From Wikipedia: Ice houses or icehouses are buildings used to store ice throughout the year, commonly used prior to the invention of the refrigerator. Some were underground chambers, usually man-made, close to natural sources of winter ice such as freshwater lakes, but many were buildings with various types of insulation.
During the winter, ice and snow would be cut from lakes or rivers, taken into the ice house, and packed with insulation (often straw or sawdust). It would remain frozen for many months, often until the following winter, and could be used as a source of ice during the summer months. The main application of the ice was the storage of foods, but it could also be used simply to cool drinks, or in the preparation of ice-cream and sorbet desserts. During the heyday of the ice trade, a typical commercial ice house would store 2,700 tonnes (3,000 short tons) of ice in a 30-by-100-foot (9 by 30 m) and 14-metre-high (45 ft) building.
History: A cuneiform tablet from c. 1780 BC records the construction of an icehouse by Zimri-Lim, the King of Mari, in the northern Mesopotamian town of Terqa, "which never before had any king built." In China, archaeologists have found remains of ice pits from the 7th century BC, and references suggest that these were in use before 1100 BC. Alexander the Great stored snow in pits dug for that purpose around 300 BC. In Rome, in the 3rd century AD, snow was imported from the mountains, stored in straw-covered pits, and sold from snow shops. The ice that formed in the bottom of the pits sold at a higher price than the snow on top.
Ice was often imported into the UK from Scandinavia until the 1920s, although from around 1900 the import of ice declined sharply due to the development of factories in the UK where ice was made artificially. Usually, only large mansions had purpose-built buildings to store ice. Many examples of ice houses exist in the UK, some of which have fallen into disrepair.
Good examples of 19th-century ice houses can be found at Ashton Court, Bristol, Albrighton, Bridgnorth, Grendon, Warwickshire, and at Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich, Suffolk, Petworth House, Sussex, Danny House, Sussex, Ayscoughfee Hall, Spalding, Rufford Abbey, Eglinton Country Park in Scotland, Parlington Hall in Yorkshire and Croxteth Hall Liverpool, Burghley House, Stamford and Moggerhanger Park, Moggerhanger, Bedfordshire. A domed example with circular tie-access from above and side-entrance survives at Stoke Park, Berkshire. An unusual example of an ice house that was converted from a redundant brick springhead can be found in the former grounds of Norton House, Midsomer Norton, Somerset.
In 2018, the very large Park Crescent West ice well was discovered in Park Crescent, London. It was created for Samuel Dash in the early 1780s for commercial use before the building of the John Nash crescent was begun in 1806. This ice house is 9.5 metres (31 ft) deep, and 7.5 metres (25 ft) wide, and is only a few metres away from the Jubilee line on the London Underground. Originally used for the storage of local ice taken from the River Thames in the winter months, it was taken over in the 1820s by the ice merchant William Leftwich, who used it for storing imported ice from the frozen lakes of Norway.
A pair of commercial ice wells has been preserved in London, beneath what is now the London Canal Museum at King's Cross. They are around 30 feet in diameter and were originally 42 feet deep. They were built in 1857 and 1863 by the Swiss entrepreneur Carlo Gatti.
Simon Pearce writes: "Below are some pictures I took ages ago of the ice-house on the Berners Estate, with its double-domed roof for insulation purposes. Note the small entrance, again to prevent loss of cold air. It would probably have had two doors. Ice came from Holbrook gardens and ponds in a cold winter, otherwise by boat and taken up from the river along the donkey path."