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By | November 2007
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Brickfields is one of the oldest suburbs of Kuala Lumpur and it eponymous name indicates the cause of its development. Formerly Brickfields was a jungle area known by the distance Batu Limabelas (15th Milestone).Yap Ah Loy, the entrepreneurial Capitan China of Kuala Lumpur, was one of the first to establish a brickfield and kiln in the area. This was to produce bricks for the Singapore market, but the prohibitive cost of freight prevented the venture from being profitable. However, the disastrous year of 1881, which saw the overcrowded town of Kuala Lumpur experiencing a devastating fire in January and unprecedented flooding in December, was the impetus for a rebuilding programme. Implemented by the Resident- General Frank Swettenham, this major plan created overwhelming demand for bricks with Brickfields becoming the major manufacturing centre.

At one time there were as many as seventeen kilns in the Brickfield area, producing sufficient material to replace the attap houses with buildings constructed from brick or wattle with tile roofs. During 1884 the number of brick dwellings increased from four to 234! But by the early 1890's the number of kilns had been reduced to seven. The demand for bricks was revived when the Public Works Department opened its own factory in 1894, to provide materials to be used in the construction of the major official edifices of Kuala Lumpur that surround Dataran Merdeka.

Railways have also had a close association with Brickfields. This was due to Swettenham initiating a rail link between Klang and Kuala Lumpur to overcome the transport problems particularly of the tin mining interests, who needed to convey the ore to Port Klang. Inaugurated in 1886, the line proved to be successful and was an incentive for a major expansion of the rail network. As a consequence Kuala Lumpur became the rail centre, providing workshops and marshalling yards in Brickfields. To meet the increased labour demands, experienced railway staffs were...

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