Icehouse at Ringstead, 660m south west of Pit House


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020358

Date first listed: 25-Nov-1999


Ordnance survey map of Icehouse at Ringstead, 660m south west of Pit House
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Dorset

District: West Dorset (District Authority)

Parish: Osmington

National Grid Reference: SY 74612 81593

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 at Ringstead, 660m south west of Pit House, survives well and represents one of only two examples of this form known in Dorset. It is also unusual as it is one of the smallest examples known in the county and the only one known to have been situated in close proximity to the coast. The absence of a closely associated mansion indicates that this example was most likely designed to serve the needs of the local fishing community during the 19th century.


The monument includes an icehouse situated on a west-facing slope immediately west of the medieval settlement remains of Rigstead, which are the subject of a separate scheduling. The icehouse, which occupies an artificial terrace cut into the hillside, has a flint-built chamber with maximum dimensions of 3m square. This chamber is covered by a mound composed of earth, stone and turf, with maximum dimensions of 9m from east to west, 12m from north to south and about 1.5m in height. Access to the chamber was provided by a door on the northern side, served by an external open-topped passage, aligned east-west, providing access to the stream to the west. The passage, which extends for 6m, occupies the northern end of the terrace. The truncated bank of the natural slope has been revetted on the northern side of the passage by a flint-built wall. At the eastern end of the passage an archway extends across linking the top of the icehouse mound with the natural slope to the north.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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

Legacy System number: 29093

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Penny, A, 'Proc Dorset Nat Hist Arch Soc' in Icehouses In Dorset, , Vol. Vol 86, (1963), 221

End of official listing