Recording a Victorian Icehouse at Newhailes Estate
Earlier this year, AOC was commissioned by the National Trust for Scotland to undertake a measured survey and historic building record of the ruined icehouse at the Newhailes Estate, Musselburgh, East Lothian. The original house, called Whitehill, was built in around 1686 by architect James Smith (1645-1731) but financial difficulties led to it being sold around a decade later to the Bellendens of Broughton. In around 1709 it was purchased by Sir David Dalrymple (1726-1792) and renamed New Hailes. The house remained in the Dalrymple family until 1997 when it was passed to NTS for everyone to enjoy.
Icehouses were really an early form of freezer: large blocks of ice were stored in subterranean chambers insulated with straw or sawdust, providing a cold environment for storing food and making ice cream and other chilled desserts. Chips of ice could also be broken off the larger block for chilling drinks. The ice was either harvested locally during the winter months, or imported from as far away as North America and Scandinavia. The icehouse at Newhailes, found to the north-west of the main house, was constructed in the late 18th century. The main storage area for the ice was an egg-shaped chamber accessed via a short passageway in the southwest side. A large mound was created over the structure to further insulate the space. Archaeological work in 2001 revealed the remains of a spiral pathway and ornamental building constructed on top of the mound, and anecdotal evidence suggests that an attractive garden feature existed there as late as 1960, albeit overgrown with ivy. However, only a few foundation stones and at least one fragment of inscribed stone remain.
AOC created a detailed written and photographic record of the site as well as laser scanning both the interior and exterior. The measured survey and historic building record has established a baseline record of the structure and provided a firm base from which to proceed further with any future planned restoration or maintenance works.