Berwick-upon-Tweed – Keeping Cool

I’m currently in Birmingham, where it is very much too hot. This therefore seems an appropriate time to post this “keeping cool” plaque (clicking on it makes it easier to read) I took a photo of a couple of weeks ago on Bank Hill in Berwick-upon-Tweed.

In short, this is an ice house and it’s one of the largest that was constructed in Berwick-upon-Tweed to keep fish cool by ensure it remained in ice. Around 1,600 tonnes of ice was needed to fill the ice houses in the town, some of which was collected from the River Tweed during the winter, the rest was from the ‘stanks’, which were specially flooded containers. In really bad years, the town purchased ice from as far away as America and Scandinavia to ensure that the fish, mostly salmon, were kept cool.

The ice house is Grade II listed and this heritage record notes:

“This ice house is built into the hillside with a covering of earth acting as an insulating layer. Tapered retaining walls of coursed sandstone with ashlar copings flank the wide approach to the entrance arch with large voissoirs; a modern iron gate has been inserted here.

The entrance tunnel with barrel vaulted sandstone roof and sandstone rubble walls leads directly to the main chamber; this is 11m long and 7.4m wide with a barrel vaulted roof 7.6m high. Although the tunnel indicates there were at least two doorways, there is currently no surviving evidence of the placement of further doors, which would have acted as an insulating airlock. There are, however, five simple metal hooks on the far end of the tunnel to the right, where bags of straw would have been hung.

The floor is understood to be cobbled throughout, although the majority was covered with silt at the time of inspection. There is a doorway on either end of the main chamber near the ceiling, however, shadowing is all that remains of the staircases that once led to them. There are small brick partitions projecting from the end wall, presumably relating to its later use as a cellar.”

I like that this has survived and no-one has converted into a cellar or something, it’s a little bit of the town’s fishing heritage that remains as a reminder of the fishing heritage of Berwick-upon-Tweed. And, given how hot is now, I wouldn’t mind standing next to some ice at the moment…