Bohemia Village Voice  Bohemia Village Voice

For bohemians everywhere

Picture Puzzle 37 – answer

Summerfields Icehouse.

Summerfields Icehouse.

The picture is last week’s puzzle shows an ‘ice house’, once part of the Bohemia House estate, and which is shown on an 1834 map. It is located in an earth bank in a car park between the Law Courts, Horntye Park Sports Complex and the Fire Station. The late Mr J M Baines, one time museum curator described the Summerfields Ice House as a ‘single bee-hive shaped room dug into the ground, and completely hidden except for its domed roof.  It would have been packed with ice during the winter and served as a refrigerator for food’. Baines went on to say that  ‘such houses are extremely rare and this house has been preserved in good order’.
An icehouse is generally comprised of a deep brick lined well surmounted by a domed or sometimes pyramidal roof. An entrance passage sometimes with a curve would be fitted with two doors to prevent the ingress of heat. The ice would be cut in the winter from shallow ponds and stacked on a bed of straw and also covered in straw. A drain would be provided in the bottom of the icehouse in order to drain off the meltwater.
The building would often be built into a bank and covered with earth in order to insulate it thermally. The general assumption is that such buildings would be used for the preservation of meat and fish. However this was not the case; ice was used to make the icecreams, chilled drinks, syllabubs and so on consumed during the summer months and the ability to provide these exotic luxuries would raise the owner’s social status. The development of compressor driven refrigeration in the latter part of the 19th century rang the death knell for these structures.
In 1972 all of the upper entrance was visible. The roof to the entrance was subsequently destroyed because it was mistaken for an air-raid shelter. Listing of the structure was only finally achieved in May 1999.
Part of the inspection report read:    ‘The ice house was thought to have been part of Westel Brisco’s improvements to the Bohemia Estate following his purchase of the house and grounds in 1831. It was built of coursed local stone with the dome covered in cement render. The icehouse consists of ‘a semi-subterranean single beehive-shaped chamber measuring 3.7m. square on plan and 5.5m. in height built into a north facing bank.  The main entrance on the south-west side was by a short tunnel, now demolished, which arrived in the chamber at mid level. The floor of the chamber contained a drain outlet. The ice house was adjacent to a courtyard fronting Bohemia House. Bohemia House was demolished about 1972’.
At time of inspection this was the only known ice house in the Borough of Hastings. It was open to the public as part of the Civic Trust’s Heritage Open Day Programme in September 2005.

Cross-section of the Icehouse.

Cross-section of the Icehouse.

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