, 11. (From NewspaperSG)
34. “Merlin Hotel Opens First 260 Rooms for Business,” Straits Times, 2 November 1971, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
35. “The Gateway: 80pc Leased Out,” Business Times, 17 November 1990, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
36. “Many Don’t Know about Mall,”Straits Times, 30 April 1994, 5; Constance See, C. (1994, April 30). “Tenants Petition against Poor Business,” Straits Times, 30 April 1994, 5 (From NewspaperSG); “The Concourse – A City Within a City,” The Concourse, accessed 6 May 2016.
37. Survey Department Singapore, Singapore Guide & Street Directory (Singapore: Survey Dept., 1972), 43. (Call no. RCLOS 959.57 SIN)
38. “Monument to Get Second Facelift after 2 Months,” Straits Times, 30 October 1988, 19. (From NewspaperSG)
39. Maryam Mokhtar, “Civilian War Memorial Gazetted under Newly Named Division,” Straits Times, 17 August 2013, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
40. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 32–33.

Further resources
Chu Sui Mang, Beach Road with Two Theatres Namely, New Alhambra Theatre and Marlborough Theatre and the Beach Road Market, 1960, photograph, National Archives of Singapore (media-image no. 19980005713 – 0028)

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): 62–65. (Call no. RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS)

Mubin Sheppard, ed., Singapore 150 Years (Singapore: Times Books International, 1982). (Call no. RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])

The information in this article is valid as at 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.


Historic sites--Singapore
Street names--Singapore
Urban planning
Historic buildings
Streets and Places