Kreta Ayer Road
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Kreta Ayer Road, a one-way road in the heart of Chinatown, connects Neil Road to New Bridge Road. The road is historically important as it was the prosperous half, the 'greater town district', of 19th century Chinatown.
Kreta Ayer Road or "water cart road", was officially named so in 1922. In Malay, Kreta Ayer means "water cart". In the early 19th and 20th centuries, bullock and ox carts plied this road carrying water. Water was drawn from wells located in Ann Siang Hill and distributed to Chinatown and its surrounding areas. Another water source was located at Spring Street. In 1826, a settlement village for the Chinese, or Chinese kampong, was mapped out by Lt. Jackson who was aiding Raffles in drawing up the Singapore Town boundaries. This settlement area, the precursor of early Chinatown, encompassed the area from the southern bank of Singapore River to Pearl's Hill. This area was colloquially referred to as Kreta Ayer after the water-filled bullock and ox carts. The exact year in which Kreta Ayer Road was laid in this Chinese Kampong is not known.
From 1826 onwards, land parcels were issued and many roads were developed around Kreta Ayer road, such as Hokkien Street, China Street, Sago Street, and Pagoda Street. The Kreta Ayer district of Chinatown, where all these streets were, developed faster and was more prosperous. As a result, the Chinese divided Chinatown into two portions: the tua poh or "greater town district" and the sio poh or the "smaller town". Kreta Ayer Road and the surrounding streets with their restaurants, brothels and theatres, belonged and shaped the "greater town district" or the more prosperous tua poh. The first Chinese settlers on Kreta Ayer Road were the Cantonese from Hongkong and China's province of Guangdong.
The street is under the Chinatown Kreta Ayer Conservation Area and is home to many conserved shophouses. Changes made to the road over time do not take away its residential and commercial status. HDB blocks, shops, and eating places line this street. The Kreta Ayer Community Centre, built in 1960, was originally known as Banda Street Community Centre. In the mid 20th century, many private theatres in the vicinity of the road disappeared owing to various reasons. The need for a permanent stage for artists to showcase their talent led to the construction of the Kreta Ayer People's Theatre in 1969. It is situated next to the Kreta Ayer Community Centre. The SATA Kreta Ayer Clinic came to be located towards the end of Kreta Ayer Road in 1996.
Chinese names: Gu chia chui (Hokkien), Ngow chay shui (Cantonese), both meaning "Bullock water cart road", referring to the bullock water carts plying this street.
Naidu Ratnala Thulaja
Chinatown: An album of a Singapore community (pp. 116, 118)(1983). Singapore: Times Books International
(Call no.: RSING 779. 995957 CHI)
Dunlop, P. K. G. (2000). Street names of Singapore (p. 178). Singapore: Who's Who Publications.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 DUN)
Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1996). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places (pp. 485, 405). Singapore: Times Books International.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 EDW)
Kreta Ayer: Faces and voices (pp. 20-23, 39)(1994). Singapore: Kreta Ayer Citizens' Consultative Committee.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 KRE)
Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2003). Toponymics: A study of Singapore street names (p. 228). Singapore: Eastern Universities Press.
(Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV)
Sata to move to Kreta Ayer by next November. (1995, July 4). The Straits Times, p. 17.
Kreta Ayer People's Theatre. (n.d.). History of KAPT. Retrieved August 1, 2003, from www.kapt.com.sg/history.asp
List of Images
Chinatown: An album of a Singapore community (p. 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.
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