Gardd Fotaneg Genedlaethol CymruNational Botanic Garden of WalesNational Botanic Garden of Wales

Ice House

One of the finest and most accessible ice houses in Wales

Walking up the lower Broadwalk, you may have noticed a small stone arch embedded in the hillside to your left. This is an ice house which was built at the end of the 18th century to service Middleton Hall.

William Paxton’s servants used the ice house as a fridge

They stored ice here, taking it out to make sorbets and to chill Middleton Hall’s  larders where they stored vegetables cropped from the Double Walled Garden and meats from the estate. Whilst some ice may have been collected from frozen lakes, most probably came from iceberg sourced ice brought into and sold in Swansea.

The ice house  is approached along a barrel vaulted brick passage originally sealed by three wooden doors.  At the far end a lower vaulted passage leads at right angles to the ice chamber, that is partly sunk into the hillside and lined with brick.The chamber itself is around 3m deep and the total interior height from the funnel shaped domed roof is around 5m.  In the brick floor of the chamber is a circular basin with an adjoining drain originally covered with a stone slab.  Meltwater probably filled the basin before overflowing into the drain.  Both the ice chamber and the passage have an outer shell of brick, but unlike some ice houses there is no insulating gap between the layers.  Clay was piled around the outside of the passage and the chamber to increase insulation.

Batty reaction

When the Garden first opened, the ice house was fenced off in the belief that bats roosted there. But a bat survey in 2009 proved that they don’t! However, it is possible that bats may use it as a temporary roost.