Timothy Tye
Chinese Recreation Club

The Chinese Recreation Club, Penang (16 July, 2008)

The Chinese Recreation Club, or CRC, is a social club at Victoria Green, Penang. It was formed at the turn of the 20th century by a group of Chinese who were very much into football. They would meet at Foo Tye Sin Mansion, the home of local Chinese tycoon, to play football in the Esplanade field. However, they faced a problem in that the field was already occupied by two existing sports club - the Penang Sports Club, which at that time admitted only whites, and the Penang Recreation Club, which admitted whites and Eurasians. Neither allowed Chinese in, regardless their financial status. Furthermore, the Penang Club and the Penang Swimming Club also prohibit membership to the locals.

Clubhouse of the Chinese Recreational Club (16 July 2008)

CRC Clock, donated by the late Loh Boon Siew (16 July 2008)

As they did not feel welcome to use the Esplanade field, the team moved to Lake Villa, at 351 Perak Road, which is across the road from the Kem Tentera of Peel Avenue. Lake Villa, as its name suggests, had a lake, which means many a time balls had to be fished out of the water.

In 1903, the five main Hokkien clan associations - the Khoo, the Lim, the Tan, the Cheah and the Yeoh - got together and resolved that they need to buy land to establish their own sporting club.

Looking within the vicinity of Lake Villa, they found three adjoining plots of land along Jalan Pangkor. The land totalled 278,547 sq ft (six and a half acres) and was purchased for $4,600, a huge sum in those days. An additional 11,000 sq feet along Burmah Road was added in 1913. According to the inscription on the pedestal of the Queen Victoria Memorial Statue, the plot of land that includes the recreation ground called Victoria Green was purchased by the Chinese Community of Penang for their perpetual use.

Lounge at Chinese Recreation ClubLounge at Chinese Recreation Club (8 January, 2015)

Trustees of the deed dating to 1906 count among them the pillars of Chinese high society of those days, among them, in alphabetical order, Cheah Choon Seng, Cheah Tek Thye, Chung Thye Phin (the Kapitan China who built Relau Villa), Ho Tiang Wah, Khaw Joo Tock, Lim Cheng Teik, Lim Eow Hong and Tan Kang Hock. The members, who considered themselves "the Queen's Chinese", and wanting to show their loyalty to the British, decided to call the field Victoria Green. The club itself was called the "Penang Chinese Recreation Club".

Originally, the clubhouse was a bungalow called Eastbourne which stood on the plot when it was bought. By the 1920's Eastbourne was already in a dilapidated state, so the club decided that they should build a new clubhouse. A fund raising campaign managed to collect $100,000 for the clubhouse. It was designed in the Victorian style and was completed in 1931.

Victoria Green with the CRC clubhouse in the background (16 July 2008)

The Second World War brought great misery to Penang, and the Chinese Recreational Club was not spared. After Allied bombing destroyed the Penang Road Police Headquarters, the Japanese took over the premises of CRC as the broadcasting station. The Japanese burned the books, tore up papers, documents and photographs belong to the club, and even removed the fence for use as scrap metal.

When the British returned in 1945, the CRC found themselves with a new "tenant" as the British Military Administration took possession of the broadcasting station left by the Japanese. It was only at the end of 1945, on 22 December, that the CRC committee got to hold their meeting again. The club had to try repeatedly to repossess their premises from the British, who returned to them bit by bit. Another seven years who pass before the British relinquished the whole premises of CRC back to the club members. However, they refused to pay for repairs and damages, even for places that were used by them.

Statue of Queen Victoria (16 July, 2008)

In the 1950's, the CRC excelled in sports particularly tennis and football. However the independence of Malaya in 1957 caused it to face competition from the Penang Sports Club, which now open to locals. Between the late 1940's to the 1960's, the CRC was frequently in dire straits. In 1960, the club committee even had to resort to putting up slot machines at its premises.

Today the CRC continues to function as a membership-based sports club. To the general public, it is better known as a venue for wedding dinners. At the corner of Victoria Green facing the junction of Burmah Road and Pangkor Road is the Queen Victoria Memorial Statue.


6 Oct 2012: The Chinese Recreation Club clarifies that the building that will be demolished is not the main building, but rather the property at No. 2 Jalan Padang Victoria, which is at the back of the main building. Hence, the main building is not affected by the expansion programme. The expansion programme will enable the CRC to promote a healthy lifestyle through sports, in keeping with its slogan.

25 Sept 2012: The Chinese Recreation Club is embarking on a RM7 million project to modernise its premises. This includes the demolition of its main building to make way for a four-storey replacement. The new building will have 20 guest rooms along with four badminton courts, four bowling lanes, a squash court, a table tennis hall and four multi-purpose rooms for aerobics and indoor activities.

Getting there

The Chinese Recreation Club is located at Jalan Padang Victoria, bordering by Jalan Burma and Jalan Pangkor. Coming from the Weld Quay Ferry & Bus Terminal, you can take Rapid Penang Bus nos. 101, 103 and 104, alighting at Jalan Burma in front of the Victoria Green. From there, walk around Victoria Green towards the CRC.

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Location of the Chinese Recreation Club on the map

List of Recreation Clubs in Penang and Recreation Clubs in Malaysia

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