Archaeologists have discovered a glittering subterranean ice house which was built in 1780 beneath a London address very close to Regent’s Park after investigating new construction currently taking place around the stucco terrace buildings of Park Crescent West.
As The Guardian has reported, this grand ice store is both the largest and the oldest that has ever been unearthed in London, and while archaeologists were quite certain that there was a Georgian ice house somewhere in the vicinity of the area, they weren’t sure exactly where it was, according to David Sorapure of the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA).
“There was always an understanding that there was an ice house here somewhere, but we weren’t sure where. Even after we discovered where the entrance was, we weren’t quite sure how big it was, or how you got in.”
In the grand old days of Georgian life in London, well-to-do hosts would serve their guests drinks that were made with cut ice from exotic Norwegian fjords, which was carried by boat into England and then stored in ice houses to be purchased by discerning customers.
The surprise discovery of the Regent’s Park ice house in London has prompted officials to designate the site as a scheduled monument, and once construction has concluded at Park Crescent West, curious onlookers will be able to visit the Georgian ice house to catch a glimpse of life in a bygone era.
Chilling discovery: ice house found under London street https://t.co/FKrNvEIbBe— Guardian news (@guardiannews) December 28, 2018
The brick ice house archaeologists discovered in London is shaped like a very large egg and measures in at 7.5 meters wide, with a deepness of 9.5 meters. After the terraced housing above where the ice house was built was bombed during World War II, rubble had been placed inside the gaps, which meant that there was a great deal of excavation work which lasted for several months before the ice house could finally be properly explored.
The man responsible for constructing the London ice house was Samuel Dash, and as he is reported to have had family members that worked in the brewing industry, building an ice house in 1780 would have been a logical move. While undoubtedly popular after it was first built, business really kicked off in 1820 when William Leftwich came up with the novel idea of taking pieces of Norwegian ice fjords and shipping them straight to England.
In fact, in 1822 Leftwich was able to successfully import a whopping 300 tons of fjord to the country, some of which would have found a very good home in the enormous Regent’s Park ice house.
Danny Harrison, an archaeologist at MOLA, has explained that dentists would have found another use for this ice with their patients.
“We know they used to use ice to numb things, for doing dentistry, and we have Harley Street and Wimpole Street near here, There is a good chance they were getting clean ice from here. By emptying and being able to investigate this wonderful space, it’s led to further research questions, and that’s where we are going to spend our time now.”
Harrison also noted that the ice stored in the London ice house eventually became much more democratic in nature after the 1830s, and that with the passing of time it “bridges the gap between the time when ice was only for the very wealthy, to a kind of mass availability of ice, which you get from the 1830s and 40s. And this occupies that 50-year space. It’s ice for everyone, eventually.”