Sandringham Club

The Sandringham Club - A Place in History

How it all began

On 11 October 1913, ten gentlemen met in Sandringham House to form the Sandringham Club. Motions were passed to elect Mr. Robert Trivess-Moore, legal manager of Sandringham House as President, Mr. Walter Toohey, a solicitor of The Crescent as Vice President, Mr. Alfred Small, an auctioneer of Edward Street as Vice President and Mr. Otto Gower, a clerk of Abbott Street as Honorary Secretary.

Motions were passed to;

At the end of 1913 the Club had 239 members paying one guinea per year for membership. Their occupations included accountants/bankers (45), shop-keepers/salesmen (39), managers (17), lawyers (15), real estate agents (13), gentlemen (13), physicians/health professionals (13), architects/builders/tradesmen (13) and graziers (7). Other listed occupations included a policeman, station master, librarian, golf professional, masseur and two priests.

The numbers declined steadily due to World War 1 to a 1918 low of 96 members. as part of the 2009 new members’ dinner speech, Life Member Ken Wilkinson advised that 21 club members went to WW1 and sadly six were killed. After the war, the Club moved to Coggeshall, as chronicled below.

Sandringham House, Beach Road - where the Club leased rooms from   1913 to 1922
Coggeshall and gardens in 1920.

Our Debt to past historians

Our history is a cornerstone of the Club. Twelve Club members met in November 2009 to begin work to collect and secure the Club’s history, records and memorabilia. The volunteer History Group included Messrs. Ted Ross, Allan Gandy, Ray Jackson, Tino Karras, Peter Sayers, Bruce Seaton, Jim Smith, Alan Tappin, John Thompson and John Wilson.

The History Group sorted almost all 96 years of Committee minutes and 130 articles, papers and newsletters on Sandringham Club events and history were obtained and secured. Interviews or recollections on 60 senior or past members were gathered and written. All 3,000 photographs in files, on Club walls and in editions of the Coggeshall magazine were digitised, thanks to Ken Marshall, and sorted into the Sandringham Club digital image library, by activity and by year.

The History Group and the members owe a great debt of gratitude to Ken Wilkinson and Peter Sayers who had previously documented much of our Club history in the Coggeshall magazine that was published in the 1980’s. Many members will recall those stories, but for recent members and even those who joined after Coggeshall publication ceased in 1989, some of that early Club history is summarised in the pages that follow.

Ken Wilkinson, life member and editor of Coggeshall magazine from 1983 to 1989 as painted for the Club by Bob Eckhardt in 2008,
Jim Whybrow, Club member from 1921 to the 1970’s, Club Secretary and Life Member. Whybrow lived at Coggeshall, and was the son of the gardener to Elisha DeGaris in the 1910’s.

Coggeshall – a spectacular property and home of our own

As the expiry date for lease of rooms at the Sandringham House coffee palace loomed, the Club purchased land, firstly in October 1918, on the corner of Waltham and Abbot Streets for £330 financed by member debentures.

David Abbott, the original owner of Coggeshall, was born in England in 1844, raised in a village near Coggeshall, Essex, arrived in Melbourne in 1863, studied law at University of Melbourne and was prominent in the movement for severance of Sandringham from the Shire of Moorabbin. Abbott and his Elsie (who died in 1878) had three children. Elsie Abbott had a pleasant voice and gave regular recitals in what is now the Snooker Room.

Abbott purchased 37 acres of land in 1877 (including the one acre of the current property) and built Coggeshall. He sold off 29 acres as 70 blocks in 1886 and 1903. During 1908 Abbott sold Coggeshall and its eight remaining acres to local merchant Mr Elisha deGaris (formerly a prominent Mildura businessman) and soon after returned to England.

Mr. deGaris in turn subdivided and sold 7 acres in 28 lots after building Essex Street between them and naming Mildura Ave to the south of the property. Jim Whybrow, a club member from 1922 to the 1970s, a life member in his later years and known to several of today’s senior members lived at Coggeshall when his father worked there as a gardener for Mr. deGaris.

In 1922 with nearly 150 members, the Committee lead by Theo Farrant, Walter Toohey and Leonard Nankervis purchased Coggeshall and its land on five titles from Elisha deGaris for £5,234. This amount (equivalent to over $3 million today) was raised by member debenture loans (35%) and a Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) bank loan of 65% secured against the Club’s Waltham Street property. Membership fees were doubled to 2 guineas per year ($600 today).

