Kent Archaeological Review extract

Ice House at Sundridge Park, Bromley.
by Brian Philp.
(West Kent Archaeological Group.)

This site, (NGR TQ 4128 7014) lies in the extreme south-west corner of the grounds of Sundridge Park in the parish of Bromley, Kent. The area is strictly private, densely wooded and access is difficult. The ice house is situated on a gentle north-east facing slope on Woolwich and Reading Beds at an elevation of about 70 metres OD. The centre of the structure lies about 10 metres from the wire fence bounding the playing fields to the west and about 30 m. from the fence bounding the allotment to the south.

Members of the West Kent Group undertook a measured survey of the structure in March, 1975 through the kind permission of the Management Centre Ltd. The work was done by Messrs Ray Gierth, David Bolton, Ron Fendt and the writer following correspondence with Mr G Locke who kindly pin-pointed the structure and also supplied some of the information.


The site is at present marked by a low, broad earth-mound standing on the south-east side of a man-made pond. The mound seals a very fine and massive ice house (Figure 1). The structure consists of a huge brick-built chamber, approached by a flanking passage with a porch and entrance tunnel. The greater part of the structure was set below original ground-level.

The main chamber was circular with an internal diameter of 7.15 metres and a minimum height of about 9 metres. The lower part was filled with rubbish which masked the bottom. The side walls ran vertically for about 6 metres before springing inwards into a low vault pierced by a central hole about 1 metre in diameter. Mr. Locke has suggested that the vaulting was a cavity construction and an overall thickness of about 50 centimetres seems probable. The brickwork, unrendered internally, was generally of English bond. The main entry into the chamber was on the north side through a wide, rectangular opening about 1.50 metres wide and 1.20 metres high, situated at the junction of the wall and the vault.

Entry into the mound was by means of a curving brick-built passage, about 1.15 metres wide which was traced for a distance of 8.50 metres. At least 3 metres of this was still vaulted, but whether this had been entered by steps or a ramp down was not determined owing to the collapse. The passage curved away to the east in the general direction of the adjacent pond. This passage ended at a doorway which gave access to a small, rectangular 'porch' 2.35 metres by 1.85 metres attached to the side of the main chamber. On the left of this another doorway gave access to a 1.15 metres. Plan of an 18th century Ice House found at Sundridge Park, Bromley, Kent. wide vaulted passage which followed the curve of the main chamber. At a point 5.95 metres along the passage was another doorway and beyond this the last 3.20 metres of passage from which sprang the main entry into the great chamber.

DRAWING: Plan of an 18th century Ice House found.

Plan of an 18th century Ice House found at Sundridge Park, Bromley, Kent.


The edge of the pond lay just 20 metres north-west of the centre of the ice house. It had been cut into the slope of the hill being some 3metres deep at the west end and about 2 metres deep at the east end. The overall size of the excavation for the pond was about 25 by 15 metres and the water in it covered about 22 by 13 metres and was still about 1 metre deep. The upcast soil from the pond was on the east side where it helped form a broad, low dam about 10 metres wide.


It is clear that the structure is both one of the largest and finest ice houses in the area and is worthy of preservation. It almost certainly served the great Georgian mansion at Sundridge Park (Grade 1) built by Repton, Nash and Wyatt about 1796 about 1 kilometres to the north-east. Its function was to hold a volume of ice for domestic use during the summer months and also as a cold-storage chamber for meat, game and similar perishable foodstuffs. It seems highly probable that the pond was deliberately created nearby on the sheltered north side to provide a source of ice during the winter. The ice was probably collected by the estate gardeners in early morning and fed into the central chamber, or ice-well, through the upper opening. The ice was often laid in layers of straw and a drain normally exists at the base to take away the melt-water.

The upcast soil from the ice house area was placed over the structure to give added insulation and a covering of trees and bushes would have given shelter. The various doorways, in effect, created air-locks and the carefully placed entrance faced either east or north. In addition the long passages and cavity-wall construction aided the overall insulation.

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