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The Ice House is partially buried within the rampart (earth bank) beside the north-eastern section of York's City Wall. Most visitors see it from the Wall Walk.
Its sculptural form (a brick-domed roof with arched entrance porch) is both aesthetically pleasing and unmistakable, regardless of the viewing angle or vantage point.
This small (4 metre diameter), brick-built, grade II listed ice house was built in the late eighteenth century (probably circa 1800) to serve the adjacent public house.
The bulk of the structure lies underground because the surrounding earth helped to keep the structure (and its contents) cool all year round. The location is well chosen as, for much of the day and most of the year, the adjacent city wall would have shaded the structure from the heat of the sun.
The structure is a rare survivor that tells the story of a once common need: to provide a year-round supply of ice in the days before the invention of cost effective mechanical refrigeration. (Ice was typically used to preserve food, to make ice cream and for medical purposes, although the pub is unlikely to have been involved with the latter.)
While ice could have been collected from nearby frozen rivers or ponds during cold winters, such a supply would have been both seasonal and unreliable. Also, this kind of 'local' ice tended to be too dirty for food use. Ice was therefore imported from countries with colder climates and cleaner waters, most notably Norway and the United States of America. (The international 'ice trade' or 'frozen water trade' was big business throughout the nineteenth century.)