This building is both an Ice House and an Arts and Crafts Summer House. The original ice well was built in the mid 1700s, when the well-to-do would store ice, stored in layers of straw – as refrigeration was not available. Iced desserts were very popular from Georgian times to Edwardian. High Elms and the Bishops Palace had one Ice House each, while Sundridge Park had two.
Ships plying the “Ice Trade”, would supplement the limited supply of ice from lakes and marches in the UK winters with ice from overseas. Initially the ice was brought in from the United States, but after about 1850 most of the ice came from lakes in Norway – large Ice Houses were built in London to store the ice before reselling it.
Ice deserts became popular with the very wealthy from 1670s. They reached quite an art form in the mid 1800s, being moulded and decorated. Flavours included cucumber, bread and pistachio, tea, and coffee, in addition to flavours common today like orange and lemon.
This ice well was then remodelled in the 1860s, by R Norman Shaw, who also designed some estate cottages and a bailiff’s cottage for the Lord of the Manor, Mr Coles Childs. He added a nice porch with a seat in (currently removed for alleged antisocial behaviour), with a view over the Ha-Ha along the valley where the Blackbrook runs into the Ravensbourne by St Marks church.
The building was inspected in 1975 by Geoffrey G Cooke, who described it and provided measured drawings for English Heritage, where it is on their ‘At Risk’ register. In 2020 the roof collapsed.
When the palace was part of Stockwell College, the ice house was used to store canoes – they cut a square hole in the wall that faces the lake, to push the boats in.