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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Oxford

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The icehouse at Buckland House, Oxfordshire
© Ann Gladstone, July 2003
Life before the freezer

An ice cold Chablis or a tub of finest Cornish ice cream is all too easy to produce these days - even the kids can handle the freezer.

But, just imagine if you had to cut the ice from the nearby pond in mid winter, haul the lumps to the icehouse and take ice carvings to the kitchen - would you be quite so keen to have an iced drink?

From the 17th Century, icehouses in Britain became the first walk-in freezers and changed the face of menus and the drinks cabinet.

Although first records of using ice to chill drinks and foods can be traced back to Mesopotamia - some 4000 years ago - this practice did not really come about in Britain until the late 1600s, even then it was only something the rich could enjoy.

The use of icehouses came to these shores via France after the Restoration. By the 18th Century, most wealthy landowners had one built in the grounds of their principle homes.

Buckland House
© Ann Gladstone, July 2003
One such icehouse is sited in the parkland of Buckland House in Oxfordshire.

Buckland House, a Palladian Villa, was designed by John Wood Jnr. and built in the 1760s for Sir Robert Throckmorton, as a shooting lodge and weekend retreat.

The icehouse and the entire landscape garden on the estate were designed by a contemporary of Capability Brown - Richard Woods. It was sited on a north-facing slope behind Buckland House, roughly half way to the two man-made lakes - the source of the ice.

Richard Woods designed the lakes to look like a part of the River Thames and they were joined with a small waterfall - the larger lake being sited above the smaller. The Thames is, in fact, only a short punt away.

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