SHUGBOROUGH HALL ICE HOUSE
It took me a while to locate the ice house at Shugborough Hall even with the plan I was given when I arrived, it is quite a distance from the mansion house. When I did finally locate it, I realised I had gone past it on the road leading to the Park Farm car park.
My first inspection of the site revealed the mound and the entrance, covered in parts by earth. The entrance was however bricked up, but thankfully on my second visit someone had kindly removed some of the bricks which enabled me to take some photographs of the interior.
This ice house is somewhat different to others I have so far visited in as much as the entrance is facing south. A north facing entrance was usually favoured as it aided the cooling process in the winter. This south facing entrance is a bit of a mystery, the estate road is at its north side so filling the ice house would have been a little bit more laborious, however I did notice what appears to be a drain on the side of the road nearby which may have been connected to the ice pit to aid drainage when the ice thawed.
I cannot as yet find out when the ice house was constructed, but it does appear on an estate map which can be seen in the Park Farm stables, which pre-dates 1795. This could tie in with what was happening on the Shugborough estate during the 18th century.
Back in 1624 the estate was purchased for the then princely sum of £1000 by William Anson, a local lawyer. His Grandson, another William, demolished the then moated manor house and set about constructing a building of three stories, much of which still forms the central part of the existing building.
We then have Thomas Anson born in 1695. who set about major remodelling the buildings inside and out and the estate grounds. It is interesting to note that much of the costs involved in this work came from the endeavours of George Anson, Thomas’s younger brother who at a very young age joined the navy and forged a career ending up as first Lord of the Admiralty and was hailed as the father of the British navy. (Another interesting fact – Staffordshire bred another famous naval officer – John Jervis of Meaford Hall, near Stone, who became Earl of St Vincent after the Battle of St Vincent. I will go into his story another time.)
This George Anson was a very shrewd man, while stationed in the Carolina’s in North America where he was commanding vessels protecting British trade out there, he invested some gambling winnings in land around Charleston, some 12000 acres in fact. An area in Charleston is still known as Ansonborough.
George went on to capture a Spanish treasure galleon, selling this prize for £400,000, his share would have been worth some £13 million in today’s terms. George used some of his gains to help Thomas improve and develop the Shugborough estate.
George died in 1762 aged 65, his brother Thomas died in 1793
It can be assumed that the ice house was constructed during this period of development and alterations of the estate. From the following photographs you can see that the ice house is constructed of bricks with an earth covering, worn away on parts, and a concrete cap has been put over the entrance.
The ice pit is ovate in shape and the entrance to the pit for putting the ice in appears to be cut in to the ovate shape of the pit. It would have been easier to tip the ice in to the pit. (similar to the hole seen in the ice house at Biddulph Grange). There is just one inner door structure and the inner brickwork seems to be in very good condition and the pit appears to contain some water – stone tossed in to the pit.
Shugborough Hall is managed by the National Trust, opening times can be got on the Shugborough Hall web site.