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R.G. Martin

In Britain the practice of storing ice in specially constructed chambers was started in the 17th century and continued up to the early 20th century. At first ice was collected exclusively from local ponds and lakes and was placed in the private Ice Houses of large estates where, if properly insulated, it would last the year through. These Ice Houses were usually built partly or wholly below ground, typically with a cylindrical pit of about 3 metres in diameter and 6 metres deep with a domed top. An entrance passage, horizontal or with steps leading down was often used for access and occasionally a loading shaft through the top. Materials used were usually brick but other local materials such as clunch, sandstone and flint rubble were also used. An Ice House of a much larger character at Petworth House was described in Sussex Industrial History No. 13, (1983), pp. 15 - 21 by the author. The expressions 'Ice Well' and 'Ice House' are synonymous.

Within the present Borough of Brighton there were several private Ice Houses that are known to date from the 18th or early 19th century, as follows

Ice House in Chalk Pit at top of North Street (TQ 307044)
The chalk pit in which the Ice House ws situated was first shown on the map surveyed in 1779 by Yeakell and Gardneri The land which had previously been owned by Nathaniel Kemp was bought by L. Weltje, the Prince of Wales's steward, who leased it to the Prince in 1788. The Ice House was presumably built at about this time as in 1789 it was referred to as "new-erected building called an Ice House with Tea Room and Summer House over", 2 An extant plan which was prepared when the adjacent land was offered for sale in 1818 shows the precise location of the Ice House. 3 It is known that two Ice Wells were rebuilt by the Prince Regent in 1823 and it is presumed that these were the Ice House noted above and that at the Royal Pavilion described later.

Between 1830 and 1867 there was no access to the Ice House from North Street and the address given in the Directories is Regent Row, a small alley between North Street and Regent Hill. In 1869 and 1874, the site was called 'Pocock's Ice Store', in 1878 'Pocock and Steven's Royal Ice Store' and in 1879 'The Kent and Sussex Ice Store'. 4 In 1874 the Rate Books describe the site as "Ice Well and Stabling", stating the owner as Brighton Council and the occupier as Henry Pocock and in 1884 as James Horton Stephens. Although these entries in the Rate Books are for 961 North Street they were doubtless referring to the same site. 5

From 1879 to 1903 the site was known as 96a North Street and was located on the east side of Regent Row. The occupier throughout this period being the Kent and Susex Pure Ice Company'. It is probable that offices for the company-were built on the North Street frontage in front of the Ice House, the access to the Ice House still being from Regent Row. The site is currently occupied by Messrs. Gamleys.

From 1879 onwards the 'Kent and Sussex Pure Ice Company' had a factory in Portland Road, Porislade, 6 and between 1887 and 1890 also had premises at No. 106 North Street.

Royal Pavilion Ice House (TQ 3114 0424)
An Ice House owned by the Prince Regent was situated at the south-west corner of the Royal Pavilion grounds. During excavations in 1956 it was uncovered, several feet below ground, and was described as having a domed brick roof. 7 Its location is shown on the plan of the Royal Pavilion estate by John Nash in 1822. 8 This part of the grounds, previously known as Furner's Gardens, was acquired by the Prince during 1804. 9 Presumably the Ice House was subsequently built by the Prince and that this was one of the two Ice Wells that were rebuilt in 1823.

Castle Tavern Ice House (TQ 312041)
The Prince Regent also acquired another Ice House when he bought a quarter part of the Castle Tavern which included an Ice House. 10 This was probably demolished in 1821 when the Royal Pavilion was reconstructed by John Nash.

Stanmer House Ice Houses (TQ 3349 0948 and TQ 3343 0946)
The only extant Ice House in Brighton is at Stanmer House, shown in Figures 1 and 2. It is a small square brick chamber with a brick barrel vault. Access is through a vertical brick shaft 2.7 metres deep although there are indications of another entrance, now bricked up. This could have led towards the, now demolished, service wing of the house. There are remains of a lead lining to the walls of the chamber also a high level duct leading southwards. It is probable that this Ice House was originally constructed for some other purpose, possibly in connection with the water supply system which was very extensive, otherwise there is no reasonable explanation for the depth of the structure below ground and of the other features mentioned above.

Another Ice House on the estate, is described as circular on plan, 2 metres in diameter and approximately 5 metres deep, with a domed brick roof rendered internally and with access through the top. This has now been back-filled and concreted over!'

