Street Names

Street names are not just about indicating a specific location.

Some names reflect our history and heritage, while others carry our hopes and dreams.

There are several streets in Singapore named after members of the Seah family, such as Eu Chin Street, Liang Seah Street, and Peck Seah Street. Naming streets after the pioneers who contributed to Singapore is a good way to remember and honour them.

Eu Chin Street


Eu Chin Street is named after Seah Eu Chin.

The street is located in Tiong Bahru, Singapore’s first public housing estate. The estate was developed in the 1920s and 1930s by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT), the predecessor of the Housing and Development Board (HDB).

Another interesting fact is that Tiong Bahru Community Centre at Eu Chin Street was Singapore’s first Community Centre, bringing the community together and strengthening social cohesion. Officially opened in July 1951, it was originally an air-raid shelter!

The photograph below, taken by C. Seah, shows both Eu Chin Street and Tiong Bahru Community Centre, as well as colourful decorations for Singapore’s 52nd National Day celebrations in 2017.

Eu Chin Street is perpendicular to Seng Poh Road, and close to Seng Poh Garden.

There is a sculpture called the Dancing Girl at Seng Poh Garden. From certain angles, the girl looks like a graceful swan, poised to take flight and soar.

Seng Poh Road and Seng Poh Lane


In fact, both Seng Poh Road and Seng Poh Lane are named after Tan Seng Poh, Seah Eu Chin’s famous brother-in-law, one of the most significant pioneers in Singapore’s early history. It is significant that a road and a lane are named after him, and that they are near Eu Chin Street.

What is the story of the man behind the street names?

The son of the Kapitan Cina of Perak in Malaya, Tan Seng Poh came to Singapore when he was nine years old to accompany his sister. He studied in Singapore and later worked for his brother-in-law Seah Eu Chin, rising from an assistant to the post of manager.

While Seng Poh successfully bought and sold commodities such as cotton and tea, he also traded harmful vices, such as opium, which were legal under British colonial rule.

However, Seng Poh later gave back to society. He raised money for charitable causes; worked on improving Singapore for almost a decade; and maintained peace and order.

After a lifetime of achievements and service, Tan Seng Poh passed away in 1879.

Liang Seah Street

Liang Seah Street - Visitors

Eu Chin Street is not the only street in Singapore named after a member of the Seah family.

Seah Eu Chin’s famous second son, Seah Liang Seah, also had a street named after him in 1927: Liang Seah Street. It is located at Bugis area, between North Bridge Road and Beach Road.

Beach Road, as the name suggests, was a seafront in the 1800s. Later, land was reclaimed over several phases, from the 1900s.

As you can see from the photograph above, Liang Seah Street is full of buzz at night (photograph was taken in 2019).

Peck Seah Street


Seah Liang Seah’s younger brother, Seah Peck Seah, also made a name for himself.

Peck Seah Street is located in Tanjong Pagar, just off Maxwell Road, and stands testimony to Seah Peck Seah’s many contributions to Singapore.

Seah Street


Other than Eu Chin Street, Liang Seah Street, and Peck Seah Street, there is one more road that deserves special mention: Seah Street, a street of about 200 metres long, around the Bras Basah area, between North Bridge Road and Beach Road. Today, the Mint Museum of Toys and the Raffles Hotel arcade are along the street, along with many shops and eateries.

Seah Street is named after the Seah family in recognition of the family’s many significant contributions to Singapore in its early days.

Purvis Street: Originally Named Song Seah Road

It is a little known fact that Purvis Street was originally named Song Seah Road, after Seah Eu Chin’s third son.

A story goes that, while the Purvis Street area was under development, it was Song Seah’s private land and therefore named after him in the planning submission. Upon completion, after the properties were sold and no longer privately-held by Song Seah, the authorities renamed the street.

(To learn more, please visit the section devoted to Seah Song Seah in Seah Eu Chin’s family.)

A Brief History of Middle Road, Purvis Street, and Seah Street

The Hainanese came to Singapore much later compared to the other Chinese dialect groups, such as the Hokkien and Teochew.

When the Hainanese arrived in Singapore, they found that the Hokkien and Teochew were already entrenched in agriculture, commerce, and trade networks. Small in numbers, the Hainanese did not have extensive networks and relationships in Singapore that the larger groups possessed.

Middle Road, Purvis Street, and Seah Street used to be a settlement site for Hainanese migrants. As such, they were commonly referred to as Hainan First Street, Hainan Second Street, and Hainan Third Street respectively.

The Hainanese who lived in the area opened coffee shops, provision shops, and even postal services. They worked in many domestic or service roles. Many were servants, chefs, and bartenders for the British.

For example, Hainanese Ngiam Tong Boon, a bartender at Raffles Hotel, was widely-regarded as the first creator of the cocktail called the Singapore Sling, around 1915. At the time, societal norms dictated that ladies were not allowed to drink alcohol in public, but punch was acceptable. As Ngiam Tong Boon had created a pink drink that looked like punch, no one knew that ladies were actually drinking alcohol.

Clever marketing or historical fact?

Local history can provide a good conversation starter by sparking discussions.

But beyond just starting conversations (which is important), learning and re-learning the stories of the people behind the street names can help us feel connected to places, people, and times gone past. By doing so, we are able to better understand our past, where we come from, and who we are as a people.

*** ***

Copyright © 2017 by Shawn Seah

Webpage updated: 10 February 2023

All rights reserved