Ice Houses were an essential item for any country house in the 18th and 19th Centuries and Waterperry House was no exception. Near the entrance to the estate beside a new dwelling is a small entrance to a tunnel that leads to a chamber. The tunnel is 30 feet long and was in serious need of repair. Unlike the tunnel the ice house itself is in excellent condition. It comprises a twin-walled brick chamber, roughly the shape of an ice cream in a cone and 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 the 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 and effectively has one 'cone' built inside another.
So under the guidance of volunteer project manager Steve Pegrum 50 cubic metres of soil were removed from above the ice house to reveal the arch of the tunnel and locate the shaft where the ice would have been dropped in. Half the tunnel roof was dismantled and rebuilt (with the inclusion of several 'bat bricks'!) and the ice house itself given a good clear out.
The hope is that one day the Ice House can be open to the public for unguided tours which would mean the addition of further safety features and lighting but for now it is possible to arrange a visit with a guide. Please ask Gordon in the museum. To find out more about the project or donate please visit http://www.waterperryicehouse.com/index.htm