INSIDE THE ICE HOUSE
It is not currently known just when the Waterperry ice house was built. The assumption is that it would have been built at the same time as the major extension work was done on Waterperry House, in 1713. However, it may have been built later in the 18th century. There is a nearby artificial lake (the 'cut') which fills from the river Thame during flood situations, and we suspect this was built primarily to supply ice to the ice house, and that the spoil from creating this lake was used to form the clearly artificial mound over the ice house.
The ice house is a Grade II listed building with an English Heritage Building ID of 246726
The entrance is visible from the access road beside Havergal cottage. It is above ground level, although a build up of earth at the front makes it look higher than it actually is.
NOTE: This was how it looked before clearance work started in May 2017
The tunnel is some 23 feet (7 metres) long, and is in poor condition, in some cases being positively dangerous. There are many tonnes of earth above, and as you will see from the pictures, in some places the roof is so badly cracked that it is collapsing. Unless we attend to this urgently we could lose access to the ice house entirely.
The Ice House
Unlike the entrance passage, the actual ice house appears to be in excellent condition, although in need of a clear out!
It has a diameter of around 9' (2.7m) at its widest part, and around 15' (4.5m) deep from the bottom of the access archway, with the domed roof going up to about 5' (1.5m) above this level. Assuming ice would have been packed in with bales of straw 6" diameter (150mm) against the wall, right up to the bottom edge of the access archway, the ice house could hold nearly 9 cubic metres of ice, something like 8 tonnes. The house could then be supplied with over 20kg of ice each day (approximately 2 full buckets) for year with one filling of the ice house.
Ice houses were the first use of cavity walls for insulation purposes in the UK, and Waterperry ice house is built just that way:
This is very impressive, particularly as the inner 'cone' is totally reliant on the outer one for support, unlike conventional modern houses where each of the two skins of wall stand alone with just a few 'tie bars' between to improve overall stability. This would have been a very interesting thing to build!
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