Tanglin Club

One of Singapore’s most prominent social clubs, the Tanglin Club was founded in 1865 to cater to the social and recreational needs of the British.1 Up until the 1960s, club members were predominantly British.2

In 1865, an interim committee was formed for the Tanglin Club. The committee comprised Thomas Dunman (president), Herbert Buchanan (vice-president), Lancelot C. Masfen, Jos. M. Webster, William Mulholland, Walter Oldham, Edwin A. G. C. Cooke, and John R. Forrester.

On 26 June 1866, the club purchased a property in Claymore district for $600.4 That same year, the construction of a clubhouse with bowling alleys, billiard rooms, stables, and a dance floor began.5

The clubhouse was constructed from bricks made to British standards by a brickfield in Serangoon. After plastering, the brick walls were washed or distempered. The building had a long overhang roof that was slabbed over with red Chinese clay tiles. The upper storey of the clubhouse, where the main activities were held, had verandas around its perimeter. Its floor was laid with chengal timber, and supported by timber joists. The dance floor, which was later reputed to be the best in Singapore, was reinforced with cast-iron supports. The kitchens, changing rooms and toilet – all located on the ground floor – were laid with red Malaccan tiles and bricks.6

Early developments

By the 1890s, the Claymore district had evolved into a prestigious district occupied by many prominent European residents.During the construction of the German Teutonia Club (present-day Goodwood Park Hotel), the Tanglin Club accommodated Teutonia’s members.8 When the palatial Teutonia Club was completed in 1900, it overshadowed the Tanglin Club’s premises, which by then was considered old and dismal-looking.

The Tanglin Club’s German membership dwindled from 236 in 1901 to 181 in 1911. When World War I broke out in 1914, Teutonia Club was declared an enemy property.9

During the Japanese Occupation of Singapore (1942–45), the Tanglin Club was used by the Japanese army as a club for their officers. It was also used as a base for their propaganda unit as well as their storage area for rations and weapons. After the Japanese surrender, the Tanglin Club came under the management of the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes until March 1946. It was not until 1 September 1946 that the club was informally reopened.10

Selected milestones

Sep 1977: The Tanglin Club begins constructing a new four-storey clubhouse at the rear of the existing building at Stevens Road-Draycott Drive.
Mar 1981: Construction of the clubhouse is completed.
14 Mar 1981: Members bid farewell to the original clubhouse at a closing ceremony.
25 Apr 1981: The new clubhouse at Stevens Road-Draycott Drive is officially opened by then Law Minister E. W. Barker.11 

1995: Female members are given the right to vote.12
2005: The club embarks on a S$21 million upgrading plan that includes the construction of a new sports complex.13
Apr 2008: The club elects its first female vice-president, Shanta Sundarason.14

In 1962, the government appealed to clubs in Singapore to have at least 50-percent local membership. This was thus included in the Tanglin Club’s membership rules. Some of the first locals to join the club included Shaw Vee Meng, Dr Yeo Chee Peng, Tan Eng Han, Koh Eng Yam, U. S. Chan and C. K. Sng.15

In 1997, club members rejected a proposal to increase the proportion of Singaporean members, which had been capped at 51 percent.16 This limit was addressed in later years. In January 2013, the Tanglin Club held a vote to raise its planned total membership to 5,000 members, citing an ageing membership and a long waiting list of Singaporeans.17 As this increase was not approved, membership concerns were discussed again at a special general meeting in 2015.18 At this meeting, club members voted in favour of counting a member’s nationality at the time of joining. In doing so, 292 members who had joined the club as foreigners but were recorded as local members after they took up Singapore citizenship would not be counted as local members. This outcome enabled the club to maintain its 51 percent cap on any one nationality, and made room for Singaporean applicants on the waiting list to join the club. It was noted that this change allowed “the Tanglin Club to admit new Singaporean members for the first time since 2008 while also preserving the traditional diversity of the club”.19

By April 2019, the club had over 7,000 members comprising 40 nationalities.20

Joshua Chia Yeong Jia

1. Peter K. G. Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore (Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, 2000), 301 (Call no. RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS]); “Club History,” The Tanglin Club, accessed 11 April 2019.
2. Barbara Ann Walsh, Forty Good Men: The Story of the Tanglin Club in the Island of Singapore 1865–1990 (Singapore: Tanglin Club, 1991), 143. (Call no. RSING 367.95957 WAL)
3. Walsh, Forty Good Men, 28.
4. Walsh, Forty Good Men, 28.
5. Walsh, Forty Good Men, 27–30, 143.
6. Walsh, Forty Good Men, 30, 55; Ray Tyers and Siow Jin Hua, Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & Now (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993), 176. (Call no. RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
7. Walsh, Forty Good Men, 53.
8. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 174.
9. Walsh, Forty Good Men, 56–57; Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 174.
10. Walsh, Forty Good Men, 104–05, 109.
11. Walsh, Forty Good Men, 159–60; “Completely New Tanglin Club for $10 Million,” New Nation, 25 August 1977, 4; “Tanglin Club Facilities will Be Envy of Others,” Straits Times, 31 October 1977, 13. (From NewspaperSG)
12. Loh Chee Kong, “First Female Elected as Club’s Vice President,” Today, 9 April 2008, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
13. Kelvin Wong, “$21M Upgrade Okayed for Tanglin Club,” Straits Times, 27 April 2005, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
14. Loh, “First Female Elected.” 
15. Walsh, Forty Good Men, 143.
16. Koh Boon Pin, “Tanglin Club Rejects Move to Increase S’porean Membership,” Straits Times, 20 August 1997, 23; Joanne Lee, “Tanglin Club Furore over Limit on Locals,” Straits Times, 21 May 1998, 39; Karen Wong, “Tangling Club,” New Paper, 15 March 2005, 2; Conrad Raj, “Scrap ‘Unfair’ Limits on Singaporeans,” Today, 8 May 2009, 8; K. C. Vijayan, “‘Local Ratio’ an Issue at Tanglin Club Polls,” Straits Times, 24 May 2014, 20. (From NewspaperSG)
17. Conrad Raj, “Tanglin Club to Raise Membership by 25% to 5,000,” Today, 18 December 2012, 18; Conrad Raj, “Tanglin Club to Vote again on Raising Membership Quota,” Straits Times, 9 May 2013, 24. (From NewspaperSG)
18. K. C. Vijayan, “Face-Off at Tanglin Club over Cap on S’poreans,” Straits Times, 14 March 2015, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
19. K. C. Vijayan, “Room for 112 More Singaporeans after Club’s Rule Change,” Straits Times, 20 March 2015, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
20. The Tanglin Club, “Club History.”

Further resources
K. C. Vijayan, “Ex-Tanglin Club Chief Explains Why He Quit,” Straits Times, 24 January 2014, 14. (From NewspaperSG)

K. C. Vijayan, “New Team to Run Tanglin Club,” Straits Times, 8 March 2014, 25. (From NewspaperSG)

Kimberly Spykerman, “Club Rift over ‘Member’ Issue,” Straits Times, 25 April 2011, 3. (From NewspaperSG)

The Tanglin Club (Singapore), The Tanglin Club Magazine (1999). (From PublicationSG) 

Upholding the Standards and Traditions of the Tanglin Club,” The Tanglin Club, n.d.

Yuen Sin, “Clubs’ Barring of Maids: Good, Old-Timey Discrimination?Straits Times, 2 December 2018.

The information in this article is valid as at April 2019 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.


Tanglin Club