By Sybil Jack, Bulletin 10/2021, December 2021

As the 19th century progressed, Glebe’s bays were more and more utilised as places for boating activities, especially rowing. Regattas, especially the Balmain regatta, impinged on the shoreline and by 1879 the Glebe Rowing Club, one of the oldest existing rowing clubs, had been founded.

People who were important in supporting sport in the Glebe area did not necessarily live there. Those promoting rowing were, however, well known there and often very popular. Two men who were prominent for over 40 years were Sydney dentists, Thomas and John Spencer. In December 1905 when Thomas died aged 65 he was extolled as a helper, backer and friend whose purse was always open for the promotion of sport. The list of scullers they promoted includes all those recorded as successful Australian professionals including the world sculling

Looking towards Ross St from the site of the Lillie Bridge racecourse, 5 May 1899 (source: Album 22: Photographs of the Allen family, February 1899-October 1899, State Library of NSW,

champion, Harry Searle. Without their assistance they would not have gained the amazing reputations they had at the time.

The two dentists were also the purchasers of land in what was then Toxteth Park where they established a running ground which was originally called Lillie Bridge. They had bought a substantial area through the agency of Evan Jones in 1889 and constructed a track, opened in 1890, which was used for cycling, walking, athletics, pony racing and trotting which were all for the first time in Sydney carried out under electric light at night. These night meetings were immensely popular and enjoyed strong attendances. The track was briefly closed in 1898 and in 1899 they were reconstructing it.

Unfortunately, by this time, the financial aspect of the purchase had brought the brothers into the court of bankruptcy and a struggle with the claims of Evan Jones bankrupt estate. In 1900 a company, The Forest Lodge Racing Club and Recreation Ground, leased the area and renamed it Forest Lodge, focusing on trotting.