Singapore Recreation Club

Singapore Infopedia


The Singapore Recreation Club (SRC) is a social club founded on 23 June 1883 by members of the Eurasian community. It began as a men’s sports club and has since expanded to offer other social activities and opened its membership to residents in Singapore.1

According to the club’s official history, the SRC began as the Straits Cricket Club in 1880 with a group of young Eurasians cricketers.2 However, a Straits Cricket Club fourth-anniversary ball in July 1881 was mentioned in the press, suggesting that the club might have started in 1877 instead.3 Founded on 23 June 1883, the SRC played its first cricket match against the Royal Artillery on 1 September that same year.4 J. R. MacFarlane was its first president, B. E. D Aranjo the secretary, and C. V. Norris the treasurer, while its first patrons were W. H. Read, Henry McCallum and John Anderson.5

First pavilion
With the formation of the club, permission was granted the following month in July for the use of the lower end of the Padang for cricket matches and later, lawn tennis.Club members, however, met in a building at Waterloo Street. On 25 March 1884, the government granted permission for a pavilion to be erected between the present building and St Andrew’s Road.7 Completed in November 1885, the pavilion was a simple structure occupying the present SRC carpark.8

Second pavilion
By 1900, with increasing attendance at sporting events, the club decided to build a new pavilion to accommodate the crowds during cricket matches.Funds for its construction were raised from members, business firms and patrons. Construction started after approval for the new building was obtained in 1904.10 Built next to the old pavilion, the new pavilion was formally opened on 2 September 1905 by Governor John Anderson’s daughter.11

The second pavilion was built by Messrs. Hogan & Co, under the direction of D. M. Martia, the architect and vice-president of the club. It was a two-storey building with servants’ quarters on the ground floor and members’ rooms above. A verandah ran round the building on the second floor. Besides the large hall, there were rooms on both sides of the hall to accommodate committee meetings.12 By 1 March 1931, the building had been expanded with the addition of two wings to provide extra rooms for billiards, reading, card games and a grill, as well as a ladies’ room.13

With the outbreak of World War II, the SRC building was requisitioned by the British military authorities at the beginning of February 1942.14 Members fought against the Japanese, serving in the Eurasian Company of the Singapore Volunteer Corps.15 After the Japanese conquered Singapore on 15 February 1942, the Eurasian community was assembled at the Padang in front of the Syonan Recreation Club on 3 March 1942.16 The clubhouse was used as a registration centre, and those with British or Dutch parentage were sent to internment camps. It was used subsequently during the Japanese Occupation as a medical outpatient centre.17 The club was reinstated on 29 July 1946 after the Occupation. Unfortunately, SRC records had either been lost or destroyed during the war.18

Cricket was the main sport played at the club.19 Before the clubhouse was constructed, sportsmen had to take shelter under large mango trees. In January 1884, lawn tennis was introduced, and the club began to hold tournaments.20 Within months of completing the first pavilion, the SRC hosted its first two-day sports event from 1 to 2 July 1886.21 The European and Eurasian communities turned out in strong numbers.22 This sports meet became an annual affair until it was disrupted by World War I. It resumed in 1919.23

The colocation of the SRC with the Singapore Cricket Club (SCC), which occupied the other end of the Padang, made for a friendly yet competitive relationship, especially during cricket matches.24 Similar clubs such as the Penang Recreation Club, Malacca Cricket Club and Selangor Cricket Club competed with the SRC.25 The first cricket match played outside of Singapore was held in 1887, in which the club competed against the Malacca Cricket Club.26

Besides cricket, other club sports were football, athletics, tennis and hockey.27 The club excelled in hockey, growing to dominate the hockey scene after the war. Seven members of Singapore’s 1956 Melbourne Olympics hockey team were from the SRC, and their team eventually placed ninth. At the earlier 1948 London Olympics, SRC member Lloyd Valberg was Singapore’s sole representative and placed eighth at the high jump.28

As a men’s club, the SRC had traditional social activities revolved around drinks and card games on Sunday afternoons.29 The only other social activities were apparently tea parties after athletics meetings, and “a dance or two in a year”.30


The club served as a venue for Eurasian members, in contrast to its competitor, the European-only SCC just across the Padang.31 However, SRC membership was limited to Eurasian men only. This was the case until the mid-1950s.32 Women were allowed on the club premises from 1927 as guests, and a ladies’ room was part of the 1931 extensions made to the club.33 It was only in 1955 that the club opened to non-Eurasians, after newly elected Chief Minister David Marshall and two other non-Eurasians applied to become members.34 The three were given honorary memberships.35 Subscription memberships were opened to non-Eurasians and women the following year in 1956. Dato Aw Cheng Chye was one of the first non-Eurasians to join.36

