Box Cottage is a mid 19th century pioneer cottage, located in Joyce Park, Ormond, in Melbourne's south-eastern suburbs. The cottage is believed to have been built in the 1840s, in the first decade or so after the founding of Melbourne in 1835. It offers a remarkable glimpse into pioneer life on the then outskirts of Melbourne during its formative years.
The cottage is named after the Box family, who lived in the cottage from 1865 to 1914, raising ten children. When you see how small and poky the cottage is, you can imagine how difficult it must have been to house a family that large. The cottage was originally built on the site next door (currently a timber yard) and was moved into the park piece by piece and restored.
Inside the cottage and in the stable outside you will find an extensive collection of antiques and memorabilia donated from the local area. The collection includes pill boxes, dresses, baby booties, watches, tools, wringers and dolls, to name a few. You can also view the collection in the online catalogue. One item that struck me was the Coolgardie Safe, for storing meat to keep it fresh. It was nothing more than a wire mesh pyramid covered in wet Hessian sacks – a far cry from today's modern refrigerators. The stable outside includes a length of original tram way plates. These are flat metal tracks that were used on several major roads in the area to give horse drawn vehicles a faster and smoother ride. All of these plates have since been ripped up and replaced with bitumen roads.
The tram way plates that lined major roads around Ormond, with the Coolgardie safe in the centre of the stable in the background
The cottage is lovingly maintained by the City of Moorabbin Historical Society. As soon as you enter the cottage enclosure, a volunteer from the society will pounce on you and talk your ear off for the next half hour, so don't expect to just pop in and have a quick look. These volunteers know their stories and they know their facts, and they kept me entertained and engaged throughout the visit. As a nearby resident, I was very interested to hear what crops were grown in the market gardens covering the area prior to urbanisation, so I now know what will definitely grow in my backyard.
The historical society welcomes new members, so if you are fascinated by this local history, have a chat to them about joining. The historical society meets at Box Cottage in the hour prior to opening the cottage to the public.
The cottage is open to the public from 2.00-4.30 pm on the last Sunday of every month except December and January.
Yes, I only came across it by accident when I happened to be at the park playground on a cottage open day. Everyone will take away something different from it, but for me a place like this makes you really stop and think about how the landscape and lifestyle in Melbourne has changed so much in only a handful of generations.