No, not dead bodies!
In 2018 archaeologists discovered an enormous ice-house, built under one of London ‘s streets not too far from the clinics of Harley Street.
To celebrate the Festival of British Archaeology today, we decided to uncover and share with you the secrets which sit under Park Crescent, not too far away from Clinica London.
Taking it far back to the Georgian London era in the late 18th century, serving chilled drinks at parties and festivals was a much-complicated process than today. Due to the absence of electricity which we have nowadays, keeping ice frozen was impossible.
Therefore, ice had to be sourced from elsewhere and then stored, especially during long hot summers. What better place than underground!
For many party hosts, the purest form of frozen Norwegian lake was shipped and stored in London in a subterranean ice-house until required.
There has been a discovery by archaeologists of such an ice store under Park Crescent located to the south of Regent’s Park, dating back to the 1780s. The ice-store was found filled with rubble, and only due to a new housing development was it unearthed, then emptied and the beautiful brickwork of the enormous ice cavern was seen. Surprisingly, the subterranean building is still structurally secure, even as the Jubilee line thunders less than 10 metres beneath it!
In the Georgian era, ice was also required by the doctors and dentists working in the area, which was in its infancy of becoming a medical area. Ice was used to numb certain parts of the body before the advent of anaesthesia, for example, pulling teeth in dental practices. There is a good chance that the then London Harley Street and Wimpole Street practices were indeed sourcing their ice from this same long-forgotten underground store.
The immense store is regarded as the earliest-known, large-scale commercial ice store in London. This has led the store to be designated as a scheduled monument by Historic England. There are even plans to develop the ice- house and make it accessible to the public. What a delight to imagine where ice cubes were sourced from!