Membership rose gradually from 30 at the founding meeting in 1883, to 65 in 1891 and 174 ordinary members in 1937. After the war, the membership stood at 494 in January 1948 and reached 900 in 1960.37 On 11 February 1963, the majority voted to open membership to all residents in Singapore. It grew steadily until 1992 when membership reached 1,300.38

The greatest change came in 1994 when the SRC transitioned from being a sports club with non-transferable memberships to a social club with transferable memberships that could be bought and sold. This was done to facilitate the sale of memberships in order to finance the renewal of the club’s land lease and construction of a new clubhouse.39 A total of 5,500 transferable memberships were sold, and existing ordinary members had the option of purchasing the S$15,000 transferable memberships at S$3,000. Existing female members could purchase the S$7,500 transferable female memberships at S$1,500.40This membership sale netted S$48 million.41 That same year, the land lease was renewed for 30 years at S$12.9 million.42

When the club was first founded, club subscription was $1 with an entrance fee of $1. In 1921, admission to the club cost $5 and monthly subscription, $2.43 When membership became transferable in 1994, its monthly fee was S$20. By 2005, although subscription cost had risen to S$42 per month, it was still about the lowest in Singapore then.44

On 24 April 2021, the club voted to grant female members same rights and privileges as their male counterparts. Under the old rules, women had no voting rights, and could not be elected to the management committee or inherit the membership of a male family member.45

The SRC adopted its red and blue corporate colours in 1886 – red for brotherhood and navy blue for sportsmanship.46 The club crest was adapted from the winning design of Hoon Siew Hong in a 1978 competition. It features four pillars, which represent the four main cultures in Singapore meeting at the club in common fellowship and sportsmanship. The pillars arch around the club’s initials and are surmounted by a lion’s head, which represents Singapore.47 Below the pillars is an image of the club building and the founding year of 1883.

1997 clubhouse
When the club moved to the sixth floor of the former Institute of Standards and Industrial Research building at 179 River Valley Road at the end of 1994, the old clubhouse was demolished.48 The new S$68 million, seven-level clubhouse was opened on 28 June 1997, with then Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan as its guest-of-honour. The long list of new club facilities included the first heated subterranean swimming pool in the region, an underground gymnasium, and a ten-lane bowling alley.49

Joshua Chia & Bonny Tan

1. Singapore Recreation Club, Singapore Recreation Club Celebrates 1883–2007 (Singapore: Singapore Recreation Club, 2008), 17–18, 152. (Call no. RSING 796.0605957 SIN)