During January 1923, a working bee of 15 members was held to remove six large pine trees to the west and north of the building and, as a precedent for today, it was followed by food, fun and two kegs of beer. The trees were sold to Bryant & May for match making. New trees were donated by Wally Cattlin and C.G. Williams and planted by the Sandringham Council in 1927, being the palms in Bamfield Street and red flowering gums in Mildura Avenue.

Spectacular Coggeshall as painted by Percy Everett (Brighton architect, artist and Club Member from 1946-67) around 1920
Leonard W Nankervis (in 1928) was a founding member of the Club, President (for four years in 1919-26 period) and a driving force for the squash court (opened 1935) that bears his name.

Early events, funding and renovations

The first Committee meeting at Coggeshall in January 1924 adopted a policy to “vitalise the land and provide tennis, cricket and bowls for our members”. Around 1925 a Tennis Committee was formed and 52 members provided debenture loans totalling £460 ($250,000 today). Two grass courts were built on the bay-side of Coggeshall and two asphalt ones laid to the rear. The cricket pitch area was established (some say with relocated MCC pitch material originally from Merri Creek) and opened by former Australian cricket captain Warwick Armstrong.

Also in 1925 the renovations designed by architect J.J. Meagher were installed to amalgamate four Coggeshall front bedrooms and a hall into the current dining room and bar, to relocate the main entrance and porch and to rearrange the verandas. This work was continued in 1935 with further rearrangements - to the office, library, committee room, kitchen, toilets, locker-rooms and manager’s living area. The combined cost of these works was around £1,000 ($300,000 today).

In the 1920’s and 1930’s, the most important social events included the annual family picnic day and cricket match between teams captained by the Club President and Vice President, and the Annual Sandringham Club Ball which became too large for the new premises. In 1925, 200 members and guests attended the Sandringham Town Hall and by 1937 the number had risen to 400 and the venue was the St Kilda Town Hall. Exhibition billiards games involving champions Fred (brother of Walter) Lindrum, Melbourne Inman and others were popular and publicly reported in the press.

Funding by member debentures was the key to the early developments of the Club facilities. During 1930, member Thomas Mather loaned the Club £3,500 at 6% when the CBA demanded repayment of their 1922 loan. Mather, who lived on the corner of Alicia and Hampton Streets, was Club President in 1928-29 and 1931-32 and on committee for 19 years between 1919-40. He extended his loan to £4,000 ($700,000 today) in 1935 and was joined by other members loaning £300. These additional funds allowed the construction of the squash court by builder TL & R Cochram in 1935 for £684 ($100,000 today). The court, named after founding member, Leonard W. Nankervis, was officially opened on 23 August 1935 by Mr James Fairbairn MHR, after an exhibition game between Harry Hopman and Norman Carlyon.

Club President Thomas Mather provided substantial loans in the 1930’s for developments
Club grass tennis courts, gardens along the squash court wall and wooden rackets in use in 1950s

During the 15 years to 1936 the Club spent £11,000 to purchase and modify club facilities. With membership at 218 gentlemen, the club became debt free by 1946, in part due to the profits from poker machines and push boards installed since 1930.

When police raided the club in 1945, after a tip-off (some say from a Club member) to remove the gambling machines, most members were pleased to see them go. The members were concerned that the police entered the Club through its windows and roared disapproval on their failure to remove their hats in the bar. The machines may have been returned but are rumoured to have finished up in the middle of the bay. (Coggeshall – March 1985).

A core tradition of the Club is members volunteering, a club member at work in 1980
The palm trees were planted in 1927 and Life Member Jack Drinan playing tennis

The first forty years

Club achievements in the first forty years included great fun with annual cricket matches and family days at Trey Bit Oval, hosting members of the Australian and English Test Cricket teams, a high profile Annual Ball at St Kilda Town Hall for up to 400 members and guests, construction of five tennis courts (grass & bitumen), status as a founding member of Squash Racquets Australia, building the Leonard Nankervis squash court and creating much of the character and traditions of the Club.

Members on the veranda in 1924
Sandringham Club cricket team around 1930

Sandringham Club in the wars

Current members should remember and be thankful to the 22 and 29 members (15% of Club membership at the times) who enlisted to fight in WW1 and WW2 respectively. The Club provided them with rousing send-offs, sent food parcels to those overseas, entertained troops on leave, raised money for War Savings Bonds and sent silver cigarette cases engraved with the club coat-of-arms to their fellow members.

