My previous post on the possible mystery ice-house photographed by Donald Shields in 1904 provoked a response from Mark Wells who believes that the building featured in that photograph was indeed the ice-house which once stood on Surlingham Broad.
The landscape certainly looks right to me to have been Surlingham but, as I mentioned in that posting, the building in Donald Shields photograph doesn’t look like the one photograph I have seen which was attributed as being the ice-house which was built there. The photograph in question appeared in Robert Maltsters excellent “Wherries and Waterways” book which was published by Terence Dalton Ltd in 1971 – I hope that he will forgive me for republishing it here but in the interests of trying to establish a positive identification for Donald Shields photograph and to try and work out why the two images appear to show different buildings, I’m sure that it will be clear that my motive for doing so is purely to try and solve this puzzle!
The only information I have about the Surlingham ice-house also comes from Wherries and Waterways in which Robert Maltster wrote: “This thatched building, set on piles in the middle of the marsh, had an elevator operated by horse gear to which the ice was floated. The ice discharged by the elevator into metal bins in which its own weight caused it to solidify into a block. Although apparently a very up-to-date affair, it does not seem to have been a financial success and closed down after only a fairly short life. It is said that the company which owned it never paid the timber merchants for the pitchpine which went into its construction, but the merchants recovered most of the timber when the ice house was demolished. ”
The description fits perfectly with the building shown in Donald Shields photograph, the ice-house having been built on the narrow strip of land to the North of the broad, between the broad and the River Yare. Yet the photograph from Wherries and Waterways clearly shows an ice-house which is also built on a narrow strip of land between two bodies of water. The building seen in Donald’s photograph appears to be a taller structure – the angle of the elevator leading up to it looks much steeper than that in the Robert Maltster photo. Was this possibly a later building? If so, then it doesn’t quite tie in with the mention of it being a very short lived business. The amount of trees surrounding the ice-house in Donald’s photograph are also at odds with the landscape seen in the previous photograph. I have no idea what the date of this image is, but one would assume that it couldn’t have been taken any earlier than the 1870s, in which case, is it possible for the trees to have grown up that much within a span of say 20 or 30 years?
I would be extremely grateful for any light which can be thrown on the subject, or for more information about the ice-house at Surlingham.