Ancient Monuments

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Icehouse 320m south west of Ashridge College

A Scheduled Monument in Little Gaddesden, Hertfordshire

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Latitude: 51.797 / 51°47'49"N

Longitude: -0.5621 / 0°33'43"W

OS Eastings: 499255.959986

OS Northings: 211901.757833

OS Grid: SP992119

Mapcode National: GBR F4S.8QH

Mapcode Global: VHFRY.63P8

Entry Name: Icehouse 320m south west of Ashridge College

Scheduled Date: 15 July 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020981

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32456

County: Hertfordshire

Civil Parish: Little Gaddesden

Traditional County: Hertfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Hertfordshire

Church of England Parish: Great Berkhamsted

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans


The monument includes an icehouse situated in the grounds of an early 19th
century mansion house, which now forms part of Ashridge Management College.
The icehouse is large, mostly subterranean and Listed Grade II. The main
ice chamber is a cylindrical shaft descending 10m below ground level and
tapering downwards from 7m to 4.5m. The chamber is covered by a domed vault
pierced by a 0.6m wide chute in the top and entered via a narrow passageway
extending 8m to the east. The dome and the passageway are concealed and
insulated by an earthen mound, some 6m in height, revealing only the chute
at the top and the entrance to the passage which is framed by a rustic facade
of large puddingstone blocks. The passage itself is 3m high with straight
walls beneath a barrel vault built in a Flemish bond of soft red brick.
Similar brick in English bond and header bond is used for the walls of the
ice chamber and the dome. The passageway originally contained three doors
for further insulation - one just within the facade, one in the centre
(where the passage diverts at 25 degrees from its initial alignment) and
one set at an angle to match the curvature of the dome. These are no
longer present, although their positions are clearly indicated by the
brick frames and jambs. The chamber retains several features of particular
interest related to its use. These include the pulley attached to the
dome for the lowering and retrieving of ice, and a series of brick
courses where the vertical joints have been raked out - a practice which
is thought to indicate a double skinned wall (for insulation) which required
openings to drain water from within the cavity.

In the early 19th century the 7th Earl of Bridgewater, John William Egerton,
commissioned the total rebuild of his country mansion. The architect
responsible for this new Ashridge house was James Wyatt. Building started in
1808 and, following his death in 1813, was completed some eight years later by
his son Benjamin and nephew Jeffry Wyatville. The garden design was the work
of Humphry Repton with some modifications by Wyatville; the icehouse is
thought to date from this period. The gardens at Ashridge are Listed
Grade II* on the Register of Parks and Gardens.

A number of documentary sources record the operation of the icehouse, which
was supplied with large blocks of ice collected from local ponds and with
snow. During storage the ice would form a solid block. The method of retrieval
required a man, equipped with pick and bucket, to be lowered from the inner
door in a form of bosun's chair.

The icehouse would have served household requirements for much of the 19th
century, finally being displaced by mechanical refrigeration as this
technology became more reliable and readily available in the early 20th

The modern metal door within the ice house passage is excluded from the

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 320m south west of Ashridge College is one of the largest
and best preserved in the country. It has all of its major features
still intact, some of which are of particular interest: raked joints (which
acted as an outlet for meltings), a cavity wall, a chute and a pulley. In
addition its massive dimensions set it apart from most other surviving
examples. Specific documentry evidence detailing the memories of garden
workers involved in operating the icehouse, along with the exceptional
survival of the functional features provide a significant insight into
the management of the estate and lifestyle of its inhabitants.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Beamon, S, Roaf, S, The Ice Houses of Great Britain, (1990), 291
Buxbaum, T, Icehouses, (1992)
Sanecki, N, Thompson, M, Ashridge, (1998)
'Herts. Countryside' in Herts. Countryside, , Vol. XXIII, (1968), 24-5
Copy in NMR Swindon., Perkins, R, Hertfordshire Ice Houses - Regional Survey, (1978)
Copy in NMR Swindon., Perkins, R, Hertfordshire Ice Houses - Regional Survey, (1978)
Site Evaluation, MPP Step 3 Report, (1998)
SP 91 SE Little Gaddesden, DOE, List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest,

Source: Historic England

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