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Ice House Survey April 10th 2016

300 years ago, England's greatest landscape gardener, Lancelot "Capability" Brown was born. He was responsible for design and implementation of great changes at Trentham, over the years 1759 to 1780, when he was employed by the Estate.

Due to complete this year, The Trentham Estate have been carrying out a project to re-discover the landscape that Capability Brown created. While clearing trees on the western side of the lake, the estate gardeners discovered remains of a Georgian triple boat house and a Georgian ice house. The ice house was used to store ice removed from the lake during the winter. The Estate asked us to investigate the remains of the ice house with a view to an excavation later this year. To give you an idea of what a typical ice house may have looked like, here are a couple of pages from the 1835 edition of Loudon's Encyclopaedia of Gardening. (If you have difficulty reading the text, click on it to get a larger view):


Encyc Gardening p611

Encyc Gardening p612

The images above are taken from Google Books' copy of "An Encyclopaedia of Gardening" 1835

Trentham Estate have estate maps from before and after Capability Brown's alterations. Here are extracts showing the area of the ice house:

Before alteration After alteration
Before alteration After alteration (we have coloured the icehouse in red)

Below are some photos of the remains of the ice house found recently (all photos by David Thomas):

Ice House wall view 1 Ice House wall view 2

We marked out two adjacent 20m x 20m squares over the area around where the walls had been revealed and below it (between the walls and the lake), and walked the magnetometer over them. We had already arranged to have the hole where the walls were, back filled for safety.

Marking out 1 Marking out 2
Marking out the first square Checking the length of the line
Marking out 3 Walking the line
Marking out the second square Walking the line with the magnetometer (wearing clothing containing no metal!)


The data from the magnetometer were uploaded to a laptop and processed using a programme called Snuffler to produce the following map (N to the right). You may be able to make out the current pathway running from left to right diagonally across the top half of the image, and below this to the right a vaguely circular area of the icehouse itself, with possibly the drain projecting from it eastwards (down, in this view). For Winston's (our dig director's) interpretation, read his report, which you can download as a pdf file here.

Magnetometer results

Stoke-on-Trent Museum Archaeological Society, 23rd April 2016