A big road that runs through Singapore’s area of Kallang, the area around Jalan Besar, as well as the bustling road itself, is home to a variety of interesting sights. It is also a great place to enjoy a diverse selection of Singapore’s tasty local food. It is a conservation area today.
Here’s an overview of Jalan Besar’s past and present:
What’s in a Name?
Jalan Besar is a Malay name that means big road, although it is often used to mean main road. Local Hokkien people used to refer to the road as kam kong ka poh thai tu long, meaning “the slaughter pig depot in Kampong Kapor”, referring to the fact that there was a slaughter house in the area.
Many of the smaller streets off Jalan Besar are named after high-ranking military officers who served during WW1, as well as places that were associated with violent skirmishes.
History of Jalan Besar
The land surrounding the present-day Jalan Besar was once covered with swamps and rural patches. Once home to an assortment of native wildlife, including ducks, snakes, fish, birds, and mud lobsters, it was a popular place for hunters to try and catch prey. There were rubber factories in the area too.
The road was built in the 1880s, passing between the swamps.
Eventually, the land was filled in, largely using refuse and waste items, and reclaimed. Different groups of people, from various cultures and ethnic backgrounds, created their homes around the Kallang River.
New World Amusement Park was situated off Jalan Besar Road, a fun, raucous, and often risqué spot that drew many people seeking some lively night time entertainment. Opened in 1923, the complex featured diverse shows and performances, including boxing matches, cabarets, strip-artists, singers, wrestling competitions, operas, and more. New World Amusement Park finally closed its doors to punters in the late 1980s.
Places of Interest in Jalan Besar
Today’s visitors to Jalan Besar can spot a number of heritage sites and other interesting landmarks. These include:
– Jalan Besar Stadium. A large football stadium that can hold up to 8,000 fans, it was once the home ground of the national football team. It is still the main stadium for the Young Lions and Lions XII. The current stadium was built in the early 2000s, opening in 2003. It stands on the site of an earlier stadium that was built in the 1920s. Indeed, the earlier stadium is often said to have been the place where football was born in Singapore. The original stadium played a role during the Japanese occupation of Singapore, being used as a screening site for those to be slain during the brutal Sook Ching massacres. It was also used by the invading Japanese as a language centre.
Today, the stadium is also home to a large swimming pool.
– Allenby House. Located at 298 Jalan Besar, Allenby House was constructed in the late 1920s. A large four-level traditional shophouse, it was named after a figure from Singapore’s colonial past, Edmund Allenby Beatty. The upper floor has an open inner courtyard. It is one of the area’s historic buildings.
– Holy Trinity Church. An interesting-looking church, it was built to meet the spiritual needs of local Hokkien Christians. Although open to all worshippers, it was constructed so as to appeal to people with Chinese roots, providing a sense of familiarity and comfort. It features a green roof and decorative elements that one would usually associate with traditional Chinese architecture.
– Terraced Homes on Petain Road. These old homes let you take a peek into Singapore’s past and see how people traditionally lived. They also show how building styles and personal preferences over the years changed, with buildings ranging from the 1880s through to the 1960s. You’ll notice that elements from various architectural styles, including art deco and Chinese ornamentation, have crept into some of the designs. The rows of shophouses were originally used as both dwellings and places of business, with shops and workshops on the lower levels and living quarters on the upper floors.
Appreciate how Singapore has changed significantly over the years with a walk through Jalan Besar.