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Spring Street, a short one-way road, connects the junction of South Bridge Road and Neil Road to Banda Street. A water source used to be located here from which water was drawn and transported by bullock carts to different parts of early 20th century Singapore.
Spring Street got its name from the fact that a spring used to be found there. Water from the spring would flow into a well, and once drawn, it was loaded onto bullock carts and transported to different areas in Singapore. Bullock cart was a popular mode of transport in the 19th and early 20th century. The Malay-named Kreta Ayer Road, in the vicinity of Spring Street, literally means "cart water road", to signify the spring water-filled ox or bullock carts that plied the road. Spring Street lies close to Smith Street, Sago Street and Sago Lane. These three streets were prostitution areas in the early 20th century. And as Spring Street lay next to Sago Lane, it was considered the end of the prostitution zone. The street was therefore called fan tsai mei (Cantonese) which means "end of the foreign brothels". However, this street too was dotted with a few Japanese brothels.
The street, being part of Chinatown, is going through a revival phase to bring back the charm of the old Chinatown. The street bustles during Chinese New Year and food festivals, with various stalls lining the street's sides. Activities to liven up the place, such as busking and arts performances, are put up on empty plots of land near Spring Street during some parts of the year.
In Cantonese as follows:
(1) Fan tsai mei, meaning the "end of the foreign brothels".
(2) Fan tsai mei ma ta liu pin, which means "end of the foreign brothels beside the police station", a reference to the Pearl's Hill Police Station towards the end of Sago Lane and Spring Street, near Banda Street.
Naidu Ratnala Thulaja
Dunlop, P. K. G. (2000). Street names of Singapore (pp. 178, 286). Singapore: Who's Who Publications.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 DUN)
Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2003). Toponymics: A study of Singapore street names (p. 358). Singapore: Eastern Universities Press.
(Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV)
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Busking in the limelight this New Year. (1999, December 19). The Straits Times, p. 32.
Dancing cooks and lots of fun at first S'pore Food Fest. (1994, April 19). The Straits Times, p. 17.
Kong, L. (1992, July 23). Comfort in history. The Straits Times, Life, p. 3.
Road closure in Chinatown. (2003, January 10). The Straits Times, Singapore.
Chinatown: An album of a Singapore community (pp. 110-119) (1983). Singapore: Times Books International.
(Call no.: RSING 779. 995957 CHI)
The information in this article is valid as at 2003 and correct as far as 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.