Ancient Monuments

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Icehouse 140m west of Coombe Place

A Scheduled Monument in Hamsey, East Sussex

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Latitude: 50.8934 / 50°53'36"N

Longitude: -0.0223 / 0°1'20"W

OS Eastings: 539187.846493

OS Northings: 112302.309517

OS Grid: TQ391123

Mapcode National: GBR KPN.TDC

Mapcode Global: FRA B6VR.14S

Entry Name: Icehouse 140m west of Coombe Place

Scheduled Date: 24 November 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019884

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32268

County: East Sussex

Civil Parish: Hamsey

Traditional County: Sussex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): East Sussex

Church of England Parish: Hamsey St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Chichester


The monument includes an icehouse situated within the grounds of Coombe Place,
to the west of Offham village, around 2km north west of Lewes. The almost
entirely subterranean icehouse is built into a north facing slope around 140m
from the main house.
Historical evidence suggests that the icehouse dates from the late 18th
century. Originally its circular, brick ice chamber measured up to around 5m
in diameter and 8.5m deep, with steeply battered walls and a domed ceiling.
The chamber was reduced in size during the 19th century by the construction
of a second, smaller structure, up to 4m in diameter and 7.5m deep, within the
original shell. The melting ice collected in a sump at the base of the
chamber, and drained away into the natural chalk subsoil. Ventilation was
provided by a hole through the top of the domed roof, which projects slightly
above the surrounding ground surface.
The icehouse is entered on its northern side through an above ground, upward
sloping, entrance passage, paved in brick and measuring around 6m in length.
Its brick-built walls, with decorative flint panels, support a barrel-vaulted
roof, part of which is covered in red roofing tiles. The passage leads to a
high level opening in the ice chamber which allowed access to the ice when the
chamber was full. The passage was lengthened as part of the later alterations,
and a third door added at its northern end.
A contemporary account of 1795-6 describes the filling of the icehouse and
calculates that it would take six men about two days to fill the chamber with
ice from a pond near the house. The chamber could be filled to the crown with
174 small cart loads of ice, using straw for packing and fixing the ice.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Icehouses are subterranean structures designed specifically to store ice,
usually removed in winter from ponds and used in the summer for preserving
food and cooling drinks. Thousands of icehouses have been built in England
since the early 17th century. These were initially built only by the upper
level of society, but by the end of the 18th century they were commonplace.
They continued to be built throughout the 19th century, when huge examples
were established by the fishing industry, as well as for use in towns.
Icehouses only became obsolete after the introduction of domestic
refrigerators in the early 20th century.
Of the thousands originally built, some 1500 icehouses have been positively
identified through a combination of archaeological and documentary research.
Although a relatively common class, most recorded examples with surviving
remains will be considered to be of national interest and appropriate for
consideration for either scheduling or listing. They are also generally
regarded as a significant component of local distinctiveness and character.

The icehouse 140m west of Coombe Place is a particularly interesting example
of a late 18th century icehouse which was adapted in the 19th century,
reflecting the changing trends in ice storage amongst the gentry and the
professional and merchant classes at this time. The icehouse survives well,
retaining many of its original features, including evidence of its internal
drainage system.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Beamon, S, Roaf, S, The Ice Houses of Great Britain, (1990), 424
Martin, R, Hamsey, Coombe Place, Offham, icehouse, (1985)
Martin, R, 'Sussex Industrial History' in Ice Houses in Sussex, , Vol. 24, (1994), 10-23

Source: Historic England

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