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Fernhill Ice House

Wootton came a step closer to renovating its ice house when county archaeological offer Frank Basford made an inspection of the building.

The ice house near Five Acre Copse on the Briddlesford Estate once belonged to Fern House, and is thought to have been built around the same time in the late 18th to early 19th century.

Picture of interior of Fernhill Ice House
Fernhill Ice House Interior

Ice stored in the brick structure was packed with sacking and straw, and could remain frozen for up to four years.

Ice was gathered from local ponds and lakes in winter but was also imported from places such as Scandinavia.

It was then taken as needed to the pantries and cellars of the houses, where it was used to prolong the life of meat and other foods.

In November 1983, Wootton Bridge Parish Council was approached to see what could be done about conserving the building, and it subsequently obtaining permission for renovation work from the landowners.

Mr Basford, along with a delegation from the parish council walked out to inspect the building.

Having crawled into the partially filled entrance, he said there appeared to be no evidence of bats, which would hold up renovation while a licence to disturb the protected species was obtained. The ten-foot wide structure appears to be a mound by the path, but the brick-lined inside is shaped like an egg with its narrowest point facing down.

Mr Basford said, “Basically it is in reasonably good condition, it is half filled with rubbish, but most of the work will be in renovating limestone and brickwork, it would make a good community project.” He said there were 18 ice houses known on the Island, but there might be more to be discovered.

Mrs. Lynda Smith, parish council clerk, said the next step was to get a quote from a mason to do the restoration sympathetically, and then they would be in position to approach the rural action scheme for funding for the project. “Once we know how much it will cost, we can start applying for grants.”

Source: Isle of Wight County Press, 7th July 1995

This page was last edited on: 26th January, 2022 17:50:34

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