Your Home Away From Home
We are very proud of our Club and its long history in beautiful Bahrain. Since the 1930's it has been a "Home Away From Home" for expatriates
on the island and in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
It has for many years been assumed that the British Club was founded in 1935 and that Sir Charles Belgrave was its first President. It’s unclear why the founding year is thought to be 1935, since no contemporary documents are in existence at the Club which support this. A ledger containing minutes of Executive Committee and Annual General meetings dating from 1939 shows that Sir Charles Belgrave was indeed President of the Club in 1939, but we have no contemporary documentary confirmation that he was the first to hold this office.
This book of minutes records that the Club’s facilities in 1939 included a golf course and a swimming bath. The earliest minutes make no mention of an official name for the Club, but a 1931 document held in the Qatar Digital Library refers to “a nine hole golf course” and for correspondence to be addressed to “the Secretary, Bahrain Golf Club c/o The Eastern Bank, Bahrain”. Since the only other golf course dating back to the 1930s, Awali, was not founded until 1937, this seems to indicate that the Club may have had its origins some years before 1935.
The actual site of the golf course is unclear; the reminiscences of an old Awali Golf Club member place it somewhere in the Adliya area. Over the years the golf course underwent some changes, beginning in 1945 when the Emir proposed building a race track, which would “only slightly encroach” on the golf course. By 1949 it seems that the course was becoming too costly and it was agreed at the Annual General Meeting that no more money should be spent on its upkeep. It then appeared to enjoy something of a revival in 1951 with the efforts of the Golf Club sub-committee resulting “in an excellent golf course which was officially opened on 14 February 1952”. This appears to be a reconditioning of the site, rather than a re-location. It’s not known how long this rejuvenation lasted and when the golf course was finally abandoned.
Another conundrum is the question of the Club’s original location. With only a golf course and a swimming bath in 1939, demand grew for more facilities to be built, including a tennis court and a Club house. The addition of a Club house was first mentioned in 1941, but it was not until April 1946 that plans were drawn up to include a “lounge, verandah, billiard room, bar, card room, usual offices, with of course the existing amenities of the Club: a swimming bath, tennis court and golf course”.
So where was this Club house to be built? In April 1946 a new site was also discussed “on government land with a nominal rent provided by the Emir”. It appears that this new site had been inspected by some members by January 1947.
Documents held at the British Club include what appears to be the original lease of land in Mahooz for a very small rent of 12 rupees a year. However, this lease for an initial term of 25 years is dated 1st October 1954, so what happened between 1946 and 1954? A former member who visited the Club in 2005 and who first joined in 1951 recalled that at that time “the premises consisted of a stone building which is now the main bar, a Nissan hut and a primitive kitchen. Outside, a patio alongside a concrete lined swimming pool with Barasti changing rooms There was also a tennis court”. So if his memories were of the current site was the lease in 1954 merely to ratify a pre-existing arrangement?
Another former member, whose mother was a member of the Executive Committee during the 1970s, also recalls that his parents were sure that the Club was previously located in the Juffair area. This appears to be borne out by minutes from April 1948 in which it was proposed that a Notice Board be erected on the Juffair road indicating the way to the Club premises.
So finally, to the question of the Club’s name: the earliest minutes make no mention of a specific name, but in the minutes of 29 April 1946 reference is made in the heading to the “Bahrain Gymkhana Club”. In 1966, following a meeting at the Club, chaired by the Political Agent, it was agreed to change the name to “The British Club”, at which time it was also agreed to allow nationalities other than British the right to join. This remains the case today, with certain percentages allocated to British, Gulf Nationals and nationals of other countries without their own social club in Bahrain.
Club Secretary (2005 – 2019)