In Britain the practice of storing ice in specially constructed chambers was started in the 17th century and continued up to the early 20th century. At first ice was collected from local ponds and lakes and placed in the private Ice Houses of large estates where, if properly insulated, it would last the year through. In the latter part of the 19th century ice was imported or was manufactured commercially in this country and sold by ice merchants.
Diagram of how we believe the workings of the ice-house
Ice Houses were built partly or wholly below ground. One type, as shown in diagrams above right, was a cylindrical pit of about 3 metres in diameter and 6 metres deep with a domed top. An entrance passage, horizontal or with steps leading down was often used for access and sometimes there was a loading shaft through the top. In order to keep the ice house dry it was necessary for there to be a melt water drain. Materials used were usually brick but other local materials were also used. Insulation was improved by covering the structure with earth and planting trees. The ice was possibly layered with straw to make removal easier.
From research carried out by Friends of Colwick Woods group, and as seen in the photograph taken by Mr Alfred Woolrich in 1986 and recent photographs by Mr John Davies in 2007, we can see the inward slope of the now top layer of brickwork which leads us to believe the roof of the Ice House was of a dome construction.
The entrance can be seen in the 1986 photo where a section of brickwork approximately 1 metre wide is missing.
From measurements taken of the circular brick structure, the diameter is 3.5 metre. We have as yet to determine the depth of the structure, as only 1.5 metre of brickwork can be seen below ground level. The remainder is currently filled with soil and rubble (possibly the remnants of the collapsed roof). There is also a pipe which we believe extends from the base of the Ice House to a gulley, which allowed drainage of the melted ice.
We believe the Ice House was constructed in the then grounds of Colwick Hall Estate, of which Colwick Woods was part.