When the Duke of Edinburgh visited Adelaide in 1867, he reportedly wanted to meet the sporting men over a glass of wine at the Tattersalls Club. Although there were Tattersalls clubs in Sydney, Adelaide did not have one. The Duke held his meeting at the Globe Hotel in Rundle Street and it was 12 years before the idea of a club in Adelaide took shape.
In 1879, E.M. Bagot, C.J. Coales, J. Richardson and W.K. Simms MP met at the Globe to create a club as a centre “where the earliest sporting news may be obtained; where Racing, Hunting and Coursing men can meet in comfort and privacy; as a court of Arbitration to take cognisance of Turf frauds and prompt action in their suppression and for the settlement of disputes”.
In its formative years, Tattersalls was a betting shop, gaming house and gambling den, and the committee and members were inveterate gamblers. In the 1880s, after restrictive betting legislation was introduced, interest in racing declined, as did membership of the club, forcing it to close in 1887.
Eighteen months later when a Totalizator Bill was passed in parliament, a new South Australian Tattersalls Club was formed, in October 1888. The club met in Grenfell Chambers in Grenfell Street and later bought the premises, building clubrooms there in 1917. Later, it bought an adjoining building and built the eastern section in 1928. The architects were Garlick and Jackman. When bought the land for this section it paid £900 per foot, “easily a record in Grenfell Street” according to the Builder, the total price being £27,000.
In the mid-1920s membership topped 1500 but the Depression years saw it decline dramatically. Numbers rose again after World War II, but from then on the costs of running the club forced it to reconsider the facilities and services it offered. In the 1970s women members were admitted. In 1977 the building was sold with a lease-back arrangement to cut continuing losses.
This heavily detailed building is unusual for its obvious two-stage construction, the western part having been built in 1916-17 and the eastern half in 1927-28. It is largely unchanged, the 1928 extensions simply complementing the original building with identical bulk and detailing. The interior retains its original spaces and details, including a central light well that illuminates a stained-glass lantern over the club dining room.
The building now comprises of a bar and offices.