Beecroft-Cheltenham History Group

 Cheltenham Recreation Club [1]

 In October 1912 William Harris invited fifteen local residents to his home to establish a recreation club. These residents were Edward Alcock, Frederick Brierley, William Birkenhead, Henry Chorley, Clarence Gorman, Harry Holcombe, John Lyon, Henry Little, Albert Wachsmann, William Nixon, Edward O’Sullivan, Willoughby Schrader, Ernest Trigg, Charles Tucker and John Wallace.

As a result of this meeting, a public meeting was then called to discuss the formation of a recreation club in Cheltenham and this was held on 7 February 1913 in the Beecroft School of Arts.

On 11 April 1913 William Harris purchased land from William Chorley and immediately transferred it to the newly established Cheltenham Recreation Club on condition that “it was turned into a suitable ground for bowls, croquet and tennis.” Harris made further donations of land to the Club in 1923, 1933, 1937, 1948 and 1952. This land was consolidated into one Certificate of Title in 1963 – subject to a right of way to the property ‘Edensor’ but only so long as the Harris family continued to own that property.  

The Club was managed by its own company. People did not have to own shares in the company to use the facilities but did have to own at least one share to vote at the Annual Meeting.

The land was converted into a neatly arranged complex of croquet lawn, four rink bowling green and two grass tennis courts over a terraced layout by the architect William Nixon and the landscape contractor Arthur Doust. At the same time they redesigned the gardens at “Edensor”. A small clubhouse was operating from 1914. This building was extended on a number of occasions between 1915 and 1925.

A timber-framed asbestos clad pavilion was built in the period 1929-1933 as an open-sided annex to the original clubhouse. It has subsequently been used as the croquet clubhouse.

In 1948 following one of the gifts of land by Harris, two further bowling greens and two further tennis courts were built in 1949 and a new club house was built in 1954 in memory of William Harris. The new building was opened in 1957. This new building was designed by Richard Eric Apperly (1925-1992) of the firm Adam, Wright and Apperly. The new building has been described as “an austere example of Functional Modernism” and the total cost of the works exceeded 18,000 pounds. Extensions to the clubhouse and a new tennis pavilion were designed by Ruskin, Rowe, Elmes and Slatter of North Sydney in 1970-71.

1. Unless indicated otherwise all the material in this section comes from A Willingham “A Suitable Ground for Bowls, Croquet and Tennis” Statement of Heritage Impact September 2020.

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