There is a mysterious mound of earth just off the beaten paths of the Whiteknights campus that when viewed all way around has the look, air and feel of a Hobbit barrow in the Shires. There is a brick entrance and a lonely shadowy gate that looks like a good habitat for bats and small birds but no other hints of its origin or use.
This original ice house is probably 200 years old and was built for the nearby big house owned by the Marquis of Blandford. Sometimes mini icebergs were towed up the Thames and distributed around the country, but here the ice was probably culled from the lake every winter. The ice was stored in these structures which were kept cool enough to keep the ice available for whenever the big country house wanted it. In the imagination, we would have these blocks of ice ending up in the cocktail glasses of a 1920s flapper party, or maybe cooling the lemonade of a visiting clergyman or scholar.
If you want to find this charming leftover of the past then you can you walk up from the lake at the Whiteknights Road end of the campus towards Wessex Hall or even walk the concrete path and hang a left walking away from Wessex Hall. It would be wrong to say exactly where, as it makes a pleasant treasure hunt. I recommend you dwell on this discovery with a lovely cocktail in that hidden decadent gem, the eponymous Ice House bar at Wessex Hall, or maybe a lovely cool pint of ale at the oak panelled Park House.
Matthew Farrall, the author of this article, died on 20 April 2018.
We are grateful to his family for allowing us to continue to display his work online.