Sadly, nine members lost their lives in the conflicts – Vivian Donald, James Jones, James Steel, Frank Winch, Hugh Glass and J.H. Dennis in WW1 and Eric Bailache, Charles Bethune and James Barry in WW2.

The headstone of club member and Hampton doctor Major Eric Bailache, who was killed on 24 February 1941 at Barce Cyrenaica.

The post-war boom years of 1950’s and 1960’s

Long serving members have provided a glimpse into our past. Although numbers are thinning, their recollections were gathered by the History Group to add to the Club’s History Book project under leadership of Ted Ross and published in the 2013 centenary year

Geoffrey Skinner joined the Club in 1941, followed by Harry Allen (1949), Jack Connor (1952), Bernie Hamner and Ken Wilkinson (1956), John Armour, Frank McKenna and Doc Rankin (1958), Ted Kempster (1960), Alan Tappin (1966) and Allan Gandy (1968) and nine other 40-year members joined during the 1960’s. Their stories about the characters of the time and more details on the events below will also be willingly provided by asking them personally.

uring the 1950’s the fifth phase of Coggeshall refurbishment began with the removal of the octagonal tower (similar in design to one that stands in Coggeshall village in Essex), for safety reasons, extension/modification of the front veranda, substantial roof repairs and improvements to the Snooker Room, the bar and the stockroom. £5000 (or $600,000 today) was borrowed from banks and members and it was repaid before 1960.

The Club was run by its Committee and ten Sub-Committees of 4 to 6 people who met every second Tuesday evening. These groups addressed activities of interest to the members of the time – billiards, tennis, bowls, cricket, squash, entertainment, newsletters, building, finance and house. Testimony to their success, as well as to the post-war boom and six o’clock closing, was that membership rose to 320 by the end of the 1960’s.

The Jubilee Anniversary Dinner of the Club contributed to this too, being celebrated on 11 October 1963 with a six-course meal and toasts by Claude Moriarty, Arthur Mather and Ted Moran. Entertainment for the evening was provided by Eric Fox, Lawrence Cohen and Lucky Fordall.

Vantage point on top of the tower for family day in January 1928.
Management and staff in mid-1960’s,with manager Joe Kelly (Leo’s brother)third from right.

Another major contribution of the 1960’s was the camaraderie provided by the purchase of property by several members on the shores of Lake Wonboyn at Willowie in southern coastal NSW. The property, which was owned by members Don Thoms, Colin Stirling, Alan Whitehead, Frank Hyatt and others, was virtually a Club holiday annex and was visited by 80 members in groups of 5 or 6 for many years until sold in the late 1980’s.

There was always jobs to be done at Willowie, repairing jetties, securing windows and roofs, tidying gardens or cutting wood. The oyster beds needed tending and several members paid their fees from the revenue from oyster sales at local fish markets or in Sydney.

Whilst the Wonboyn visits, fishing, drinking and work have long gone, their tradition continues with trips away today by groups of Club friends for skiing, fishing, golfing, tennis (?), jazz (?), rugby, wood-chopping (?) and a myriad of other tours, and by member’s generously pitching-in at Club working bee days.

Putting to sea in 1964 – Don Thoms, Alan Whitehead, Derrick Deal, George Law and (in essential bowler hat) Archie Meare
L to R from top: Derrick (Big) Deal, Whitey Whitehead, Coach-captain Law, Don Thoms and Archie (Mauler) Meare.

Club life in the 1980's

Club membership varied between 100 and 200 in the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s, rose to a 330 peak in the 1960’s and by 1975 stood at 295 members.

Sixty of the current members joined the Club in the 1980’s or earlier.

In 1981 under the presidency of George Moir, the front grass tennis courts were levelled and replaced with an early prototype of synthetic grass (looking somewhat like a green lattice of plastic waffles) to extend the court usage through the winter months at a cost of around $300,000 in today’s terms.

Bowler Bernie Hanmer and friend on the old grass green in 1984
The Club’s front grass courts (two built in 1924 and the third in 1946) – good in spring but unplayable in autumn/winter.

As members with knowledge of the very early years passed on, Ken Wilkinson and Peter Sayers took on the role of preserving this knowledge in the editions of Coggeshall, published almost single-handedly by Ken Wilkinson from 1983 to 1989 at a cost of $1500 per edition.

