Happy English Homes. The Ministering League
A Foreword from the President on November 13, 1915
Dear Mrs Phillp
As you know I have twice visited the Homes at Ottershaw. Each time I have been greatly impressed by the excellent work being carried out in them. My earnest hope is that the good work may continue for many many years, and that the blessing of God may continue to rest upon it.
Yours sincerely A.F. LONDON President M.C.L.
Impressions of a Surrey Village
Ottershaw is a familiar name to members of M.C.L. all over the world, but thousands have not seen it, and for the information of several hundred new members, and many who live overseas, I must begin by saying that it has a very special interest for them.
This exceedingly lovely Surrey village, with its beautiful little church is one of the favourite residences of the Earl and Countess of Meath; Chaworth House, their Ottershaw home is charmingly situated on high ground and commands extensive views of the village and rolling country beyond. In the garden there is a fascinating Swiss Chalet, with a wide loggia in front, and here, too, a magnificent view is obtained.
Close to the gates of Chaworth House stand the four Homes supported by the “Ministering League”
Ottershaw always strikes me as being what one calls “an ideal village”. Lying midway between Chertsey and Woking, it is one of the most beautiful spots in beautiful Surrey. It has no station within two miles, and is therefore quite unspoilt by new buildings of the villa description. It abounds in picturesque creeper-clad cottages, and pretty houses surrounded by shady gardens and green lawns. The beautiful Church spire peeps out from amongst the trees on one side of the Common.
The M.C.L. Homes consist of four buildings, one for girls, two for boys, and a Sanatorium, with prettily laid out grounds surrounding the whole.
They were built through the generosity of the Countess of Meath, and given by her to the League, whose Branches maintain children. Over 60 children are received here, the inmates of most costs being supported by a Branch of the M.L. or M.C.L. * (note at bottom of page reads- *‘ An interesting proof of how wide-spread the League has become is afforded by the fact that two of the cots are supported by branches in Japan, two others by Hong-Kong members and associates, one by a centre in Penang, another by a branch in Shanghai, whilst the seventh cost is maintained by South Australian helpers’ )
Many of the Branches have worked a quilt for their particular cot, and I was much interested in the various designs, especially those covered with worked autographs of members, and a very lovely silk quilt, exquisitely embroidered by the Hong Kong Branch, with a peacock in the centre, their cot being occupied by an orphan named Peacock.
The elder children are mostly Boy Scouts and Girls Guides and look very smart in their uniforms. I had the pleasure of watching them give an exhibition of Drilling and Signalling, both of which have been brought up to a very high pitch of excellence, through the very great personal interest taken by the Earl and Countess of Meath in training the children. They receive their education at the village school, and when old enough have situations found for them. A good number of the boys go into the Navy.
Another interesting feature of Ottershaw at the present time is the Red Cross Hospital. This is at ‘Ottermead’ a pretty house belonging to the League, lent for the purpose. It has a balcony round two sides of it, where the patients sit if not able to get out; the billiard room makes an excellent recreation room. The peaceful shady garden where they ait is indeed a haven of rest to the poor fellow after the experience of the trenches.
I visited yet another haven of rest in Ottershaw. This was Meath Cottage, also called “King Edward Memorial Cottage”, which has been opened by “The Girls’ Realm Guild” as a Guest House for women of gentle birth, whose means would not permit of an expensive holiday being enjoyed.
The rooms are very daintily and charmingly furnished by different Branches of the Guild, the colour schemes being kept distinct in each room, rose, blue, green, etc. I am sure the visitors must appreciate a holiday in such a lovely and health-giving spot, and the beautiful walks and drives in all directions.
So you see that Ottershaw is a very busy and useful little place, constantly sending out into the world a stream of men and women, boys and girls, who have sought and found healing, strength, refreshment, and shelter in this favoured spot; and who carry with them to their Battle of Life happy and grateful memories of a peaceful beautiful Surrey village, and of kind friends there who ministered to their needs. Written by M.H.B.
M.C.L. Homes for Children at Ottershaw
The Homes at Ottershaw are three pretty, homelike houses standing just back from the village street in their big grounds. Immediately behind the houses is the kitchen garden, with its neat rows of vegetables; beyond that, far dearer to the hearts of the children, are the sandy pits where they make wonderful cave-houses, and nowadays probably, bomb-proof dug-outs. Other joys are water to paddle in, nice low trees to climb and gardens of their very own. Much can be learnt of the different characters of the children by a careful study of their respective plots, some very neat and tidy, some full of “inventions” some neglected and uncared for.
They are a very jolly, happy little crew, these 60 boys and girls, ranging from the big girls of 14 and 15, who have left school and are bring trained in housework, cooking, making, mending, and patching, down to the tiny person of five years old with a face like a robin redbreast. She and her two brothers were admitted to the Homes last Spring, and are paid for by their soldier-father who is thankful to have his motherless little ones so well cared for. If you had been in our pretty little church on the top of the hill one Sunday in April you would have seen these three little ones received into Christ’s Church by Holy Baptism, and three of our Sunday School teachers acting as their godparents.
