Our History

Kelvin Grove’s history started in 1925 when the company Western Province Sports Club was originally formed. In 1935 the Club had a total of 1755 members. Today, Kelvin Grove has approximately 5500 members using the facilities on offer.

A look at the membership list leads to the pleasant discovery that Kelvin is very much a family affair, and among our young and equally active members, particularly in the cricket and rugby fraternities, are a great many sons and grandsons of our older members. We hasten to add that there are just as many daughters, but they have an uncanny habit of changing their names when they marry, so we don’t always know.


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!

2000 and beyond …

The last 20+ years has seen a greater modernisation of some of our facilities and the introduction of additional events and happenings:

  • 2000: Opening of the Pool Restaurant (now known as the Pool Bar) – a self-service buffet area.
  • 2001: Kelvin Grove Club inherits the traditional military dinner from the Cape Town Club. Held on an annual basis, it honours members of the reserve force units (formerly the citizen forces) as well as components of the full-time forces.
  • 2002: Redevelopment of the front entrance and exclusive access for members via a boom gate, a new roof over the gymnasium, new poolside facility (Waterside Restaurant) and the renovation and recordation of the Pool Bar.

By now, our membership had grown to 8,200 members.

The early 2000s also saw a reciprocal agreement signed with Marylebone Cricket Club (based in London, founded in 1787) and the first fundraising dinner with WP Rugby in aid of the CBPJ Players’ Fund.

Other exciting developments also included the opening of the new Champagne & Sushi Bar (2007), a new oriental kitchen offering a wide variety of oriental dishes (in addition to sushi) and the opening of the Wine Cellar – a small, private dining room for intimate parties (2008).  That same year also saw us welcome leading Hollywood stars (Richard Gere and Hilary Swank).

The Pavilion, known for its modern and elegant design, was constructed in 2011 – the same year that saw the signing of another reciprocal agreement, this time with Oxford and Cambridge Club (based in London and founded in 1830). In 2012, new squash courts were built and 2018 saw us reaching the R1million mark at our annual DHL Stormers fundraisers in aid of the CBPJ Players’ Fund as well as the appointment of our first female General Manager. 

More recent developments have included the hosting of The Davis Cup Tennis Group II Competition (Bulgaria vs South Africa) in 2019 and the celebration of our 95th birthday in 2020! 

Proud of our heritage and the world class facilities we offer – Kelvin Grove Club is very much a family affair with many of our young members the children and grandchildren of our older members. As one of South Africa’s, and the world’s, exclusive sports and social recreational Clubs, we look forward to continuing to grow from strength to strength – adding value, fun and premium recreation to the lives of all our members over the coming years.