Ladies Lawn Tennis Club

The Ladies Lawn Tennis Club in Singapore was established in 1884.The club gained popularity soon after it was formed, but membership started falling by the 1920s, and the club was closed in 1932. The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) took over the club’s grounds in Dhoby Ghaut on 1 August 1932.2

The Ladies Lawn Tennis Club was established in 1884 by A. L. Donaldson of the law firm Donaldson and Burkinshaw.A sport favoured by European women, lawn tennis had become increasingly popular then, though there were limited public grounds for playing.4 This changed when the government gave permission for the club to occupy the premises in Dhoby Ghaut on 29 May 1884. A pavilion costing some $632 was erected on the grounds.5 By 4 October 1884, a few months after the opening, the club had accumulated seven courts in the Dhoby Ghaut area.6

Dhoby Ghaut was considered a rural area then. The Raffles Museum and Library had not been built, the canal still had earthen banks, and there were no houses around. 7 Yet the club, located on a grassy strip of land formerly known as Dhoby Green, attracted patrons.8 It was difficult to gain admittance into the Ladies Lawn Tennis Club, which was as exclusive as the Tanglin Club.9 Any bachelor elected as a subscribing member, albeit without voting rights, was deemed to be a distinguished individual.10

Soon after the Ladies Lawn Tennis Club was formed, it gained popularity. The first club meeting was held at the home of a Mrs Rowell. Mrs Clementi Smith was invited to be the lady patroness, and her nephew, then Acting Governor of the Straits Settlements Cecil Clementi Smith, became an honorary member.11 European ladies were seen playing tennis and croquet daily until the club premises was taken over by the YMCA.12 Tournaments were held regularly with generous prizes awarded.13

By the 1920s, with many more clubs offering tennis, membership at the Ladies Lawn Tennis Club started to fall steadily. It was reported in The Straits Times on 29 July 1932 that the club would cease to exist by the end of that month. The club had been experiencing increasing difficulties for the past two to three years, and support of the club had dropped so seriously that its committee decided to close it down.14 The ladies were to continue playing tennis at the Tanglin Club instead, another haunt of the European community at the time.15

The YMCA took over the club grounds on 1 August 1932, in addition to its liabilities, which amounted to $5,000.16 As the turf was large enough, the main portion was set aside for tennis courts, while a plot was designated for basketball, volleyball, cricket and other games.17 The hard courts were converted into grass courts, and the pavilion and grounds were renovated.18

Jeanne Louise Conceicao

1. Ray K. Tyers, Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & Now (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993), 68. (Call no. RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
2. “‘Ladies’ Lawn’ to Close,” Straits Times, 29 July 1932, 13; “Good Progress Made by YMCA,” Straits Times, 1 March 1933, 16. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Walter Makepeace, Gilbert E. Brooke and Roland St. J. Braddell, eds., One Hundred Years of Singapore, vol. 2 (1921; repr., Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1991), 337. (1921, Microfilm NL6542; 1991, repr. call no. RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
4. “Summary of the Week,” Straits Times Weekly Issue, 16 July 1884, 1. (From NewspaperSG); George L. Peet, Rickshaw Reporter (Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, 1985), 122. (Call no. RSING 070.924 PEE)
5. Makepeace, Brooks and Braddell, One Hundred Years of Singapore, 338.
6. Makepeace, Brooks and Braddell, One Hundred Years of Singapore, 337.
7. “Summary of the Week,” Straits Times Weekly Issue, 16 July 1884, 1. (From NewspaperSG; Makepeace, Brooks and Braddell, One Hundred Years of Singapore, 337; Tyers, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 68.
8. “Summary of the Week”; Tyers, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 68; Peet, Rickshaw Reporter, 122.
9. Roland Braddell, “Memories of Old Singapore,” Straits Times, 19 April 1947, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
10. Tyers, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 68.
11. “‘Ladies’ Lawn’ to Close”; Makepeace, Brooks and Braddell, One Hundred Years of Singapore, 337.
12. Tyers, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 68.
13. “‘Ladies’ Lawn’ to Close”; Makepeace, Brooks and Braddell, One Hundred Years of Singapore, 337.
14. “‘Ladies’ Lawn’ to Close.”
15. Peet, Rickshaw Reporter, 123; Braddell, “Memories of Old Singapore.”
16. “Good Progress Made by YMCA”; “Y.M.C.A. Re-laying Tennis Courts,” Straits Times, 20 September 1947, 12; “‘Ladies’ Lawn’ to Close.” (From NewspaperSG)
17. “Good Progress Made by YMCA”; “‘Ladies’ Lawn’ to Close.”
18. “Y.M.C.A. Re-laying Tennis Courts.”

Further resources
Charles Burton Buckley, An Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore 1819–1867 (Kuala Lumpur: University of Malaya Press, 1965). (Call no. RCLOS 959.57 BUC-[HIS])

How Singapore Women Kept Fit in the Sixties,” Straits Times, 30 July 1936, 1. (From NewsaperSG)

The information in this article is valid as at March 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.

Public buildings
Tennis clubs--Singapore
Ladies Lawn Tennis Club (Singapore)
Sports and games