Dating back almost 100 years … and still further yet …
Our story began almost 100 years ago, in 1925, with the formation of the Western Province Sports Club. By 1935, the Club had grown its membership to a total of 1,755 members whilst today, no fewer than 5,500 members enjoy the facilities on offer – with Kelvin Grove Club an integral part of their everyday lives.
However, our origin dates back much further still.
In 1779, a man by the name of Tobias Rogiers was granted what was known as ‘crown land’ (“A territorial area belonging to the monarch, who personifies the Crown. It is the equivalent of an entailed estate and passes with the monarchy, being inseparable from it.” – Wikipedia). The farm, subsequently named ‘Questenberg’, embraced the major portion of land upon which Kelvin Grove Club is situated today.
Over one hundred years later, in 1881, John Brodie purchased the property (then known as ‘Moders Bewys’), naming his new homestead ‘Kelvin Grove’ after Kelvinside in his native Glasgow. Fifteen years later (1896), James Cook Rimer bought ‘Kelvin Grove’ and commissioned Sir Herbert Baker to redesign the homestead (the gabled building leading to the main staircase).
The very first chaired board meeting took place on 24 December 1924. Twelve gentlemen (sporting and legal personalities) attended a meeting in the Angus boardroom – chaired by Major Gideon Brand van Zyl (who later became the Governor-General of South Africa). At that meeting, it was decided to float a company that would be known as the Western Province Sports Club.
In June 1925, the property was purchased from the owner (James Cook Rimer) and on 25 September, the directors sent out a circular letter inviting applications for membership to debenture holders – and the Kelvin Grove Club was born!
The following year (1926), Mr Walter Herbert (Wally) Mars stood surety for a lease of £15,000 to allow for development of the club to go ahead. The first committee was elected, with Wally Mars as chair (he served until 1945) and the first AGM, attended by 46 members, held on 5 November. The story goes that, after the AGM, Mr Wally Mars was overheard saying to Mr Jim Wiley, “Did you hear what one person suggested? That we should have a bowling green? We can’t have that class of person at Kelvin Grove.”
The next couple of years saw a number of milestones and developments:
- 1927: 351 members of the Peninsula Dance Club were invited to join the Club, of whom 237 became full members.
- 1928: The first squash courts were built.
- 1929: Accommodation was made available to members at a monthly tariff of R 31.00 (weekly @ R 8.40 and daily @ R 1.50). Breakfasts were served @ 26c, lunches @ 35c and dinners @ 45c.
Whilst the first bowling green was laid in 1931, it was not until 1933 that a bowls section was formed, and the first bowls dinner held (attended by 33 members). In 1950, the second bowling green was laid and in 1961, ladies bowls was formally inaugurated. That year also saw the completion of new tennis courts, a squash court in use and levelling of the cricket field.
Other significant milestones over the coming years included:
- 1933: Peacock blue, maroon and gold were registered as the Club’s official colours but would not be officially recognised by the State Bureau for Heraldry until 12 October 1984.
- 1934: Kelvin Grove Club membership reached 1,755.
- 1936: The Ballroom was built. Despite financial challenges in the 1930s, the Club found willing sponsors with the likes of Jim Wiley (vice-chairman) who lent funds from his father’s estate to fund the project.
- 1957: The Grill Room opened.
- 1964: The swimming pool was opened.
Sadly, in 1979 two consecutive fires virtually destroyed the Club buildings. The first fire on 16 October, believed to have started in the stationery room, caused extensive damage from the main entrance through to the kitchens – estimated at R 60,000 to R 70,000. On 2 November, a second fire broke out in the records room resulting in a further R 300,000 damage. However, by the following year the rebuilding of the damaged areas, and new additions, was completed. That year also saw the renovation of the Barn Restaurant – a renovation of the original stables.
Known for our reciprocal agreements that enable our members to enjoy Club facilities around the world, 1985 saw the first of such agreements – signed with The Hurlingham Club in London. Founded in 1986, the Hurlingham Club is the club equivalent of Wimbledon and its 30-year waiting list is now closed.
Towards the turn of the century, the Barn Restaurant was refurbished and extended into the courtyard to create space for an intimate bar and casual lounge seating with extra tables for dining. The club also opened its membership to members of the diplomatic corps and members of clubs with whom we enjoy reciprocal agreements to be able to join without a seconder or sponsor. Further, a reduced rate for full-time students as well as the category of family membership was introduced. And – our very first website was launched!