In the early 1800s, the Orchard Road area was considered as belonging to the outskirts of town, as the commercial centre of Singapore then was located by the Singapore River. As Dhoby Ghaut was closest to the town area and had a freshwater stream to provide water, it was the area where many of the early activities of Orchard Road took place.
Until 1827, a garrison of sepoys (Indian soldiers employed by the British) was based at the foot of Government Hill. This garrison included Indian washermen who laundered clothes in the stream known as Sungei Brass Bassa. The area was subsequently named Dhoby Ghaut after this activity as dhoby means “washerman” in Hindi, while Ghaut or ghat in Hindi refers to the area along a riverbank used for bathing or washing. In Tamil, Dhoby Ghaut was called Vannan Theruvu or “Street of the Dhobies”.