WMA 1505 - Meat-safe cot and mattress

Wood and mesh enclosed cot and mattress.

Sleep well little sausage…

Keeping meat safe from insects, mammals and reptiles was an essential part of Australian life before electricity. Keeping children safe employed similar technology.

Were cots like this originally made for storing meat, or were they made specifically to keep children safe from insects, reptiles and unwelcome furry creatures?

The earliest evidence for meat-safe cots dates from 1939:

‘The Infant Health Association recommends the safety cots (commonly known as the ‘meat safe cot’) which are stocked by all the large shops.’

(West Australian, 17 February 1939).

Most meat safes of the period were relatively small and lightly constructed, and therefore not suitable for building a baby’s cot. It is more likely that the function and design that gives this cot its peculiar name:

‘Up to the age of five the young child may sleep in a cot designed rather like a large meat safe, completely wired in with drop panels. This is light, easily moved, and being collapsible, can be taken when the family is on holiday.’

(Adelaide Mail, 9 December 1939)


This cot was used by two generations of the Burrows family and friends and kept over a dozen children safe before Fae Burrows kindly donated it to the museum in 2006.

Bryce Burrows was a cabinet maker in Alice Springs who made this cot for his sister Thelma Pye who at the time was living at Todd River Station where she had two daughters who used the cot from 1964 – 1967.

The cot was then used by Bryce’s own daughter Kym in Alice Springs before returning to Todd River Station to be used by the Ludwig family between 1973 and the early 1980s before it did the rounds back in Alice Springs of a few young families.

It came back to the Burrows family in 2000 and Kym, Bryce’s daughter used it for her three children. The last time Bryce fixed the cot was some 40 years after he made it and managed to use identical flywire mesh.

After keeping over a dozen children safe its in pretty good condition.

We have heard stories of mothers sweeping snakes off the top of the mesh with brooms and others who still use this type of cot to keep the family cat from smothering infants.

Object ID: WMA 1505 - Meat-safe cot and mattress

Date Made: In use 1963 - 2002

Maker: Bryce Burrows