The Georgian Ice House

Ice houses were very important before fridges and freezers were invented – they would provide the Hall’s kitchen with ice which they could use to store food and make special desserts for guests of the Hall. Imagine the most elaborately decorated jellies created in metal moulds, decorated with fruits from the kitchen garden.

There used to be several functioning ice houses on the Estate. Workers cut and collected the ice from the frozen lake in winter and cattle or heavy horses would have dragged it in carts or sledges to the ice house. It was then lowered underground and insulated with straw to stop it from melting.

This was very hard work and there are stories of the workers receiving meals of bread and cheese from the Halls kitchen while they worked on collecting the ice – they also had an allowance of beer brewed on the Estate which was reserved for workers completing the most manual tasks in the coldest conditions.

A 1723 plan of the garden shows the icehouse here. It was rediscovered using digital mapping by a student from Sheffield University so a local team of archaeologists excavated the area in 2018 to find out more about it.

Amongst the layers of buried historical debris, there was the original miniature railway, the original circular ice house and an extension tunnel for the ice house which was packed with clay to help to insulate the ice house better. We had to re-cover it to protect it from the frost and erosion as it was too fragile to leave exposed. This is a diagram of one of our ice houses, they would traditionally have a drain at the bottom for excess water to drain away – ours drained water away into the lake.