The children attend the village school both on weekdays and Sundays, and carry off a good proportion of prizes each year. Summer is a very happy time for them, for then Lord and Lady Meath are here, and are constantly in and out of the Houses, to the great delight of the children. The middle-sized girls form a patrol of Girl Guides, with the Vicar’s daughter for their Scout mistress.
But there is much “give” as well as “take”. Last winter the elder girls spent their pennies in wool, and made 12 pairs of warm mittens in answer to Duke Michael’s appeal, six pairs of mittens, six pairs of socks and three mufflers have gone to the East Surrey Regiment, and others to old boys in the Army and Navy. I think the sandbags are the order of the day now. Sometimes both boys and girls drill for the amusement of the invalid soldiers at the Ottermead Hospital, or wait upon them when Lady Meath invites them to tea in her garden. Two old boys sown for a holiday sent them a present of cigarettes and books.
Many of our old boys are serving their King and Country by land or sea. One among them, Albert Donovan, is already on the Roll of Honour, having gone down with so many others when the “Formidable” was struck by a torpedo. Their names are read out at the Intercession Service on Thursday evenings, with those of our village men and lads who are on active service – written by “An Eye Witness” August 1915
These various accounts of Ottershaw and its Homes would be incomplete without a few words about its picturesque little church on the top of the hill. We kept its Jubilee in 1914 with thankful hearts for all the help and blessing which has come to the village through its presence in our midst. Almost everything in the building has some tale to tell of lobe to God and man; it owes its very existence to the generosity of a former owner of Ottershaw Park, the later Sir Edward Colbrooke.
The seats are made of Spanish chestnut from his estate; the tower and spire were a later gift from others; the clock and chimes are in memory of our former beloved Vicar, the Rev. Baron Hichens; the nave windows were put in, in 1902 by the family of Sir Edward; the Cross over the pulpit was carved by a former schoolmaster in memory of his young wife; the flooring and panelling were a thank-offering; the reredos, chancel windows and screen are all memorial gifts. To this house of hallowed memories the children of the Home come week by week for worship and teaching, and a number of boys are in the choir; here the elder ones are prepared for Confirmation by the Vicar of the parish who takes a great interest in the Homes, and is Chairman of the Committee. Many letters show how the children in later life look back with deep affection to the little church and its reverent services, where they first learnt to “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness”
Written by An Old Parishioner
Exmouth M.C.L. Sea-side Home for Convalescent Children
Many new members and no doubt, some old ones, have vaguely heard of the M.C.L. Children’s Seaside Home at Exmouth, and it may be of interest to read its little story.
In March 1896, a branch of the Ministering Children’s League was started in Exmouth because of the difficulty in obtaining teachers for the Sunday School, or sufficient workers for any object; the children were growing up selfish and pleasure-loving, and it was hoped that in time the League would teach the rising generation truer ideals.
The “object” for which the branch would work was to be a Children’s Convalescent Home but this was a dream of the future as we had no money! However, fate was very kind and on June 24 of that same year an old disused Sailors’ Rest, lying close to the river and sea, was, with fear and trembling rented, and in a very modest way the Children’s Seaside Home was inaugurated and there it remained dong useful and happy work for many years.
On March 22nd 1911, after countless efforts and many disappointments and delays, a good suitable building was built on a quarter of an acre leased from Lord Clinton at £1 per year. The building cost £1,211 /12s/6d and is the property of the M.C.L. Over 1,276 boys and girls have passed through the Home to date, the majority restored completely to health, and helped in many cases in character.
There is no lack of workers in Exmouth to-day; in fact, nearly everyone works hard, and it is certain the Ministering Children’s League has helped to bring about this happy result. Written by I.M.
The Meath Convalescent Cottage M.C.L. Home, Hayling Island
The Hayling Island Convalescent Home for Epileptic Children was originally intended to be a seaside resort for the inmates of our Homes at Ottershaw, but as the regulations concerning school attendance are very strict – except in the case of invalid scholars – it was found impossible to send children away, except during the holidays, and it was thought well to look out for other ways if utilising the attractive little abode. The members if the committee of the Meath Home of Comfort, at Godalming, who much desired some of their patients to enjoy sea air, were approached and they consented to take over at a nominal rent this building for their more youthful charges.
Now for a long time, little ones suffering from a sad and mysterious malady have been tenderly cared for and have derived great benefit from living in so healthy a locality. It is a happy sight, on a summer’s day to see these children – mostly with no outward signs of ill-health about them – playing about on the sands just opposite their above and enjoying far more freedom than they could possibly have if the building were not situated in a secluded spot, admirably adapted for the purpose.
(SHC Ref 7386/2/1)