This money was raised from advertising fees from member companies and others. Advertisers included Port Phillip Insurance (Allan Gandy), Fibrous Plastering (Terry Murphy), Sandringham Travel (Maureen Brown, wife of Norman), Hotel Sorrento (Ian Pitt), Commonwealth Paper (David Wassell), Real Estate Agency (David Marshall), Picture This (Ken Winter), Painting & Decorating (Peter Sayers), TV & Radio Repairs (Tino Karras) and Custom Kitchens (Albert Betts).

The social highlight of the decade was arguably the Club’s 75th Anniversary Celebration Ball held on 18 March 1988 in a black silk marquee erected over the front tennis courts. President Tino Karras welcomed 350 guests including members, partners and friends. Vic Hunt and Claude Morarty spoke eloquently about the Club and proposed the toasts. Entertainment was provided by the Cotton Club Jazz Band and 1960’s style band of Rock & Rollers who led club members in a spirited rendition of Del Shannon’s “Runaway”. Door and raffle prizes donated by Ken Oliver, Loftus Moran and other members rounded out a memorable night.

Social activities in the 1990's

The very popular cabaret entertainment and meals for members, partners and guests began in the early 1990’s arranged by Russell Smith. They provided a way for partners to enjoy the Club and to support their men. Great entertainment was provided by Alan Zavod, Mischa Fitzgibbon, Ross Wilson, Russell Morris, Doug Parkinson, Wendy Stapleton, Ronnie Charles, the Vanilla Supremes, Queen Tribute and many others. In more recent years Martin Bade, Paul Miller, Adam Wilson and the Young Guns have also brilliantly taken on the roles of modern day impresarios.

Sandringham Club 75th Gala Dinner in 1988 being enjoyed by Tino Karras, Vic Hunt, Claude Morarty.
Young Guns in action in 2003

Coaches Days and Asthma Dinners began from 1998 in honour of Len Bingham (son of member Bill Bingham) and arranged by Heath Wilson. Golf, tennis and 10-pin bowls were played by the athletes (celebrity and other) and great meals, sporting speeches and raffles are typically attended by 100 guests raising funds for asthma research.

Robert Dipierdomenico at the Asthma Fund Raising Coaches Dinner in 2005
Ralph Goodman, George Moir, Ken Wilson, Frank McKenna & Ian McNeilage at the Milestones Dinner in June 2005

Don Wood re-introduced the club magazine as “Sandy Club News” in mid-1999 with around thirty editions published over the next thirteen years by Don and Ted Ross to record the sporting and social activities of members. As Tennis Convenor, Don also initiated the evening intra-Club competition beginning in February 2001 with seven teams. The current competitions have 18 teams and 100 playing members. This initiative (and the court lights that enabled it) has been one of the contributors to the 50-person growth in membership to over 320 the early 2000’s.

Many groups of members have also been active in the new millennium in areas of their particular shared interests, including lunching, skiing, football or rugby supporting, punting, fishing, wood-collecting, working bees, club gardening, club history and many others.

Sandy Club Rugby supporters, in team uniform, leaving for the Sevens Tournament at Adelaide Oval, May 2009
Members Alderson, Johnstone and Douglas with evidence of success from the 2002 Whyalla fishing trip.

Recent building and ground works

Since 1990 many members have helped with and will remember the significant projects undertaken to maintain and improve the Club facilities. These projects with total costs of around $1 million when all converted into today’s dollars include:

Conversion of east bowling green from grass to synthetic surface in 2002
The removal by members of the dining-room pillars in 2005
Club volunteers resting before a day of hard labour digging cable trenches for the rear court lights in 2006
Club members David Wassell and Paul Miller positioning a rear tennis court light pole in 2006.

These highlights of Sandringham Club life arranged by and for members, continues the traditions of our forefathers in providing a place for conviviality and exercise for the gentlemen of Sandringham and its surrounding areas.

Sandringham Club Milestones Dinner: At rear from left Past Presidents Albert Betts, John Wilson, Richard Alderson, Tino Karras, Jeffrey Kennedy, Donald Wood, Raymond Jackson, Russell Smith and at front from left Gary Presnell, George Moir and Life Members Allan Gandy, Kenneth Wilkinson, Ian Houston, Bernard Hanmer and Alan Tappin

This short history covers the period 1913 to 2011. It was edited from articles in Coggeshall Magazine (1980’s) by Ken Wilkinson and Peter Sayers and in Sandy Club News (2009-11) by Ted Ross and Jim Smith. – the short story of the last five years is still to be written.


The Club’s full history was published from the History Group project under leadership and editorship of Ted Ross in the centenary year book “A Reputable Set of Men – The History of the Sandringham Club 1913-2013”