Royal Reels: Gambling


The cover has 2 copies of the red ‘ONE PENNY and a single copy of the grey ‘HALF PENNY’ Swan stamps of Western Australia canceled with SHIP MAIL ROOM/ 10/ MR 9/ 09 duplex. It is addressed to Messrs Wharton & McCrae, Stock Exchange, London E.C. In the top L.H. corner there is a blue double oval hand-stamp of the sender, CANNING PARK TURF CLUB/ CO. LIMITD/ PERTH, W.A. (Figure 1).

The reverse shows an incomplete reception postmark of LONDON ( )/ 7.15 AM/ 6 AP/ (1909). No information was found for the addressed company (Figure 2).

The first recorded race meeting was held in Western Australia at Fremantle on 2 October 1833, although it was not until 1852 that the controlling body, the Western Australian Turf Club (WATC) was formed. At a meeting of the Turf Club convened by Colonel Reeves on 22 October 1852, 20 names were enrolled as forming The Club, with His Excellency the Governor (Captain Charles Fitzgerald R.N.) appointed patron. A committee was formed for the drawing up of racing rules and for making all further arrangements in reference to a racecourse. The first record of a race meeting held subsequent to the formation of the WATC was a two day fixture in April 1853; the Queen’s Plate of fifty pounds, over three miles, was the big race. Great progress was made between 1852-1903, and it was in 1903 that the Perth Racecourse (Ascot) came into being. This brought the number of metropolitan courses to five, with racing also being conducted at Belmont Park, Canning Park, Goodwood and Helena Vale.

The first meeting to establish a race club at Canning Park Turf Club was held in 1868. Within two months land was cleared in time for the first race meeting held in May 1868. The race course was on land owned by John Liddelow, a noted racehorse owner and a butcher, and James Roe, a steward and secretary of the WATC. Sugar gum trees were planted along an avenue forming the entrance to the Race Track. Each year race meetings were held around Christmas time and became an important social event of the year. The race course was also used by the Cricket Club which played its first match in 1872. The Liddelows were the centre of the social set of the area and their property became a popular ‘get-together place’ for the early pioneers. John Liddelow was also a founding member of the Kenwick Church, St Michael’s, and he worked towards the formation of the Canning Road Board and the Canning Park Race Course. He was Chairman of the Gosnells Road Board in 1891. A picture of John Liddelow is seen Figure 3.

The Canning Park Turf Club continued to be owned and run by local people until the mid 1890s when control was transferred to the hands of private investors. They improved the course and provided extra facilities for the comfort of the patrons. The improvements included a new grandstand, landscaping and a railway spurline for better access by the commuters. The Canning Park Turf Club became so large and successful that in 1897 a public company was floated with the first year’s dividend providing a 10% dividend. The growth of the Turf Club led to 2 more race clubs being set up in the district. The avenue of the Eucalyptus Gladocalyx (Sugar Gums) are marked by a plaque indicating the planting by the Race Club officials in 1868.

A picture of the Canning Park Turf Park grandstand in ca. 1898 is seen in Figure 4.

Categories: Places