In 1896 16-month old Ethelbert Corbishley drowned in a storm water drain where he had gone to retrieve a ball. His parents, Francis and Tom Corbishley, together with the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, decided to open a children’s’ home in his memory. The foundation stone was laid in June 1907 and eight months later, on 12 February 1908, one girl and four boys were admitted.
Originally, the boys and girls were housed in a single double-storey building. The girls were accommodated upstairs and the boys downstairs. Later the Corbishley family provided extra ground and another house was built for the girls. Towards the end of the forties, the committee involved with the running of the Home realised that however hard they tried, the Home would essentially remain an institute as long as the girls and boys lived in boarding school-type accommodation.
After sixteen years of planning, the “cottage system” of residential care was introduced to Ethelbert – a concept entirely new to children’s homes in the province. The six new homes, each equipped with a kitchen, lounge, dining-room and bedrooms, were opened in November 1959. The building that housed boys and girls is the only original structure that remains and is now called Corbishley Hall. It is used as a hall for meetings, Centre concerts and events, and the AGMs.
The 1990s brought more exciting programmes to life at Ethelbert. In 1991 the integration of children of all race groups took place at Ethelbert. This took many years of negotiation with Government as their policy at the time did not allow for cross-cultural placements. The transition took place smoothly and life went on as normal.
In 1996 – in response to the Government’s call that children’s homes become more integrated and representative of the needs of the community – part of Ethelbert’s unused land was appropriated to build Ethelbert Village. This has become a popular retirement village with 32 units.