Undeterred by war or epidemics

Our History

A Convalescent Home called Cottage by the Sea, situated at Queenscliff, was the principal work of the Ministering Children’s League. The original wooden Cottage was built in 1895 to accommodate 12 children but was added to over time so that it could eventually cater for 36 convalescents. By 1936 the ravages of seaside wind, rain and storms had caused considerable damage and a number of rooms were deemed unsafe. As the President, Mrs Scarlett said: “The present Cottage has served us well for 40 years and has been a means of bringing health to thousands of children” but such was the state of deterioration of the Cottage, is was felt that to repair it would be of little avail.

For the first time in its 45 years of its charitable work the League made a public appeal for funds to build a new Cottage. Before this, the League and the Cottage it maintained had been entirely supported by donations and subscriptions from members, branches and supporters. They had never received one penny from the Government for maintenance, nor had it made any public appeal.

So a Building Appeal was launched, with the aim of raising ₤10,000 to build a new, modern Cottage.

After a very strenuous three months, £13,000 was subscribed, thus enabling the Executive to build and equip a modern Cottage that would accommodate 40 children. The Lord Mayor, in commenting on the work of the League, said that the Appeal for the new Cottage was one of the keenest efforts which had come under his notice during his time as Lord Mayor.

In 1936 the original wooden Cottage was demolished and Mr Scott Williams was appointed as architect for the new building. Tenders were let to J O Taylor and Sons of Geelong for the construction. The Executive felt justly proud of the fact that through the splendid response to their appeal the new building opened free of debt. A tribute to the confidence placed in the Committee’s management by the general public.

Just as the new modern Cottage was about to open its doors to the work of the League there was a serious outbreak of infantile paralysis and an urgent need for homes to give after-care treatment. The Executive Committee, realising that the work of the League is to look after children such as these, offered the use of the Cottage as an After Care home.

In March, 1939 the Cottage was vacated by infantile paralysis convalescents and in May it re-opened for MCL activities – but only for five months. With the declaration of the Second World War on 1 Sep, its service for the Defence Department purposes was necessary. The Executive’s capabilities were stretched to the limit when the Cottage was to be vacated in twenty-four hours by its staff, as well as the children in residence. Not to be deterred by another setback to their mission, the League found a temporary home, Happy Days, at Black Rock and in Dec, 1939, and resumed their activities.

Throughout a tough decade the members of the League were justly proud of the noble effort they had made in ensuring the continued health and happiness of Victorian children. In three months they had raised sufficient funds to build a modern new Cottage, which they hardly had a chance to occupy, but carried on regardless and continued their work in rented premises. Their spirit of determination and dedication continues today as in 2019, Cottage by the Sea prepares for its first major building work since 1938.