Estate workers report that both Ice Houses were used until shortly before the First World War and that ice from the estate was used in the house and also carted into Brighton for sale. 11

(Select view image in your browser for a larger view)

The Commercial Ice Trade up to 1854
During the first half of the 19th century the increase in numbers of middle and upper class residents and visitors to the town created a demand for ice and a commercial ice trade developed to cater for this. The sources of supply of this ice are uncertain but there might well have been active trading down the east coast of England from the Norfolk Broads. It is known that ice was being imported into London from Norway by the 1850s. 12 There are no obvious local sources to satisfy such a demand. Old Steine was reputedly marshy until drained in 1792, Queen's Park Lake was not created until the 1880s and apart from several small ponds at Falmer, Rottingdean and in Stanmer Park, the only other local stretches of open water were storage reservoirs. In 1962, when an electricity substation was being erected close to the Islingword Road Reservoir (at TQ 322050) a structure was discovered and from drawings prepared at that time, this appears to have been a large Ice House. 13 Its juxtaposition to the reservoir suggests that ice was taken therefrom, but as the level of the water would have been fluctuating daily, the formation of ice on the surface would have been inhibited.

There were Ice Houses in Brighton during the first half of the nineteenth century at the following locationsc:

No. 14 Henry Street   (TQ 314043)    1834 - 1836
No. 4 Upper Church Street   (TQ 307045)    1839 - 1844
No. 36 Russell Street   (TQ 306041)    1839 - 1854
No. 42 New Dorset Street   (TQ 306046)    1839 - 1854
No. 12 St. James's Gardens   (TQ 314041)    1834 - 1844
No. 4 Centurion Place   (TQ 307045)    1840 - 1844
No. 3 Centurion Place   (TQ 307045)    1854
No. 11 Powis Grove   (TQ 305047)    1854
No. 16 William Street   (TQ 314043)    1854

The Commercial Ice Trade, 1854 - 1915
During the second half of the 19th century and more particularly after the 1870s, when ice was being imported, there was a proliferation of Ice Merchants in Brighton. It is significant that these were concentrated in the area around St. Nicholas's Church where the chalk substrate is near the surface, the closest point to the centre of the old town that this occurs. Ice merchants were often associated with Fishmongers who had other premises but it seems likely that their Ice Houses were located in this area. Their construction would probably have been cylindrical in shape and entirely underground, the sides of brick, or maybe unlined, with a domed brick top through which would have been the access trap. One was discovered while excavation work was being carried out in the playground of St. Paul's School and was probably the remains of one of those in Centurion Road. 14 It is probable that these town Ice Houses were used for temporary storage of ice pending daily distribution throughout the town.

There are records of Ice Merchants at the following locations:

No. 1 Centurion Road   

(TQ 307045)   


(Frederick Hayllar - Ice Merchant)

No. 14 Centurion Road   

(TQ 307045)   


(Larkin & Co., Ice Merchants)

No. 15 Centurion Road   

(TQ 307045)   

1887, 1892,  

(Ice Store - George Smithers)
(Ice Store - Larkin & Co.)

(Ice Store - J. Leleu)

No. 17 Centurion Road   

(TQ 307045)   


Consumers' Pure Ice & Cold Storage Syndicate, Ltd. - also at Portland Road, Hove)

No. 19 Centurion Road   

(TQ 307045)   


(Mowatts Ltd., Ice Merchants)

No. 21 Centurion Road   

(TQ 307045)   


(Samuel Larkin)




(The Kent & Sussex Pure Ice Co.)




(Provincial Consumers' Ice Supply Ltd.)

No. 16 Henry Street   

(TQ 314043)   


(Wright's Ice Well)

Holland Road   



(United, Carlo, Stevenson & Slater)
(Linde, British Refrigeration Co. Ltd.)
(Lightfoot Refrigeration Co. Ltd. - Ice Works and Cold Store)

No. 39 Market Street   

(TQ 311041)


(Samuel Larkin - Fishmonger and Ice Merchants)

No. 70 Middle Street   

(TQ 309042)   


(Mowatts Ltd., Ice Merchants)

No. 42 New Dorset Street 4, 5   

(TQ 306046)   


(W.S. Mutton - Ice House)

No. 96a North Street   

(TQ 307044)   


(Henry Pocock- Ice Well and Stabling)
(James Horton Stephens - "
(The Kent & Sussex Pure Ice Co.)
(Pocock & Stephens - The-Royal Ice Stores)

No. 106 North Street   

(TQ 307044)   


(The Kent & Sussex Pure Ice Co.)

No. 10 Powis Groves   

(TQ 305046)   


(W.S. Mutton - Ice Well)

No. 72 Preston Road   

(TQ 309056)   


(E. Ingarfield - Ice Merchant)

No. 1 Prince Albert Street

(TQ 310040)   


(Frederick Hayllar -(Fishmonger and
(John Leleu -   (Ice Merchant )
(George Smithers - Ice Merchant)
(Samuel Larkin & Co. -    "     )

Regent Row   

(TQ 307044)   


(Pocock's Ice Stores)
(The Kent & Sussex Pure Ice Co.)

