Icehouse 320m south west of Ashridge College


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020981

Date first listed: 15-Jul-2003


Ordnance survey map of Icehouse 320m south west of Ashridge College
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This copy shows the entry on 17-Dec-2018 at 14:49:31.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Hertfordshire

District: Dacorum (District Authority)

Parish: Little Gaddesden

National Grid Reference: SP 99256 11902


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 320m south west of Ashridge College is one of the largest and best preserved in the country. It has all of its major features still intact, some of which are of particular interest: raked joints (which acted as an outlet for meltings), a cavity wall, a chute and a pulley. In addition its massive dimensions set it apart from most other surviving examples. Specific documentry evidence detailing the memories of garden workers involved in operating the icehouse, along with the exceptional survival of the functional features provide a significant insight into the management of the estate and lifestyle of its inhabitants.


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


The monument includes an icehouse situated in the grounds of an early 19th century mansion house, which now forms part of Ashridge Management College. The icehouse is large, mostly subterranean and Listed Grade II. The main ice chamber is a cylindrical shaft descending 10m below ground level and tapering downwards from 7m to 4.5m. The chamber is covered by a domed vault pierced by a 0.6m wide chute in the top and entered via a narrow passageway extending 8m to the east. The dome and the passageway are concealed and insulated by an earthen mound, some 6m in height, revealing only the chute at the top and the entrance to the passage which is framed by a rustic facade of large puddingstone blocks. The passage itself is 3m high with straight walls beneath a barrel vault built in a Flemish bond of soft red brick. Similar brick in English bond and header bond is used for the walls of the ice chamber and the dome. The passageway originally contained three doors for further insulation - one just within the facade, one in the centre (where the passage diverts at 25 degrees from its initial alignment) and one set at an angle to match the curvature of the dome. These are no longer present, although their positions are clearly indicated by the brick frames and jambs. The chamber retains several features of particular interest related to its use. These include the pulley attached to the dome for the lowering and retrieving of ice, and a series of brick courses where the vertical joints have been raked out - a practice which is thought to indicate a double skinned wall (for insulation) which required openings to drain water from within the cavity.

In the early 19th century the 7th Earl of Bridgewater, John William Egerton, commissioned the total rebuild of his country mansion. The architect responsible for this new Ashridge house was James Wyatt. Building started in 1808 and, following his death in 1813, was completed some eight years later by his son Benjamin and nephew Jeffry Wyatville. The garden design was the work of Humphry Repton with some modifications by Wyatville; the icehouse is thought to date from this period. The gardens at Ashridge are Listed Grade II* on the Register of Parks and Gardens.

A number of documentary sources record the operation of the icehouse, which was supplied with large blocks of ice collected from local ponds and with snow. During storage the ice would form a solid block. The method of retrieval required a man, equipped with pick and bucket, to be lowered from the inner door in a form of bosun's chair.

The icehouse would have served household requirements for much of the 19th century, finally being displaced by mechanical refrigeration as this technology became more reliable and readily available in the early 20th century.

The modern metal door within the ice house passage is excluded from the scheduling.

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: 32456

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Beamon, S, Roaf, S, The Ice Houses of Great Britain, (1990), 291
Buxbaum, T, Icehouses, (1992)
Sanecki, N, Thompson, M, Ashridge, (1998)
'Herts. Countryside' in Herts. Countryside, , Vol. XXIII, (1968), 24-5
Copy in NMR Swindon., Perkins, R, Hertfordshire Ice Houses - Regional Survey, (1978)
Copy in NMR Swindon., Perkins, R, Hertfordshire Ice Houses - Regional Survey, (1978)
Site Evaluation, MPP Step 3 Report, (1998)
SP 91 SE Little Gaddesden, DOE, List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest,

End of official listing