About UsA Short History
Association Croquet is a traditional game and has been played in England for two centuries. By the 1870s it was played as a social game on the lawns of some large homes in Brisbane. It was seen as a suitable games for ‘ladies’ while men played bowls, cricket and golf. The first croquet clubs in Brisbane were South Brisbane (Stephens) in 1902, East Brisbane in 1905 followed by Ascot (now Windsor), New Farm and Auchenflower (Mcilwraith). As there were few cars most clubs were situated near train stations.
The Graceville Croquet Club was formed in March 1919 at a meeting of twelve women in the Parish Hall in Sherwood. Mrs Sam Sowden was elected as the first president. As the club had no lawns members lend their lawns for games. It is thought that most of the members were wives of returned soldiers and war workers who had settled in the area. Croquet was an exclusive ladies sport and the first men did not become members until the 1950s. In 1965 Norm Ransey was the first man to join Graceville Club.
In May 1920 the club obtained a ten year lease of 3498 square metres in Graceville Memorial Park. The club house was the first building to be built in the park. No records have been found but the clubhouse is thought to be an old school building. Our clubhouse is similar to the Toombul club which is an old school. Later in the year the club was officially opened by the Hon. T M. Hall MLC with 29 members present. Lawns one and two were available for play but lawn three was not built until the 1960s. Players all wore below knee white dresses with sleeves, beige stockings, white shoes and white hats with large brims. Mallets were long and the balls were hit with a side swing. It was not until the 1990s that, after a lot of controversy, some colour was allowed and women could wear slacks and later shorts.
The members maintained the lawns, planted attractive gardens and provided morning and afternoon teas for a small charge. To raise funds bridge days were held regularly, cake stalls and raffles were frequent and large parties were organised. Major croquet events attracted large crowds of onlookers. In 1933 the paper reported that there were 200 onlookers to see Mrs Pitter, a member of Graceville, win the Sankey Challenge Shield at Windsor for the third time. The shield and her mallet hang in our clubhouse.
In the 1974 flood the club was inundated and most of the records were lost so it is difficult to give precise dates for events before that time. At an unknown date an extension was added to the west end of the building and in the 1970’s the kitchen was added to the east end. The club was entered through a bush house with wooden seats inside and outside. Beach umbrellas were used to shade the lawn seats. There was an earth closet outside the northern end of the building. In 1983 the kitchen floor was replaced and the kitchen renovated. The toilet for men was eventually built in 1993 even though it was considered inappropriate as it did not match the clubhouse.
The lawn shelters have been named in recognition of the contributions the Hugonin, Ransley, Jamieson families, Edna McKenna and Roy Machen made to the club over many years. The machinery shed was erected in 1997. As in all sports clubs the lawns take constant maintenance and are the greatest expense for the club. Before irrigation was installed in 1994 lawns were watered by sprayers and by hand. Over the years the lawns have been laser levelled, top dressed and grass replanted. They need constant attention to control weeds, diseases and spot levelling which until the last few years was undertaken by players or their partners but is now done by contractors. Thanks to the hard work of the greens director we now have some of the best lawns in Brisbane and are able to host State and Australian Association and Golf events.
In the early 1990s golf croquet was first played at the club. This game was invented by the Egyptians in the 1950’s after the British were forced out of the country. The Egyptians had seen Association Croquet played by the British but were not familiar with the rules. They invented a shorter game with simpler rules which could be played by more people. Golf Croquet is now the most popular game of croquet. Golf croquet is now played internationally as is Association Croquet.
Ricochet was introduced by John Richie, a coach in South Australia, who used it as an approach to Association Croquet and not as a stand-alone game. In 1995 the Headland- Buderim croquet club obtained the rules, written on one sheet of paper. The main differences are that the player does not take croquet and has two shots after hitting a ball. The game became popular on the Sunshine Coast and gradually spread to other states. It is now played in Australia and New Zealand. There are two other recognised croquet games which we do not play at present. They are Aussie croquet used to introduce school children to the game and Gateball, a fast team game invented by the Japanese.
The membership of the club has fluctuated over the years from a low of 20 to the present 53 members. Club arranged games, are played three days a week and member arranged games on other days. Thanks to a BCC grant the east end of the clubhouse was renovated in 2019. This included a new floor, new kitchen and a new toilet. In 2019 the club was 100 years old.