BENGALURU: Since 1905, The Whitefield Club has been serving as a community recreational and socialisation space for the residents of Whitefield. It regularly hosts musical and cultural programmes. Situated on Whitefield Main Road, this building from the pre-Independence era has been renovated once.
A brief history of Whitefield
After the administration of the Mysore state by the British Commissioners from 1831 to 1881, the Mysore State was retained by the Wodeyars based on a pact with the British. The Cantonment area was retained by the British and was renamed Civil and Military Station of Bangalore in 1881, says the independent historian Arun Prasad. “Chamaraja Wodeyar X was crowned the Mysore Maharaja. Also the post of dewan was created for the administration of the state. Rangacharalu was the first dewan of the Mysore State under the rule of Chamaraja Wodeyar X.”
Towards the end of the 19th century, Mysore state faced financial crisis due to plague and famine that also affected most parts of Bengaluru city. “Under the rule of Chamaraja Wodeyar X and dewanship of Rangacharalu, about 3,900 acres of land was alloted to the Kadugodi area on the outskirts of Bengaluru for the Anglo-Indian and Eurasian communities to promote agricultural and industrial activities among them. The idea of giving away the land was mooted by David Emmanuel Starkenburgh White.”
Whitefield was formed on April 27, 1882. It was a planned settlement, says Arun adding, “Unlike the other British settlements in India, this was planned as a circular layout. The area had British-style bungalows with colonial architecture. Also, there were industries such as shoe manufacturing and condiments and jam industries which were later shut down.” Whitefield had its own railway line and people would often travel to and from Kolar Gold Fields, a mining region in Karnataka. “Several Anglo-Indians from KGF started settling in Whitefield. Hence, a need for a club was raised.”
The Whitefield Club
In 1895, wife of A H Greenham who built the Whitefield Memorial Church, donated a building with a sum of money for recreational activities. “In addition to that, some amount was also raised by the residents to add a few more rooms in 1905,” says Arun.
Sydney Smith, president of The Whitefield Club, says, “It was primarily for the settlers in Whitefield to meetup.” Deepa Peck, secretary adds, “Mrs White had just one condition. She wanted a room for the clergymen who visited Whitefield. But no clergymen really stayed in this room. The room is still available and is named Greenham Room.”
The settlers would gather for discussions and read newspapers or magazines in the club. “It was initially called the Settlers Institution and was run under the Whitefield Settlers Association. Mr White was the founder and first president of this association. Later in 1937, Whitefield Recreational Club was formed for social and literary pursuits of the community people. The ownership was handed over to the more powerful Recreational Club and was renamed Whitefield Recreational Club,” says Deepa.
Sydney adds, “After renovation, because of leakages and cracks in the building in 2006, it was renamed The Whitefield Club.” Deepa adds, “We have maintained the look of the old building. Earlier, there was just the central area of the building and a kitchen. We raised the height and added a floor. The structure of the building remains the same.”
Facilties at the Club
The club has a swimming pool and an area to play billiards, table tennis and cards. Girija Jayaraj, a committee member says, “Everyone knows everyone else here. The members just walk in and join the game with other members.” Deepa adds, “We organise several entertainment activities as well such as potluck parties, music concerts and Bollywood night.”
Members of the Club
There are 250 primary members currently, says Sydney. “They are our voting members. But if you include their families, say four members in each family, there would be about a thousand members.”
Deepa adds, “When Mrs White gave the place, there were about 21 families in Whitefield. We presume they were also the members of the club. Also, Winston Churchill used to visit Whitefield quite often. He might have also paid a visit to the club.” The primary members of the club are entitled to nominate and second another person for the club.
Sydney says, “The admission fee to the club is Rs 1 lakh. The members also pay a monthly subscription fee. There are people from different walks of life who are members of the club including doctors, businessmen and IT professionals.”