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Neil Road, a one-way road, begins from South Bridge Road and ends at two points -- one leads to the New Bridge Road and the other to the junction of New Bridge Road, Eu Tong Sen Street and Kampong Bahru Road. Originally known as Silat, Selat or Salat Road, it was renamed as Neil Road in 1858 after Brigadier-General James George Smith Neil (1810-1857), a hero of the 1857 Indian mutiny.
Neil Road was part of a nutmeg plantation, owned by Dr. Montgomerie, that covered Duxton Hill until the 1850s. It was called Silat Road at that time and was a simple track, first to be laid, amidst the plantation. In Malay selat or salat means "straits", and this name later became silat, a slang usage of the word selat. Silat Road was named so as it lead to the Keppel Harbour, which was known as Silat until 1819. In 1858, the Municipal renamed this road in honour of Brigadier-General Neil who worked for the Madras Fusiliers in India and became one of the early British heroes of the Indian Mutiny of 1857. Neil Road, being located within a plantation, developed much later than the surrounding parts of Chinatown. Many parts of the road are currently conservation areas under the Urban Development Authority.
At the beginning of the road is the jinrickshaw station, located at the junction of Tanjong Pagar Road and Neil Road. Built in 1903 and restored in 1987, this conserved building is today a shopping and recreational centre. Restored shophouses and terrace houses around the jinrickshaw station, built probably between 1890 and 1910, exist till date, as do some terrace buildings, built in the 1940s in European architectural styles further away from the station. A conserved 3-storey neo-classical building, built in 1924 at 89 Neil Road was once the Eng Aun Tong building where the famous Tiger Balm was manufactured. Another place of interest is a house at 147, Neil Road. Owned by Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew's grandfather, SM Lee lived in this house for a few years. The Fairfield Methodist Girls' School, built in 1912 in Victorian style, moved to Dover Road in 1983. This conserved building is currently home to a child-care centre.
Apart from such places of historical importance, the rest of the street is lined with residential units, HDB buildings, commercial spaces, eating and entertainment places. A French Business Centre at the junction of Neil and Craig Roads, in the form of a 2,500 sq. m. 3-storey classy building, was opened in 1995. It is flanked on one side by the Duxton Plain Park. Big building along this street include the Chinatown Plaza and Apartments, the Singapore Institute of Architects building, Runme Shaw Building, Police Cantonment Complex, Dimensions Building, St. Matthew's Church and Grace Fellowship building.
Chinese name: Gu-chhia-chui kia (Hokkien), meaning "steep part of Kreta Ayer", referring to the location of Neil Road being a steep road that lead to the central part of the nutmeg plantation on Duxton Hill.
Ngau-chhe-shui pin ma-ta-liu chek sheung (Cantonese), meaning "near Kreta Ayer, straight up past the police station", probably referring to the police station on Pearl's Hill.
Naidu Ratnala Thulaja
Dunlop, P. K. G. (2000). Street names of Singapore (p. 221). Singapore: Who's Who Publications.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 DUN)
Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1996). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places (pp. 459, 463-464, 473-474). Singapore: Times Books International.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 EDW)
Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2003). Toponymics: A study of Singapore street names (pp. 275-276). Singapore: Eastern Universities Press.
(Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV)
Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then and now (p. 191). Singapore: Landmark Books.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE)
Firmstone, H. W. (1905, January). Chinese names of streets and places in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula. Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 4, 112-113.
(Call no.: RSING 959.5 FIR-[IC])
Goh, D. (2001, September 9). New life for Fairfield building. The Straits Times, Home, p. 21
Toh, E. (1992, November 3). "Historic' Neil Road house sold. The Straits Times, Money, p. 39.
Visiting minister to open new French business centre (1995, January 25). The Straits Times, Money, p. 36.
Urban Redevelopment Authority of Singapore. (c2004). 89 Neil Road Conservation Area. Retrieved July 5, 2003, from, www.ura.gov.sg/conservation/neil.htm
The information in this article is valid as at 2003 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.
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