As early as the 17th century, ice-house were built in the grounds of great country houses in Britain to supply is for use in the kitchens. .
Their shape was generally in the form of a stone-built igloo over a deep storage pit. Often only the entrance is visible, as the upper part was covered with earth to maintain the insulation.
A fine example of an 18th century domestic ice-house can be seen at Paxton House, about four miles upstream on the River Tweed to the west of Berwick. Here the structure is sheltered from the heat of the sun under a bridge arch, rather than being buried in soil.
Other local examples were built at Alnwick Castle, Belford Hall and Haggerston Castle.
The ice was collected in the winter months from local ponds and rivers. It varied in thickness according to the harshness of the winter, from less than an inch to as much as 10 inches thick. Straw was packed between the layers of ice to improve the insulation.
The ice was brought to the house as required and placed in a “portable ice-house”, or “ice safe” where the food was kept.
Mechanical refrigerators became available from the 1880s and most of the domestic ice-houses had gone out of use by the end of the century.