Scope and Content

The records comprise the archives of the League and of the Meath Home, Ottershaw, including admission registers and cards. They also include various files documenting the involvement of the family of the Earl of Verulam with the League.

A detailed summary of the main series of records is below:


For minutes of committees for Meath Home, Ottershaw, see below, section -/5/-.

7919/3/ FINANCIAL RECORDS 1914-1986
For financial correspondence see section -/6/-.

7919/3/ Annual accounts 1938-1984

7919/3/ Bank books 1914-1931

7919/3/ Other financial records 1944-1986

Index cards recording details of UK and overseas branches of the Ministering Children's League.

7919/5/ THE MEATH HOME, OTTERSHAW 1888-1965

7919/5/ Homes committee 1888-1936
The Homes committee until 1931 dealt with all matters relating to the Meath Home, having oversight of the general administration, staff, applications for admission and fund-raising activities etc. The minutes include references to the care of individual children, whose names are included in the indexes. For a composite index to children's names appearing in -/5/1-5 see -/5/18.

7919/5/ House committee 1931-1937
The House committee was set up in 1931 by the Homes committee to carry out the interim business of the Homes committee and to implement any matters approved in principle by the Homes committee. Authorised to sanction routine expenditure and to engage and dismiss staff, it was responsible for the general welfare of the staff and children. Some minutes are contained in the volumes of Homes committee minutes above.

7919/5/ Meath Home committee 1945-1965
From Oct 1945 to May 1949 this was called the Liaison committee of the Invalid Children's Aid Association and The Ministering League. It was responsible for the co-ordination between the ICAA and MCL with regard to the Meath Home.

7919/5/ Children's records 1888-1944
The admissions books typically include the following: name of child, age or date of birth, family background, by whom recommended to the Home, date and destination on leaving the Home. The name of the cot they occupied is also sometimes recorded. The covering dates given are admission dates. Information appears to have been copied from one register to another so one child may appear in more than one admissions book. Additional information on individuals may be obtained by consulting all registers covering a particular date. For typescript index to children's names appearing in admissions books -/5/16-17 and in minutes books -/5/1-5, see -/5/18.

7919/5/ Payments for cots 1929-1947

7919/5/ Inventory 1945-1950

The correspondence in these files had apparently been removed from older files, possibly 'weeded', and placed in new labelled folders, probably just before or just after their deposit at Gorhambury. It is likely, but not certain, that the file labels were copied directly from the old files. The contents of the folders have been retained as deposited.

7919/6/ Trustees' correspondence 1927-1949

7919/6/ Correspondence relating primarily to financial matters 1949-1983
See also -/6/1.

7919/6/ Correspondence relating to property 1934-1963
See also -/6/1.

7919/6/ Correspondence relating to annual exhibition 1933-1939

7919/6/ Correspondence with individuals 1910-1957

7919/6/ Correspondence with other charitable organizations 1921-1965
See also -/3/10.

7919/6/ Correspondence relating to the Meath Home, Ottershaw 1931-1966

7919/6/ Correspondence with overseas Ministering Children's League branches 1925-1967


7919/7/ Ministering Children's League Magazine 1889-1947
From its early days the Ministering Children's League produced a magazine to provide news of its activities at home and abroad. The magazine contained articles on the opening of new branches, branch activities, the various homes supported by the MCL, extracts from annual reports and stories and competitions. The magazine was first called The Ministering Child, then the Ministering Children's League Magazine or the Ministering League Magazine and then Goodwill. It was produced quarterly (from 1935 three times a year) and the following bound volumes contain all the issues for each year, except where indicated.

7919/7/ Cuttings books 1885-1921
The cuttings books include newspaper cuttings, reports and notices of MCL events and activities in the UK and overseas, and some copies of The Ministering Child and Ministering Children's League.


According to a note found with these banners, they were found in the attic of Meath School beside the box of Tasmanian photographs (-/8/9) when the building was being re-roofed in 1986.

The Meath Home of Comfort, Godalming, was founded by Mary, Countess of Meath, in 1892 as a home for epileptic women and girls. It does not appear to have had any connection with the Ministering Children's League, apart from being founded by the Countess.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Ministering Children's League (MCL) was founded in 1885 by Mary Jane [Brabazon], Countess of Meath (d.1918). The Countess was a Victorian philanthropist founding many institutions and movements. She was born Mary J. Maitland, daughter of Admiral Sir Thomas, 11th Earl of Lauderdale. In 1868 she married Reginald Brabazon, who was to be the 12th Earl of Meath, and travelled extensively throughout the world with him.

The aim of the League was to encourage children to develop the habit of helping those in need, both at home and in the wider world. Its motto read: 'No day without a deed to crown it' and the expressed objects were 'To promote kindness, unselfishness, and the habit of usefulness amongst children, and to create in their minds an earnest desire to help the needy and suffering. To aid the necessities of the poor by supplying them with warm clothing, comforts etc'.

