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How to Fill an Ice House
from Charles McIntosh, The Practical Gardener, 1828

Keeping food and drink cool was a perennial problem for householders before the age of refrigeration. Large houses and estates often had ice houses, great structures built into the side of a hill or embankment or even atop a hill and filled each winter with ice from a pond or lake, ice imported from the highlands, or with snow that, compacted, would form ice. Maintained well, ice could last the year through in these ice houses. These instructions for storing ice in the icehouse date from 1828.

See also How to Build an Ice House.


When either snow or ice can be obtained, begin by laying a good coat of straw on the bottom of the ice house, and up part of the sides. If snow, throw it in, and let it be well beaten together and so proceed until the house is full. If ice, prefer the thinnest (that is, about an inch thick), break it as finely as possible, with clubs and mallets at the entrance, put it in also, and let two or three men be employed in the house, packing and beating it close together with rammers. As the operation proceed, sprinkle a little water occasionally over the whole, which will make it freeze together in a solid body. The whole art in keeping ice simply consists in packing it closely, and defending it from the action of the atmospheric air.

The house being full, let the doors be shut up, and the spaces between each packed full of straw. For security, have the outer door locked and the joints between the door and the casement painted over with a thick coat of coarse paint, or strong lime wash. it will be unnecessary to open it afterwards, until opened to take out the ice. Care must be taken, every time that any ice be taken out, to have the doors all shut, and the spaces filled up again with straw. It should be taken out as expeditiously as possible, and one person should take the ice to the kitchen, or wine cellar, while another renders the house secure again.

Some people put salt with the ice as the house is filling, but this is quite unnecessary. It will consolidate as well with it as without it.


Please also visit Old London Maps on the web as many of the maps
and views available there have plans and depictions of gardens from
the medieval period through to the late nineteenth century.

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