Campbell Street was named after the Penang Inspector General (1866-1891) Sir George William Robert Campbell, who was also the acting Lieutenant-Governor of Penang between 1872 and 1873. As such, the street was named after a different person from Campbell Road (nowadays known as Jalan Dang Wangi) in Kuala Lumpur or Campbell Lane in Singapore. Campbell Street extends from Buckingham Street, which is older. No wonder the locals called it Sin3 Kay1, meaning "new street".
During the third quarter of the 19th century and into the 20th century, it was a red-light district, lined with brothels that advertise themselves by hanging red lanterns at their doors. The term "sin kay" acquired a whole new meaning, as a pun to mean "fresh hookers", in reference to the newly arrived prostitutes, many of whom are Cantonese. The Malays called Campbell Street Jalan Makau, in reference to Macau, in reference to the port city from which Cantonese laborers and prostitutes arrive.
In the mid 20th century, Campbell Street had become the most important shopping street for the locals. It is the place to shop for clothes, watches and shoes. The business began to decline by the mid 70's. Today most of the retail outlets have been taken over by wholesalers. The eastern end of Campbell Street, between Rope Walk and Carnarvon Street, was the centre of the Chinese jewellery business, with jewellery shops lining both sides of the street.
Campbell Street was once the main shopping precinct of Penang (30 August, 2012)
Medan Lebuh Campbell
Medan Lebuh Campbell is the RM2.3 million pedestrian walkway built by the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP), as part of the effort to bring life into Campbell Street. It was opened on July 1999, and was not entirely successful, as it had introduced street concepts such as benches, without regard to the impracticality of the climate. To bring life into the street, it should ideally shelter the street, as is done in Singapore (Clarke Quay, Chinatown, Far East Square, Bugis Street, to name a few places) and air-condition the sheltered area. As such, Medan Lebuh Campbell succeed in creating a bottle neck for Campbell Street.
2 August, 2014: StarMetro, The Star reports that the Municipal Council of Penang Island (MPPP) is considering widening Campbell Street. Councillor in charged of Infrastructre and Traffic, Dr Tan Kim Hooi, said that details are being finalized. The Council is also considering a proposal from Rapid Penang to run a bus route through Campbell Street, providing a link between Penang Road and Pitt Street.
Lebuh Campbell road sign (24 November 2008)
In Other Words ...
Campbell Street is called Sin3 Kay3, meaning "new street", in Hokkien.
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