Kelsey Park Beckenham


In the days before refrigeration many estates would have an ice well. Generally this would be a brick-lined pit in the ground with a domed roof to control the circulation of air. It was often sited under trees and some way from the house. There would be some form of drainage at the bottom and the ice packed between layers of straw. This would be cut from nearby ponds/lakes or could be bought. Ice for commercial purposes was imported from Norway (1820's - 1921) and America (1840's). The ice well worked in the same way as a vacuum flask by insulating in the cold and excluding the warmth. Ice would then be available throughout the year or maybe last for two years. Because they were tucked away and vegetation was encouraged to grow over them their presence isn't always obvious. At least 2500 ice houses still exist in Britain. Below are some examples in the London area. One of the earliest was built in Greenwich in 1619.

In KELSEY PARK, Beckenham and OSTERLEY PARK former ice wells are now only visible as mounds by lakeside paths having been filled in for safety reasons. A photograph on display at Osterley shows a frame that would have been used to transport the ice. Beckenham walk

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