Icehouse 140m west of Coombe Place


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019884

Date first listed: 24-Nov-2000


Ordnance survey map of Icehouse 140m west of Coombe Place
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: East Sussex

District: Lewes (District Authority)

Parish: Hamsey

National Park: SOUTH DOWNS

National Grid Reference: TQ 39188 12302


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

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.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


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.

MAP EXTRACT 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.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 32268

Legacy System: RSM


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

End of official listing