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I think I have found an Ice House - how can I be sure?

Look in the Gazetteer, here,  or in The Icehouses of Britain - see books

It is not in the Gazetter !

Here are some points to be addressed and forwarded to to faq@icehouses.co.uk 

LOCAL TRADITION: often there is a verbal record, but this can not always be trusted.

MAIN HOUSE: Ice Houses usually served substantial estate houses, often this has been demolished, but there will be records.

TUNNELS: Sometimes tunnels did run from a main house to an ice-house because some members of the gentry did not like seeing their servants walking around and preferred them to remain 'unseen' below the ground as well as 'below stairs'.

DOOR/TUNNEL/PASSAGE: Although it is usual, and more practical, to have a door and a tunnel/passage at the side it is not exclusive. As long as one or two persons could be lowered down by rope or ladder into the structure from the top, they could pack the ice in the first place when tipped in from above, then could also hack it out and have it taken up in buckets for transportation to the main house when necessary. Any sign of a track leading to the top of the mound for perhaps a horse and cart to take the ice up?

STRAIGHT-SIDED ICE-HOUSE: You can have straight- sided structures although tapering ones were found to be more successful, because as all ice melts to a certain degree, it slipped downwards and packed better and harder if shaped like and egg with the tapering end at the bottom. There were also some 'failed' ice-houses in which the ice failed to keep.

SUBSEQUENT USE? The structure could have been an ice-house but might also have had subsequent use for such as an hydraulic ram housing to carry water to the main house. Although an hydraulic ram housing would not have to be within a mound but could be free-standing, it would still require some drainage .

HOSPITAL RECORDS: If you have a local hospital or infirmary it might be worth looking at their records as they may have purchased or been given ice for residents with fevers from your ice-house. This would definitely confirm its existence for you.

In order to ascertain if it is definitely an ice-house, the following information would also be helpful

BRICKWORK: Is the brickwork of good workmanship? The better the brickwork the better the ice would keep because if the packed ice got snagged up on jutting out masonry it would cause air holes and there would be a quicker and greater dissolution of the mass of ice.

Is the brickwork double-skinned? Insulation being paramount.

If it is double-skinned was anything packed in the cavity, e.g. charcoal, even horizontal rows of ceramic tubes. Again to aid

DRAINAGE: Slightly domed base [but could have been a later addition and had a ram placed on it], I have seen before and guttering around. What degree of fall is there into the drain? Or pour a couple of buckets of water into the bottom and see what happens and where it runs. Bad drainage was the worst aspect of 'failed' ice-houses.

SUPERSTRUCTURE ABOVE: There may not have been one. On the other hand as you are in Lincolnshire more likely a thatched domed cover of some sort. There may be some small post holes around as an indicator, take care they are not likely to be deep.

PONDS: the distance and location of ponds likely to have been the source of the ice.

Maps, Plans, Dimensioned Drawings, etc.

Please supply as much information as possible.
Always get permission from the owner or agent to enter and record any site.
We wish to have all possible details of every site, some owners may agree only on condition that details are not made generally available. This web site will always seek to respect such wishes, where expressed.

Anyone going to look at an ice-house on private property should request permission. 
By the nature of many Ice houses, they attract bats, which are protected by law.
It is most important not to disturb bats during the hibernating period October - March.
It may that be some Ice Houses are unsafe, anyone visiting one does so at their own risk.


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Copyright 2002-15 Martin B Snow. All rights reserved.
Revised: December 21, 2014
Please refer to the notes on the Home page before visiting any site.