No. 21a Ship Street   

(TQ 309041)   


(Christiania Lake Ice Store)

Nos. 12/13 Upper St. James's Street   

(TQ 319039)   


(Thomas Crosskey Ice Merchant)

No. 54 Western Road   

(TQ 305043)   


(Pocock & Stevens Fishmonger and Ice Merchant)

Importation of Ice
As mentioned above, Ice had been imported from Norway into London from the 1850s. There are records of ice imports into Sussex, at Shoreham from 1873 to 1915 and at Newhaven from 1887. 16 It is not known whether either of these dates represents the start of the trade, but it is significant that the  number of Ice Merchants in Brighton increases sharply from the 1870s. onward. The tonnages of ice imported into Shoreham are shown in figure 3. The trade effectively ceased during World War 1. 17

Detailed records of shipments at Shoreham Harbour from January 1901, 18 show that over this period ice was carried in steamers of 250 to 350 tons mainly of Norwegian ownership from Drobak, Christiania (now Oslo), Porsgrund, Brevik and other ports in what is now Oslo Sound. The round trip normally took about 2 to 3 weeks with continuous shipments being made between about February and November. Sometimes return trips were made via north-east England where, presumably a cargo of coal was loaded. Ice was usualy unloaded at Baltic Wharf 19 where there were timber storage sheds, now replaced, and also brick built stores at the edge of Wellington Road which had arched basements under and which still exist. Samuel Larkin & Co. is listed in the directories as having premises at Baltic Wharf between 1889 and 1903 and Mowatt Ltd. in Wellington Road between 1908 and 1915. Both these firms had other premises in the centre of Brighton. 4

Figure 3. Annual Import of Ice to Shoreham.

At Newhaven ice was imported in sailing ships. It was stored in timber storage sheds in Meeching Chalk Quarry owned by Messrs. Colgate and Gray. 4, 17 Access between the quay and the quarry was by use of the Duke of Sheffield's tramway using horse drawn tipper wagons which were also used for carting chalk for cargo or ballast from the quarry. These sheds were used for ice storage until World War 1, the blocks of ice being kept separated with wooden battens. Unloading from the store was from the upper level using horse and cart. 17

From 1879 ice has been manufactured locally. The 'Kent and Sussex Pure Ice Company' had a plant along Portland Road, Portslade and advertised "Pure Ice Made from Celebrated Goldstone Water, Fresh every Day from the Factory - Private Families can be Supplied Daily". 6

The quantity of ice used during this period was quite substantial. The total imported through Shoreham in the peak year of 1901 was 11,115 tons 19 Allowing for ice being also imported through Newhaven, and for some being manufactured, this represents the contents of more than 400 Ice Houses of average size, although how many times each one would have been refilled during the season is purely speculation.

It would seem that, in the late 19th century many people in Brighton regarded the provision of ice as a normal requirement.

1. Yeakell and Gardner, Map of Brightelmstone, (1779)
2. East Sussex Record Office, SAS BRI 115.
3. East Sussex Record Office, SAS BRI 124.
4. Folthorp's, Page's, Pike's and Kelly's Directories of Brighton and Hove District.
5. Brighton Council, Rate Books., (1834, 1839, 1840, 1854, 1874/75, 1884) in Brighton Reference Library.
6. Page, Street Directory of Brighton Hove and District, (1879)
7. Clifford Musgrave, Royal Pavilion, (1959), p. 19.
8. John Nash, Map of Royal Pavilion Estate, (1822), reproduced in John Dinkel, The Royal Pavilion Brighton, (1983), p. 75.
9. S. Farrant, Physical Development of the Royal Pavilion Estate, (1982), Sussex Archaeological Collections Volume 120, pp. 177, 178.
10. Ibid, p. 180.
11. Information from Mr. Owen Williams.
12. Prof. Tore Ouren, The Norwegian Ice Trade, National Maritime Museum, Maritime Monographs and Reports No. 49 - 1981, P. 31.
13. The Waterwheel, house magazine of Brighton Waterworks Department (now Southern Water Authority), Dec. 1962, pp. 4 and 5 and Feb. 1963, p. 6 also drawing prepared by Engineering Department, in author's possession.
14. Information from Mr. Richard Braybon.
15. Public Records Office, PRO Class Customs 23, (1873 - 1885).
16. Newhaven Port, Trade Returns, documents no longer available, information from J.H. Farrant.
17.. Information from Mr. Peter Bailey and Mr. Robert Holden at Newhaven Harbour Museum.
18. Shoreham Port Authority, Trade Returns made by Shoreham Harbour Trustees (1880 -1914).
19. Shoreham Port Authority, Arrivals and Departures Ledger, (1901 - 1915).

R. G. Martin 1984 - 2001
This item originally appeared in Sussex Industrial History No.14 1984/5 and is used with kind permission of the author.


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