Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Re-thatching of the Ice House has started!

Work starts on the Ice House
On Monday Andrew Raffle started work on re-thatching the Ice House that we have in the garden at Scotney.  For those people who have never been to Scotney before I will tell you a little bit about it....

What is an Ice House?   
Basically Ice Houses were fashionable during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries before the invention of the refrigerator. Ice was collected from the moat during the winter months and stored inside the brick chamber. Due to the excellent insulation qualities of the Ice House, ice could be stored for up to a year, any ice that melted during this time would drain away out of a hole built into the bottom of the chamber. 

What was the ice used for?
The ice would then have been used during the summer months for cooling drinks and making cool deserts such as ice cream.

When was the Ice House at Scotney built?
The Ice House was built during 1839, approximately the same time the New House was being constructed and the picturesque garden was being laid out.

How was the Ice House built?
Brick was used to line the main chamber of the Ice House, timber used to construct the frame, and heather  was harvested locally to thatch the roof. It was then lined with a 1ft thick layer of straw to help insulate the chamber.

Why does the Ice House need re thatching?
Heather thatch lasts for apporximately 20 years before it gets to the point where it turns brittle and starts to compost down and is no longer waterproof. Any rainwater will then slowly seep through the heather and get inside the building and will eventually start to rot the timbers inside. Our Ice House was last re thatched in the 1980 and has now got to the point where the heather is no longer keeping the wind and the rain out of the building. 

What work are we doing to the Ice House?
The first job that Andrew had to do was remove the chicken wire that was around the Ice House and held the exisitng heather in place, he then removed the worst of the outer layer of thatch that had turned into twigs and dust.

He could then assess the condition of the roof and work out the next plan of action, you can see in the photo to the right some of the thatch that needed to be removed.   

Andrew also cleared around the base of the Ice House and discovered a brick edge around the building where the thatch was in contact with the ground. This is something that we will keep clear of weeds and grass in the future as it will help prolong the condition of the heather. 

The next step was the remove the finial which is the wooden post at the top of the Ice House. This is quite exposed and has taken quite a bit of damage over the years so Rick our Handyman had the honour of climbing the ladder to the top of the roof and removing the finial so we can measure it and get an identical one made out of oak.

Rick removing the Finial  

The finial had to be cut off with a saw as it is secured to the Ice House on the inside which would have meant removing all of  the thatch at the top as it goes through the roof and into the frame of the building.

Unfortunately for Rick it was quite a windy day and the sawdust was blowing in his face. With all the noise coming from Rick at the top of the ladder it sounded like he was auditioning for the X-Factor!

Once the replacement finial has been made we have a plan for re-attaching it so that if we ever have to take it off in the future it will be a lot easier.


Thatch being laid onto the roof
Once the finial was removed Andrew started on the re thatching of the Ice House which is really exciting to see. 
The bales of thatch are carefully positioned on the roof on top of the existing thatch and pegged down using the wooden pegs that Andrew had already made up.

Pegs to secure the heather to the roof

Andrew will be writing a more in-depth article for us on the whole process of thatching the Ice House once he has finished his work which will be much more informative than my brief guide to so keep checking the blog over the next few weeks to find out more, or even better, come to Scotney this weekend for our Christmas Carols & Victorian Carousel event and have a look in the garden to see the Ice House for yourself, how often do you get the oportunity to see a building being re thatched!

1 comment:

  1. Such an interesting project with a good step by step guide. Thank you