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The Workers Social & Leisure Club was established 2 February 1914: its first premises were at 1 Henry St, in the former Lodge's Hotel, which, according to the ratebooks, it owned from 1916. It began in response to a perceived need for a meeting-place for the workers of Fremantle, many of whom were lumpers. The Workers Club was granted a licence on 2 June 1914.
The Fremantle Workers Social and Leisure Club was not the first workers social organisation in Fremantle, and probably developed out of earlier groups such as the Mechanics Institute and the Fremantle Working Men's Club.
Lodge's Hotel (aka Castle Hotel) a three-storey building, was built before 1869 (it was extant c. 1864). It soon became a school for young ladies until 1880, then a private hotel 1884-6, and then the (first) Fremantle Club, an organisation serving the needs of Fremantle businessmen, 1887-1912. After the Fremantle Club moved on, the building was available for the use of the Fremantle Workers Social and Leisure Club, which purchased it from the AMP Society for £2000. >
According to an article in the Westralian Worker of Friday 6 February 1914, the foundation President was William Roche and the Secretary Herbert Taylor. The inaugural committee met on Monday 2 February 1914 and named the Club. All those involved were unionists.
According to the Club's folk history, the 'founder' and first President was Billy Clare. This is not borne out by the historical record. Clare was a foundation member, and later a life member and trustee, but he was not the first president, and neither was he on the foundation committee.
The Club was officially opened on Wednesday 2 September 1914 by Reginald Burchell, (Labor) Federal member for Fremantle 1913-1922.
William Moore was President 1921-1933; he was instrumental in having major improvements done to the Lodge's building costing £3,500, commencing in July 1926 and not completed until 1932. At the re-opening he presided; life member Billy Clare was there, with long-term secretary Alf Gregg—who was allegedly bashed later in 1932 in connexion with money being stolen from the Club safe. George Edinger was President in 1935 (and had been since 1933), having previously served as Vice-President with William Moore.
In 1923 the Secretary, William Roche, stole amounts of money from the Club over a period of seven months. He may perhaps have been attempting to leave the State when he was apprehended at Southern Cross. At his trial President William Moore told the court that the money had been repaid and the Club had unanimously decided not to continue to press charges. They were consequently withdrawn, though the prosecuting police officer was not very pleased about it.
The new clubhouse at 7-9 Henry St was built in 1956. Number 9 Henry St is original town lot 60. No. 7 Henry St is town lot 59, which was bought by John Bateman at the end of 1829 or beginning of 1830. Neither Hitchcock nor Ewers records who was the first owner of lot 60, so Bateman may have bought it after 1837, when their records break off.
On January 31, 1835, John Bateman was appointed as the first postmaster at Fremantle. The first post office was in a little vine-clad cottage that stood well back from the street on lot 59 in Henry Street. Some idea of the smallness of the business transacted may be gleaned from the fact that the address and date of receipt and delivery of every letter posted was recorded in a book. Imagine that being done nowadays!
JK Hitchcock 1929, The History of Fremantle, The Front Gate of Australia 1829-1929, Fremantle City Council: 24-25.
Lots 59 and 60 were bought from Bateman in 1870 by the Mews family who then owned the terrace house on lot 60 and had a boat-building workshop on lot 59. This may seem odd now, but at the time the river beach was only a hundred or so yards away, where Phillimore St now is.
The Lodge's Hotel building was demolished to provide ... a carpark - with a function room planned to be above it - for Club members. That site was sold to Notre Dame University in the early 2000s; it remains a carpark.
The Club closed on 26 May 2011 for eleven months and was almost wound up. Thanks to the hard work and vision of President Don Whittington, his partner Ruth Belben, and others, it was able to reopen in January 2012.
At the ClubsWA Awards Ceremony, at The Astral, Crown, Sunday 14 April 2013, the Club won the Award for Members Choice Club of the Year.
The Club closed the building in Henry Street towards the end of 2014, and the building was sold at noon Friday 17 April 2015. The club ceased to exist, in the sense of a location.
Members' activities over the next four years were temporarily conducted at other venues, including the South Fremantle Football Club, the Italian Club, and the Tennis Club. A new facility, the Fremantle Park Sport and Community Centre, at Fremantle Park, will be shared by the Workers, Tennis, and Bowling Clubs from 2020.
A booklet on the history of the Club was launched on Sunday 9 November 2014 by Hon. Melissa Parke MP: The Fremantle Workers Social and Leisure Club 1914-2014, by Deborah Gare and Jane Davis.
In 2020, the club will be absorbed by the Fremantle Park Sport and Community Centre.
1914. Club established 2 February 1914 with the purchase of the former Lodge's Hotel at 1 Henry St
1914. Club licence granted 2 June 1914
1914. Official opening of the Club 3 September 1914
1919. Funeral of member Tom Edwards, working class martyr, felled by a police rifle butt on Victoria Quay
1923. Secretary William Roche steals a large amount of money and is arrested, but the charges withdrawn
1926. Preparations for major renovations to the Club building
1932. Opening of the renovated Club building
1932. Secretary Alf Gregg admits major robbery from the Club safe and is dismissed
1935. 21st anniversary celebrations
1936. Further renovations to the Club building: new social hall opened
1940. Death of 'founder' Billy Clare
1954. Plans for new Club building unveiled
1956. Building at 7-9 Henry St opened
2011. Club closes and is almost wound up
2012. Club reopens
2014. Club celebrates its centenary
2015. Club sells its building; shares SFFC clubhouse
2016 or later. Move to new facility at Fremantle Park
This photo from the early 1930s used to hang at the western end of the bar in the Workers Club building at 9 Henry St. The Fu-Fu Band, which played cheap instruments like kazoos and jews harps, collected money to assist the unemployed. The photo appears in R. Reece & R. Pascoe, A Place of Consequence: A Pictorial History of Fremantle, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1983, 1985, where it is noted that the photo is 'courtesy Betty Anderson'. The truck was loaned by Betty's father, John Anderson, who had a woodyard at the corner of South Terrace and the Mandurah Road.
President Don Whittington in September 2013, holding a card presented to James Croll in 1924 by the Fremantle Workers Club 'as a mark of esteem for services rendered'. See here for a larger image and transcription.
Photo by Izzy Orloff from about 1960.
The clubhouse was sold at noon Friday 17 April 2015. The facade has been retained - in the sense of one single brick wall with the name and logo of the club on it.
Notice on the front of the Workers Club building in 2015.
The Workers Club building is on both Lots 59 and 60 at the address 7-9 Henry St - which was clear in the actual planning documents that were available from the Council website but have been taken down.
Drawing of the new building >
Gare, Deborah & Jane Davis, The Fremantle Workers Social and Leisure Club 1914-2014, Fremantle Workers Social and Leisure Club and Notre Dame University, 2014.
Thanks to the Fremantle Library Local History Collection, and Pam Harris, History Librarian.
Fremantle Workers Social and Leisure Club Inc.
PO Box 1234 Fremantle 6959