Kent Archaeological Review extract

Ice Well at Kevington.
by John Blundell.

Exploratory digging has now commenced at the eighteenth century ice well situated in the grounds of the new Shawcroft School, St Mary Cray, (NGR TQ 482 675). The well was in use until the turn of the century, and appears to have served nearby Kevington Manor, owned by the Berens family. The old manor house is also used as a school. (A short report first appeared in KAR 39 (Spring 1975).)

It was in October 1974 that the Greater London Council first drew the attention of the Orpington and District Amenity Society to the well, and invited us to investigate the structure.

The maximum external diameter of the dome is approximately 15 feet, the brick walls being rather over 1 foot thick. The internal depth to the drain grating may well be 20 feet, but this cannot be verified until accumulated earth and rubbish have been removed; this operation will be lengthy.

Surface digs made in June and July have exposed part of the entrance passage. A brick ramp 4 foot 8 inches by 3 feet 6 inches is immediately adjacent to the 2 feet by 2 feet crawl hole. The ramp gives way to a horizontal flint paved area. As investigations proceed, it is anticipated that remains of the passage wall foundations will be revealed. Tree roots across the excavated section are something of a hindrance, but if severed could result in the loss of an attractive beech tree.

PHOTO: View of Ice Well.

View of Ice Well showing brick ramp (2) leading to crawl hole. The earth mound (6) is shown covering the dome of the structure.

DRAWING: Plan and Section of the 18th century icw well at Kevington.

Plan and Section of the 18th century icw well at Kevington.

  1. Brick ramp.
  2. Flint paved area, part of approach passage.
  3. String course.
  4. Recess (apparently for insulating panel).
  5. Brick lintel (supported on iron band).
  6. Part of earth mound.
  7. Modern brick infill.
  8. Ground level.
  9. Level of earth and refuse inside well (as at June 1976).
  10. Estimated location of grating and drain.

      Finds to date have included the centre of a large dinner plate bearing the engraved crest of a bear rampant (device of the Berens family); animal traps; iron fragments and nails which may have come from insulating doors; miscellaneous bottles and pottery.

      The ice well seems to have been used as a rubbish depository during the first half of this century.

      It is pleasing to record that a member of the Shawcroft School teaching staff, Mr J Morgan, has been able to use the ice well in an Environmental Study course; his pupils have contributed a great deal in time and energy towards the work. All finds are being recorded, labelled and stored at the school, where it is hoped that they may eventually be displayed in a small museum.

      Further reports will be issued at intervals, as the work proceeds; in the meantime, news of illustrations or photographs of the well as it was prior to circa 1900 would be welcome. (If any reader is able to lend pictures for study, these would be handled carefully and returned).

      At all times, the Headmaster of the Shawcroft School, Mr L Azzopardi, has maintained a keen interest in work at the ice well, and has never refused access; for this, I should like to record my sincere thanks.

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