History of the Streets of Bandar Seri Begawan

[My article below on the history of the streets of Brunei was published in Brunei Times last Sunday. I actually wanted to write about the history of the names of the streets but I ran into trouble and could not find all the materials I wanted. In the end I wrote about how the streets physically started. I was not very happy with the final product but there was a deadline. Anyway I hope you enjoy it nevertheless. By the way the inserted photo is that of Jalan Pretty before it more or less got destroyed with the building of the Yayasan. Many people my age would remember this scene.]

Even though Kampong Ayer has been the capital of the Brunei Sultanate for hundreds of years, Bandar Seri Begawan or the city on dry land is relatively recent.

When the first British Resident, M.S.H. McArthur arrived in Brunei to begin his official duty, he stated that he '... wanted a clean dry village, with suburbs of kampong houses ...' and he also '... wanted to discourage houses in the river ...'

The plan was to demarcate an area of some 500 acres and to alienate these allotments to the Kampong Ayer residents.

But the government faced stiff resistance. In 1908, Mr. Stoney wrote in a report that it seemed an almost impossible task to induce any of the Kampong Ayer residents to even contemplate the idea of a move.

Even though these residents especially the men-folks, admitted that they and their families would better off on land, where they could cultivate small holdings and rear live stock and poultry, they seemed to fear snapping what Mr. Stoney called as ‘the chains of custom which bound them to their semi-amphibious life’.

According to Mr. Stoney it was not the men but ‘the women proved the greatest stumbling blocks.’

However in 1906, the plain at the back of the Sultan's Palace was opened up and measured off with a view to laying out a township there. By 1908, British Resident J.F. Owen reported that the town site has been laid out, two short streets (probably today’s Jalan Sultan and Jalan Roberts) made and street lamps erected.

By 1909, a change appeared as a small settlement was started at Tumasek were several influential Pengirans took up small blocks for themselves and their dependents.

His Highness the Sultan soon followed and selected some land on a hill at the back of his palace. Practically all the available land in Sungai Tekuyang and Sumbiling was given out to applicants. Pekan Brunei on dry land was at last underway.

However the first road was not in the new dry town. In the Brunei Annual Report (BAR) of 1906, McArthur reported that the site of the old consulate (the current site of Bubungan Duabelas) was cleared of jungle and a temporary building set up to accommodate the European officers.

A road was opened from this site to the plain behind the town, a distance of about 1½ miles. The road had to be taken along the banks of the Brunei River and cut across the then important cutch factory (sited at the current site of the Handicraft Centre). Cutch was one of Brunei’s main exports then.

This earth road was the first road officially built in Brunei. That temporary building soon became a permanent building for British Residents. As the road leads to the British Residency, that road was known as Jalan Residency until today.

Further progress was made in the streets of the town. Resident Harvey Chevalier in the 1911 BAR noted that a short earth road (probably Jalan McArthur) was made from the shops past the mosque to the Astana by prison labourers.

In 1915, Resident EB Maundrell reported that about a mile and a half of bridle path was constructed from Brunei town through small holdings to the Sungei Kedayan, opposite Mengalait, (probably the beginning of Jalan Kumbang Pasang) and a beginning was also made with a path down river through the kampongs below the Residency (probably Jalan Kianggeh), the land holders undertaking construction through their lots.

In 1918, connections were made to other parts just outside the capital. Resident G.E. Cator reported that most important paths completed that year were the Menglait-Demuan 7 miles, Kianggeh 3 miles and extension of Residency Road 2½ mile. In 1920, the construction of bridle-paths to open up the Tungkadeh and Berangan valleys was done (around the Mabuhai and Kumbang Pasang areas).

Jalan Residency despite the fact that it was first opened up in 1906 was only completed fully in 1925 and became an inestimable boon to all who live along the Subok Ridge.

The first major wooden bridge was the bridge over the Kianggeh River connecting that road to the town completed in 1919. However in 1926 a flood washed away the bridge and the construction of a reinforced concrete bridge to replace it started at end of 1927 and the 90 feet bridge was completed in 1928.

By 1926, the streets in Brunei Town were metalled and asphalted. By 1927, Resident EEF Pretty reported that the earth road from Brunei to Tutong was at last completed at the end of May and officially opened by His Highness the Sultan on 13th June.

An earth road to take motor traffic was constructed to the Kumbang Pasang Estate of Brunei United Plantations Limited. Today this road is known as Jalan Kumbang Pasang.

In 1928, the metalling programme for the Brunei-Tutong Road was curtailed and only the portions from Brunei Town to the new Clifford Bridge and at the two hills between the second and fourth mile stones were done.

A metalled road (today’s Jalan Sultan) was built in front of the new shop houses in Brunei Town. The Clifford Bridge (more popularly known as Jembatan Rangas) was completed in May.

Resident P.A.B. McKerron in the 1930 BAR reported that the government in cooperation with the Gadong Estate constructed a mile of road to connect this estate with the river at Kumbang Pasang. This road is the beginning of Jalan Gadong.

In 1931, the government built a road heading towards north, the Berakas area. Some 3 miles of road were constructed between Brunei and Berakas. This road was planned to reach Pantai Berakas a distance of some 10 miles from Brunei. By 1932 that road was completed except for a small portion.

Motor traffic could proceed within two miles of the coast at the end of the year and by the following year that road, now known as Jalan Berakas was completed. Resident T.F. Carey in 1933 reported that the completed road ‘is proving a most popular highway as excellent bathing is to be had at the coast’.

A few streets in Bandar Seri Begawan were named in memory after the British Residents and officers in memory of their contributions to the country.

Jalan McArthur was of course named after M.S.H. McArthur, the author of the Brunei Report of 1904 – a report which some say saved Brunei from extinction – as well as being the first British Resident in 1906.

Another was Jalan Stoney named after B.O. Stoney who was Acting Resident in 1909. Jalan Pretty is named after E.E.F. Pretty who was Resident in 1923, 1926, 1928 and finally from 1948 to 1951. Jalan Chevalier (today’s Jalan Pemancha) was named after H. Chevalier who was Resident in 1909 to 1913.

Jalan Cator was named after G.E. Cator who was Resident from 1916 to 1921. Two other European named streets in Brunei – Jalan Roberts was named after E. Roberts, the first head of Public Works in 1906 and Jalan James Pearce was named after the first Director of Education in the 1950s.


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