South Bridge Road
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South Bridge Road, street, located in the Outram and Singapore River areas of the Central Region, in Singapore. One of the thriving centres of the city in the heart of Chinatown, South Bridge Road has been an important street, and one of the main thoroughfares linking the town and the New Harbour. The road stretches south from Elgin Bridge to Maxwell Road/Tanjong Pagar Road/Neil Road.
South Bridge, a major road of Chinatown, was known in the early 1820s by its name, long before a proper road was constructed. In early 1831 there were public complaints that South Bridge Road was overflowed knee-deep at high tides. Then in 1833, George Coleman, as the newly appointed Superintendent of Public Works, headed the construction of North and South Bridge Roads with help from Indian convict labourers.
A major road-link
The road became more important when it linked Singapore town to the New Harbour, Keppel Harbour. As part of the "big town", import and export businesses including assorted wholesale and retail merchant traders, godowns/storage houses, goldsmith shops (today still around the South Bridge Road/Cross Street junction), and more, set up shop here. The first steam tramway ran the full length of South Bridge Road from 1885, but ceased operations in 1894, as it could not compete with the great numbers of jinrikshas after their introduction from Shanghai in 1880. Then came Electric Trams in 1905, these too ceased operations in 1927; and in 1929, Trolley Buses were introduced. Increase of commercial prospects and immigrant arrivals around the turn of the century, saw the rise of many 2 and 3-storey shophouses in the area. Some of the shophouses can still be seen today. Being the "main street" of Chinatown, many historic and important buildings have lined this stretch, and, from the early times these included the Sri Marriaman Temple (1843), Jamae Mosque (1830 - 1835), both now preserved monuments; the Central Police Station once stood on today's Pidemco Centre, and the Criminal District and Police Courts used to be on Hong Lim Green. Other new developments are Fook Hai Building (1975), and the Housing and Development Board's Hong Lim Complex of shophouses and high-rise apartments. Where Hong Lim complex stands, at the South Bridge Road/Cross Street corner was a site of the "Sook Ching" (to purge or eliminate) war atrocities committed by the Japanese during their occupation, in World War II. The Eu Yan Sang Pharmacy, a classical 1910, 3-storey building, famous for Chinese Herbal Medication from China, were in olden times also well-known for the transmission of funds to families in China.
Marching Troops on South Bridge Road
There were two occasions when military troops marched through South Bridge Road. One was during World War II, and captured in a photograph of Japanese troops marching on the street. The other, was a happy and special occasion commemorating Singapore's first National Day Parade on 9 August 1966, when after the official parade, Singapore's own military troops proudly continued their march, for the first time, through heavily populated Chinatown to the Tanjong Pagar area, and were warmly greeted with cheers from the packed crowds of people on five-foot-ways and roadsides, on balconies and bridges, lined up along the South Bridge Road route. "Tramp, tramp in South Bridge Road" reported The Straits Times on 10 August 1966.
3 May 1886 : Steam commenced operations and plyed through entire length of South Bridge Road.
1905 : Singapore Electric Tramways Company No. 2 tramway passed through South bridge Road.
1929 : Trolley bus operated through South Bridge Road.
(1) In Hokkien, Twa Poh meaning "big town" referring to Chinatown with more shops, in comparison to the name of North Bridge Road, Seoh Poh meaning "small town".
(2) In Hokkien, Gu-chhia chui toa be-chhia lo or in Cantonese Ngau-chhe-shui tai ma-lo both mean "The big horse (water-carriage) road in Kreta Ayer".
(3) In Hokkien, Chhat-bok koi or in Cantonese Chhat-muk kai both mean "Paint-wood street" i.e. Painter's street (refers to the part between the Police Court (Hong Lim Green today) and the Singapore River or Elgin Bridge; also the corner of North Canal Road, where numerous painters once lived).
(4) In Cantonese, Tai Ma Lo meaning "The great horse-way".
Tamil name: Kalapithi Kadei Sadakku meaning "Cawker's shop street".
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(Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC)
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(Call no.: RSING 779. 995957 CHI)
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(Call no.: RSING 959.57 EDW)
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(Call no.: SING 526.90924 THO.H)
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(Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE)
Tramp, tramp in South Bridge Road [Microfilm: NL 12184]. (1966, August 10). The Straits Times, p. 7.
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(Call No.: RSING 959.57 SIN)
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(Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN)
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(Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN)
Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1995). Outram planning area: Planning report 1995 (p. 6). Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority.
(Call no.: RSING 711.4095957 SIN)
Firmstone, H. W. (1905, February). Chinese names of streets and places in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula. Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 42, 130-131.
(Call no.: RSING 959.5 FIR-[IC])
The information in this article is valid as at 2000 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
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