Club History

Club history

Founding and Early History of the Ivanhoe Recreation Association and Associated Sporting Clubs


Heidelberg was proclaimed a shire in January 1871. Many years later, in 1934 Heidelberg became a City, which was exactly 100 years after the year of permanent settlement in Victoria. Nine years ago, in 1995 the name of the City of Heidelberg was changed to the City of Banyule. Ivanhoe has always been a very proud part of the Shire of Heidelberg, the City of Heidelberg and now the City of Banyule.

I am certain you will enjoy studying the history and development of Ivanhoe since those early days. However, our subject today is the founding and history of the Ivanhoe Recreation Association and associated sporting clubs, lawn bowls, tennis and croquet.

The dictionary defines recreation as pastime or relaxation. Pastime is defined as recreation or sport, which explains how a group of sports can be covered by the term Recreation Association.

In the early 1900s Ivanhoe was a relatively small village, but its population quickly grew as people moved out from the more heavily populated industrial inner suburbs of Collingwood and Fitzroy. Among those who moved to Ivanhoe were men who had previously been or still were members of bowling clubs, who wanted the opportunity to play bowls locally.

The beginning of the bowling club

In the edition of the local newspaper, the Heidelberg News, dated the 20th of April 1912, two letters in the Letters to the Editor column referred to the need for a bowling green and croquet lawn at Ivanhoe. A notice in the same issue read “Ladies and Gentlemen interested in forming an Ivanhoe Bowling and Croquet Club are invited to meet at the Church of England School Room, Ivanhoe at 8 o’clock next Tuesday, 23rd April (1912).

An enthusiastic meeting

The newspaper report of the meeting appeared under the heading “An Enthusiastic Meeting”. It was reported over 20 gentlemen responded to the invitation and another eight sent their apologies. Dr. B.J. Adams addressed the meeting, recommended and moved that a bowling club be formed in Ivanhoe. This motion was seconded by Mr. H.W. Hackett and carried. Discussion then took place as to a suitable site. Three possible sites were considered: 1.A site just below the railway line between Young and Marshall Streets. 2.Ivanhoe Park. 3.John Street, Ivanhoe

Recreations – Bowls, Croquet, Tennis

A newspaper notice dated the 22nd of June 1912 under the heading “Recreations – Bowls, Croquet, Tennis” invited ladies and gentlemen residing in Heidelberg, Ivanhoe and Alphington to a meeting to be held on Monday, 18th July (1912) at 8:00 p.m. at the Church of England School Room, Ivanhoe to consider the proposed sites and also a proposal to form a combined club. The newspaper report of the meeting recorded that between thirty and forty ladies and gentlemen attended on the night with Mr. Hackett presiding. After considerable discussion it was unanimously resolved that a recreation club be formed for the purpose of providing a bowling green of eight rinks, a croquet lawn and tennis courts, that the purchase of a piece of land about 210 ft x 200 ft facing John Street in Young’s Paddock be approved. 

Choice of the site

The main reason for the choice of the John Street site as opposed to Ivanhoe Park was its close proximity to the railway station. The railway line was extended to Heidelberg with Ivanhoe Station included. The first train service commenced in 1896. As motor cars were  still in their infancy in 1912 rail was the method of regular travel and it was considered the present site was the best choice for that reason. Even in the Thirties and up to the late Forties the majority of families still did not have motor cars and many members from clubs all around Melbourne depended on the train for transport.

Other resolutions of the meeting were that the method of raising funds be by donations, subscriptions, debentures and such other means as the committee deem advisable, that yearly subscriptions be for bowls £2/2/0 ($4.20), tennis £1/1/0 ($2.10), ladies 10/6 ($1.05). A committee of eight men and one lady was appointed to give effect to the wishes of the meeting.

Financial  assistance for the project was needed to cover the costs involved in the purchase of land £285 ($570) and an estimated sum of £400 ($800) for the necessary improvements to the site. It was reported that £500 ($1,000) had already been raised.

A  report in early October 1912 indicated that the project was progressing well, with the bowling green and croquet lawn ready for seeding in mid October and a contract had been agreed for the laying down of the three tennis courts. Rules for the Association are in draft form and the clubs have been registered under their titles: the Ivanhoe Bowling Club, the Ivanhoe Tennis Club and the Ivanhoe Croquet Club.

The first president

A general meeting of the Ivanhoe Recreation Association was held on Monday, 14th October 1912. A lengthy report was given on the objects of the Association and the work accomplished so far. Splendid progress was achieved and there was every prospect that the grounds would be available for play before the end of the year. Membership was reported as upwards of eighty. Mr. H.W. Hackett was elected inaugural President of the Ivanhoe Recreation Association, a popular choice, since he was the driving force behind the efforts to establish the Association. Mr. Hackett was awarded life membership of the Association in 1923.

