In 1871, when the predecessor of the Swiss Club was founded, there were only 1,530 European and American residents on the island. The Swiss, although of European origin, tended to stay with their own countrymen, and over a period of 75 years, they managed to keep a communal club going. The Swiss community was primarily engaged in the mercantile and trading businesses as well as the watch trade.
Three Swiss men roamed Singapore on horseback in search of a suitable site to carry out rifle shooting activities. They found a small valley off Balestier Road which had a slight elevation on either side, bearing also the correct distance for a shooting range. Thus, the Swiss Rifle Shooting Club was founded on 29 June 1871.
The grounds of the Swiss Rifle Shooting Club were officially opened in August and its compound, made of timber and attap, came complete with a Swiss flag hoisted above the shooting area. The club could only be reached after travelling by horseback or carriage along a bullock cart track off Balestier Road, passing through McNair Road and into what is known today as Toa Payoh. Saturdays and Sundays were regular visiting days for the Swiss to gather at the club and before long it became the choice meeting place for the community.
In June 1901, the club received notice that their premises, occupied for the past 30 years, was actually sitting illegally on land belonging to a Chinese landowner. This led to its search for another parcel of land which was found at Bukit Tinggi – comprising some 46 acres and sited on the slopes of a hill. The Swiss Club then abandoned the first clubhouse and moved to its present location in what is known today as Bukit Timah. The formal opening of the club’s new building was celebrated on 10 August 1902 with 100 attendees in a festival of song, dance and resplendent lighting with two Swiss crosses illuminating the shooting butt area.
On 18 October 1909, the club’s building, including the shooting house, was burnt down in a huge fire caused by lightning. Early records and photographs of the club were irretrievably lost in the fiery blaze.
A meeting was held the next day and plans were drawn up to rebuild the club, to be paid for by the insurance money. A new club was ready by Easter of 1910, and in 1917, the opening of the Swiss Consulate in Singapore marked an outstanding event in the life of the Swiss community, which greatly complimented the club in both stature and economics.
Aside from shooting, tennis and badminton were also popular games at the club with tennis tournaments being played at the club as early as 1918. Skittling and swimming were also favourite past times.
In the 1930s, close contact with the Dutch Club saw tennis and table bridge competitions being organised; tennis was gradually emerging as the favourite sport among club members, while contract bridge was immensely popular among the women during weekdays.
Till today, the Swiss Club’s objectives are carried out at its premises at Bukit Timah, serving its community of citizens in Singapore through its promotion of a variety of social and recreational activities – rifle shooting, the original raison d’être for its founding, included.