2. Singapore Recreation Club, SRC: [Souvenir Programme] (Singapore: Singapore Tiger Standard Press, 1957) (Call no. RCLOS 796.06 SIN); Singapore Recreation Club, Singapore Recreation Club Celebrates 1883–2007, 17–18.
3. “Saturday, 23rd July,” Straits Times Overland Journal, 28 July 1881, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Singapore Recreation Club, Singapore Recreation Club Celebrates 1883–2007, 18–19.
5. D. Wyatt, “Looking Back a Century,” in Singapore Recreation Club, Singapore Recreation Club 100 Anniversary: Centenary Celebrations, 1883–1983 (Singapore: Singapore Recreation Club, 1983), 32. (Call no. RSING 796.0605957 SIN)
6. Walter Makepeace, Gilbert E. Brooke and Roland St. J. Braddell, One Hundred Years of Singapore, vol. 2 (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1991), 365. (Call no. RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
7. Singapore Recreation Club, SRC: [Souvenir Programme], 4–5.
8. Wyatt, “Looking Back a Century,” 32.
9. “The Recreation Club,” Straits Times, 28 July 1900, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
10. Singapore Recreation Club, SRC: [Souvenir Programme], 6, 17; “Singapore Recreation Club,” Straits Times, 30 July 1904, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
11. “Recreation Club,” Eastern Daily Mail and Straits Morning Advertiser, 4 September 1905, 3; “Singapore Recreation Club: New Pavilion Opened,” Straits Times, 4 September 1905, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
12. “Singapore Recreation Club.”
13. Singapore Recreation Club, SRC: [Souvenir Programme], 10; “Fifty Years of the S. R. C.,” Straits Times, 11 June 1933, 13. (From NewspaperSG)
14. Singapore Recreation Club, SRC: [Souvenir Programme], 19.
15. Wyatt, “Looking Back a Century,” 33.
16. “Page 3 Advertisements Column 1: Decree,” Syonan Times, 2 March 1942, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
17. Singapore Recreation Club, Singapore Recreation Club Celebrates 1883–2007, 57–59.
18. Singapore Recreation Club, SRC: [Souvenir Programme], 20.
19. Singapore Recreation Club, SRC: [Souvenir Programme], 21.
20. “Fifty Years of the S. R. C..”
21. “Singapore Recreation Club Athletic Sports,” Straits Times, 2 July 1886, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
22. “Singapore Recreation Club Athletic Sports,” Straits Times, 5 July 1886, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
23. “Fifty Years of the S. R. C..”
24. Singapore Recreation Club, Singapore Recreation Club Celebrates 1883–2007, 20.
25. Makepeace, Brooke and Braddell, One Hundred Years of Singapore, 366.
26. “Cricket,” Straits Times Weekly Issue, 18 April 1887, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
27. Singapore Recreation Club, SRC: [Souvenir Programme], 21, 24.
28. Singapore Recreation Club, Singapore Recreation Club Celebrates 1883–2007, 67, 79.
29. Singapore Recreation Club, Singapore Recreation Club Celebrates 1883–2007, 35.
30. Singapore Recreation Club, SRC: [Souvenir Programme], 17.
31. Wan Meng Hao and Jacqueline Lau, Heritage Places of Singapore (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2009), 95–98. (Call no. RSING 959.57 WAN-[HIS])
32. Wyatt, “Looking Back a Century,” 34; “From ‘Men’s Only’ to a New Trend,” in Singapore Recreation Club, Singapore Recreation Club 100 Anniversary: Centenary Celebrations, 1883–1983 (Singapore: Singapore Recreation Club, 1983), 60. (Call no. RSING 796.0605957 SIN)
33. “Fifty Years of the S. R. C..”
34. Patrick Khaw, The Singapore Recreation Club: 1883–1963 (Singapore: n.p., 1987), 43–44. (Call no. RSING 796.0605957 KHA)
35. Singapore Recreation Club, Singapore Recreation Club Celebrates 1883–2007, 80.
36. Khaw, Singapore Recreation Club, 44; From ‘Men’s Only’ to a New Trend,” 60.
37. Wyatt, “Looking Back a Century,” 32, 34; “Singapore Recreation Club,” Straits Times, 28 August 1891, 3; “Increase in Local Recreation Club Membership,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 20 August 1937, 15 (From NewspaperSG); “Fifty Years of the S. R. C.”; Roy Lazaroo, “A Move to Enlist More,” Singapore Free Press, 30 August 1960, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
38. “SRC Releases Grand Plans,” New Paper, 2 June 1992, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
39. Singapore Recreation Club, Singapore Recreation Club Celebrates 1883–2007, 84, 114.
40. Singapore Recreation Club, Singapore Recreation Club Celebrates 1883–2007, 113–15; “SRC Gets Applications before Membership Drive Is Launched,” Straits Times, 10 January 1994, 24. (From NewspaperSG)
41. S. Tsering Bhalla, “Singapore Recreation Club Plans to Move,” Straits Times, 20 September 1994, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
42. Soh Tiang Keng, “SRC Members Okay Budget Increase for Redevelopment,” Business Times, 31 July 1995, 2 (From NewspaperSG); Singapore Recreation Club, Singapore Recreation Club Celebrates 1883–2007, 135.
43. Makepeace, Brooke and Braddell, One Hundred Years of Singapore, 365, 367.
44. “Singapore Recreation Club,” Straits Times, 7 May 1995, 13; Leong Chan Teik, “Value-for-Money Country Clubs Close to Home,” Straits Times, 10 April 2005, 16. (From NewspaperSG)
45. Low Youjin, “After 137 Years, Singapore Recreation Club Votes to Grant Female Members Same Rights and Privileges as Males,” Today, 24 April 2021.
46. Singapore Recreation Club, SRC: [Souvenir Programme], 6.
47. Singapore Recreation Club, Singapore Recreation Club 100 Anniversary: Centenary Celebrations, 1883–1983 (Singapore: Singapore Recreation Club, 1983), 31. (Call no. RSING 796.0605957 SIN)
48. Bhalla, “Singapore Recreation Club Plans to Move”; Singapore Recreation Club, Singapore Recreation Club Celebrates 1883–2007, 121.
49. S’pore Recreation Club Re-Opens,” Straits Times, 29 June 1997, 32; Janet Ho, “You Can Swim Underground in Reopened Clubhouse,” Straits Times, 19 April 1997, 10 (From NewspaperSG); Singapore Recreation Club, Singapore Recreation Club Celebrates 1883–2007, 139.

The information in this article is valid as at July 2021 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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