Newspaper reports of a meeting held on 9th December 1912 detailed the following progress on the project.

Bowling Green 
Owing to the lateness of the season a decision was made to complete four rinks instead of the seven rinks as intended. The four rinks are progressing well.

Tennis Courts 
Levelling has been completed and the contractor is ready to asphalt.

Croquet Lawn 
Intended to push on with this work when funds become available.

Work has not yet commenced due to the poor financial position of the Association.
The urgent need for more funds as well as those promised and not yet paid was stressed.

The newspaper report of the committee meeting on 30th December 1912 referred to the bowling rinks and tennis courts as being completed. A structure of wood and striped canvass is to be provided until a pavilion is erected. Bowling Club colours will be dark blue with light blue facing. These colours have not changed since that meeting in 1912.

The first competitive game

The first competitive bowling on the green was held on Saturday 11th January 1913. In March 1913 working bees erected a 24 ft x 12 ft (8m x 4m) pavilion and an appeal was made for the donation of furniture. By August 1913 the three extra bowling rinks were completed and the first of two croquet lawns was completed. The first annual general meeting of the Ivanhoe Recreation Association was held on the 9th September 1913 completing the Association’s first year of operation.

Much was achieved in one year, which shows clearly what can develop from a single letter to a newspaper suggesting a bowling club in Ivanhoe should be started.

This concludes the outline of how our Recreation Association began and its early history. The following is a brief outline  of some of the many highlights, milestones and important changes over the 92 years since the Ivanhoe Recreation Association commenced.


The Ivanhoe Bowling Club affiliated with the Victorian Bowling Association (V.B.A.), now the Royal Victorian Bowling Association (R.V.B.A.)
The official opening of the Ivanhoe Recreation Association. 400 ladies and gentlemen were present.

An additional 24 ft (8m) of land was purchased for £2 per ft ($12 / m) to provide for an additional bowling rink (No. 9) on the upper level. This rink was prepared in 1925 but was not a success and was discontinued in 1932 allowing the croquet lawn to be extended.

Consideration was given to the purchase of a block of land for £2/2/6 per ft. ($14 / m) for the erection of a greenkeeper’s residence. Also considered was the purchase of a seven room house for £650 ($1,300). Subsequently it was resolved that no action be taken on either matter.

1937, 1955 and 1957
Substantial alterations and additions to the pavilion were carried out in each of these years with only minor work done in other years.

The bowling green was extended with the addition of rinks 9 and 10.

The Ivanhoe Ladies Bowling Club was formed and became a section of the Ivanhoe Bowling Club. With the admission of lady bowlers it was necessary to provide additional accommodation and facilities.
A special general meeting in October resolved to erect a new pavilion at a cost not to exceed $30,000. A quotation for $24,686 was accepted. Demolition of the old pavilion commenced in April 1966, the new pavilion opening on 1stOctober 1966.

It was agreed to proceed with the sale of the Association’s freehold to the City of Heidelberg for a consideration of $23,500.

From 1st January a BYO liquor licence was granted to the Association. For the first time alcoholic drinks were available in the Club.

Owing to dwindling Croquet Club membership the western end croquet lawn was transferred to the Bowling Club.

Croquet discontinued and transferred to East Ivanhoe Croquet Club at Ivanhoe Park.

A restricted club liquor licence was applied for and granted. The Club still has a restricted liquor licence.

1987 and 1988
A number of special functions and events were held to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Association.

The Association in August approved the installation of tennis court lights.

After several years of planning and with the assistance of a grant of $29,500 from the City of Heidelberg Council, the Tennis Club House, which was part of the pavilion, was relocated to its present site and a considerable extension of the pavilion at the eastern end took place with the relocation of the kitchen, the bar and improved ladies’ area, as well as a most comprehensive refurbishment of the entire pavilion.

Reconstruction of lower bowling green at a cost of $19,000.

Synthetic green installed at western end.


The information contained in the paper is based on Colin Bull’s book ‘Ivanhoe Recreation Association and Associated Clubs “The First Eighty Years” 1912 – 1992’ published in 1995.

Prepared for Year 5 students of Mary Immaculate Parish Primary School, Ivanhoe to assist them in their studies of the history and development of Ivanhoe. Ken Hobba, Historian, and Detlef Hingst, Treasurer of the Ivanhoe Bowling Club prepared this paper in response to a request for information from Jack Stammers, a Year 5 student at the school.