THE ICE HOUSE AT WATERPERRY
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 itself comprises a twin-walled brick chamber, roughly the shape of an ice cream cone (with one scoop!). It has a diameter of around 9' (2.7m) at its widest part, tapering down to about 7' (2.1m) at the bottom. It is around 15' (4.5m) deep from top of the cone to the bottom. The ice house is a fine piece of engineering, with the dome made with 'rubbed' bricks to get the necessary shape (bricks would have been rubbed together to wear away enough to give an angled join), and effectively has one 'cone' built inside another. It is in excellent condition.
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.
Access to the chamber is via a tunnel, some 6' 6" (2m) high and 4' (1.2m) wide. This is currently around 23' (7m) long although may once have been longer. Unlike the ice house, this tunnel is not in good condition - in fact we are not quite sure why it has not yet collapsed!
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.
The first two pictures above show how the ice house looked before we started removing the soil to enable repairs. There was is quite pile of earth and rubble in front of the entrance, and it was so well disguised, particularly in the summer when it was hidden by foliage, that most visitors were unaware of its existence.
The third picture shows how it looks now we have had the earth removed from the front. It is clearly much easier to see now, and it turns out the floor is not above ground level, as we believed it was when we had to clime over the heap first.
It is also now clear there was once a stone 'entrance' of some sort, but quite what this looked like we currently do not know. We are hoping to utilise this as the base of some complimentary entrance as part of the overall work.
The pictures above show the entrance and tunnel roof after the earth has been removed (May 2017). We have had some 75 tonnes of soil removed (mainly clay) and now the extent of the tunnel damage can be seen. In fact it looks like the tunnel was built in 3 separate sections, the last two of which were built on stone walls some 2' (600mm) thick. The first section (against the ice house) has started to collapse, with the side walls leaning out causing the arch to break and form an almost heart-shaped cross-section. Quite why the side walls should move in this way given the incredibly hard clay each side is currently beyond us.
The middle section appears to be in good serviceable condition.
The last section (gate end) is damaged, mostly by a yew tree that was attempting to grow through it. However the walls are fine, so we only need to remove some 9' (2.7m) of arch and rebuild it.
The first section will have to be dismantled down to a point where the side walls have broken, roughly 2' (600mm) from the floor level, and re-built, back-filling the space that will then be present between the new walls and the hard clay behind.
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