The idea for the League was prompted by the book Ministering Children by Maria Louisa Charlesworth (London, 1860, see below 7919/7/1), in which the author suggested that the best way to encourage caring for others might be by 'the early calling forth and training the sympathies of children by personal intercourse with want and sorrow, while as yet those sympathies flow spontaneously'.

The first branch was opened in the parish of Christ Church, Lancaster Gate, London, at the home of the Countess of Meath. The movement spread rapidly throughout Britain and abroad. Numerous local branches were formed and by 1903 membership numbered over 40,000 worldwide.

The local branches encouraged children to carry out deeds of kindness to their families and friends and to become involved in some kind of charitable work. This might take the form of making items of clothing for the poor, comforts for the sick, toys for poor children etc, or by maintaining a cot in a children's hospital or at one of the MCL homes which were soon established. However, each branch was free to choose whatever form of benevolent work it wished to support.

Several homes and other institutions supported by the movement were opened in the UK and abroad. By the early 20th century the following were being supported by the MCL:

United Kingdom

Meath Home for Destitute Children, Ottershaw (opened 1888); Convalescent Home for Children, Exmouth (opened 1896); Epileptic Children's Home, Hayling Island (opened 1900, supported by the MCL from 1901);


Cottage by the Sea Holiday Home, Queenscliffe, Victoria, Australia (opened 1895); Convalescent Home, Cottesloe Beach, Western Australia (opened 1902); Convalescent Home, Launceston, Tasmania (opened 1900); Victoria Convalescent Home, Hobart, Tasmania (opened by 1903); Chapel for Red Indians, South Dakota (built by New York branch of MCL by 1903); Hospital for Children, Ottawa (supported by 1903); School of Industries for the Blind, Alexandria, Egypt (opened 1898); Children's Convalescent Home, New Brighton, New Zealand (opened 1901).

In 1913 the Countess suggested the MCL be known as the Ministering League (the name had previously been used for older children and adult members of the MCL), as the early members had grown up and wished to continue the work of the League. From that date the two names appear to have been used interchangeably. The League has been referred to in this list as the MCL throughout to avoid confusion.

By 1946 it was felt that the work of the League was being carried out by other organizations such as Boy Scouts, Girl Guides and Youth Fellowships, and it was decided to close all branches of the League by the end of 1947. The League continued only for the purpose of administering accumulated funds, particularly by supporting the work of the Invalid Children's Aid Association (ICAA) at the Meath Hospital School, formerly the Meath Home (see below).

The ICAA, now known as I CAN, formally took over the Ministering Children's League as a subsidiary charity in 2003.

Meath Home, Ottershaw

The main institution to benefit from the League's activities was the Meath Home, also known as the Homes for Destitute Children, founded by Mary, Countess of Meath, on her own estate in Ottershaw. Three houses were built at Ottershaw (later called Brabazon House, Maitland House and Verulam House) where, by 1903, 70 children were cared for. Some were orphans, but many were the children of a widowed or single parent who was too poor to care for them.

Until her death in 1918, the Countess funded the Home to a great extent from her own purse, although a number of branches of the MCL had undertaken the support of individual cots. Although the League was endowed by the Countess, following her death the trustees became increasingly dependent on public support to continue the work at the Home.

In 1945 the Home was let to the Invalid Children's Aid Association (ICAA) and became the Meath Hospital School, a home for children suffering from bronchiectasis. The ICAA, like the MCL, was a charity and voluntary society which, at that time, supported and administered 7 convalescent homes. By 1958 it was found that beds in other hospitals were being offered to these children so the Home became a preparatory school for asthmatic boys aged 7-11, again being let to the ICAA who ran the school.

At the time of writing in 2006, Meath School is run by I CAN as a non-maintained day and residential primary special school for 76 pupils aged 5 to 11 years, where severe and complex communication disabilities are the primary disability.

Access Information

The Meath Home, Ottershaw, Homes and House committee minutes (7919/5/3-12) and admission registers and cards (7919/5/17-21) are subject to access restrictions for 100 years.

Acquisition Information

Deposited by The Chief Executive, I CAN Charity, London, in February 2006. The records of the League had for some 30 years prior to their deposit at the Surrey History Centre been stored at Gorhambury, the mansion house of the Earl and Countess of Verulam at St Albans, Hertfordshire. Mary, Countess of Meath, was the mother of the 4th Countess of Verulam and various members of the family had been trustees or other officers of the charity.

Other Finding Aids

An item level description of the archive is available on the Surrey History Centre online catalogue

Related Material

For photographs of the Ministering Children's League and the Meath Home, Ottershaw, and overseas branches of the League in Australia, Egypt, Estonia, India, Italy, Palestine and Russia, late 19th cent-early 20th cent, see 7918/-.

For deeds relating to trusteeships, estates and homes at Ottershaw and elsewhere, 1803-1962, see 7386/-.

Records of the Invalid Children's Aid Association, 1921-1982, are held at the London Metropolitan Archives, ref: LMA/4248.

'The Diaries of Mary, Countess of Meath', edited by her husband, Reginald, 12th Earl of Meath (London, c.1923) is held in Surrey History Centre Local Studies Library.