Formerly known as the North Suburban Cycling Club, North Suburban Club and the North Suburban Sports Club, this community club is located at 622 Mt. Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds. Now known as the Moonee Ponds Club, it has evolved from cycling to indoor and outdoor sports to a private club, fund raiser and function venue.
The Club released “The Moonee Ponds Club, Celebrating One Hundred and Twenty Five Years” in 2021.
In the 1880s the ‘safety bicycle’ arrived and started the cycling craze. The North Suburban Cycling Club was established on 19 July 1895 after a meeting was held in the Flemington Wesleyan Sunday School Hall. The meeting elected W.R. Forlonge as President and H. W. Chenoweth as Secretary. This club catered for cycle racers and recreational riders.
The first race was in 1896 from Moonee Ponds Junction to Keilor Church and return, Early meetings were held in the Wesleyan school room, with the committee meeting in the Junction Hotel.
The “Iron Palace”
New clubrooms in the rented “Iron Palace” on the corner of Maribyrnong Road and Ascot Vale Road, were officially opened by the Mayor, Cr. J. G. Aikman on 28 April 1899. However, in January 1903, the Club was looking at four potential sites for new clubrooms. These were Moore Street, Shuter Street, Station Street and Mt. Alexander Road. The Committee favoured Station Street but the membership overwhelmingly preferred Mt Alexander Road.
The foundation stone of the new clubhouse was laid on 10 October 1903 by Mrs J.G. Aikman, wife of the president, Cr Aikman. On Christmas Eve 1903, the Iron Palace closed with the replacement opening on 11 January 1904. The facility is probably the first clubhouse owned by a cycle club in Australia. It has been expanded a number of times through property acquisitions.
It was common for Club rides to cover long distances such as in 1902 when the ride left the cannon opposite the Essendon Town Hall through Caulfield to Waverley Road, then to Black Flat (later Glen Waverley) where a sharp turn to the left brought them to the aptly named Mountain View Hotel. After dining ‘sumptuously’ they took a crossroad to Tally Ho, through Burwood to Riversdale Road, and back through Richmond to town.
This of course was the heyday of the bicycle. Apart, from the horses and carriages, cyclists had the roads to themselves. However, this didn’t last and within about another ten years, cycling was less of a focus at the Club.
Race start corner Keilor and Bulla Roads in front of the Lincolnshire Arms Hotel, c1905 (Moonee Ponds Club Collection).
The Club has hosted many guests from Prime Ministers to the English Test cricket team. An example was premiership Essendon captain Syd Barker and several of his teammates were feted at the Club, after winning the 1923 flag.
In 1920, officers from HMS Renown, visited the Club during the Royal Tour. Officers from the ship were assisted by the Club and Essendon River League to plant the trees as an Avenue of Honour along The Boulevard on the eastern bank of the Maribyrnong River.
The Club has been active in holding events to fundraise for charities. At one stage, the Club hired out the Essendon Town Hall five nights running to accommodate the hordes of dancers who couldn’t get enough of the new 1920s music and dance styles.
The Club considered allowing female members as long ago as 1899 but was only in 1982, that full membership was granted to all. It has survived many challenges such as 10 o’clock closing and television. It nearly ended during a major recession in the 1990s. After losing significant funds in the ill-fated Pyramid Building Society, it resorted to poker machines in September 1993 with closure looming.
This Post is partly based on notes by Paul Kennedy.