Whilst Ketteringham Hall will surely give you a warm welcome, be it as a tenant, event organiser, guest or visitor it is not what was needed in the hot summers of the 19th century before the days of electricity, refrigerators or freezers…..so what to do………..obviously an icehouse!
Whats an icehouse some of you may be asking? Well in simple terms its a building or room filled with ice that is insulated by the various means available in those days in an effort to keep perishable goods for as long as possible.There are some 3,000 of these remaining in Britain today many of them being listed buildings because of their scarcity and in an effort to retain the country’s heritage.
The one at Ketteringham lies just outside the current grounds of the Hall and is of special interest as it is so ornate. It is being restored under the watchful eye of the local parish council.
This icehouse is a fine piece of Victorian arcitecture in a mixture of brick and stone being created by the Boileau family in the mid 19th century. As you enter down the brick corridor you can see etched into the bricks the marks made by the staff to count the loads of ice gathered from the nearby lake in the winter which were then dropped into the cavernous egg shaped interior buried partly underground and then, where it protruded above ground, the brickwork was insulated with soil piled on top forming an artificial mound clearly visible to this day.
The restoration has not been without its problems one of them being bats which had been found to roost in it and have had to be provided for with protruding brick perches to hang from and a specially designed door to allow them to enter and exit the building at night.
However the end is in sight after many months of planning and grant aquisition – coupled with weeks of work to acheive the result you can see in the picture. The icehouse will shortly be fully visible when the scaffolding is taken down the new fencing erected and the front area gravelled – more of which anon.