In Victorian Britain, fresh ice was a rare commodity. It was used largely for the refrigeration of meat and dairy products, as well as in place of anaesthetic for many surgical procedures. Ice also became something of a decadent luxury amongst those who could afford it; drinks served with ice cubes stood as a testament to wealth and distinction.
The two Victorian ice wells located behind King’s Cross Station in central London, and one well at Albert Dock in Battersea were constructed by the Italian-Swiss immigrant, Carlo Gatti. Arriving in London in 1847, Gatti was an entrepreneur who became famous as an ice cream manufacturer, importing his frozen ingredients from Norway by way of ship and canal boat. At the time, most ice was harvested from frozen ponds and rivers and had to store in underground vaults to slow the thawing process.
Hot water freezes faster than cold water. This is known as the Mpemba Effect, and no-one knows why it happens
The ice wells were in use until 1904. By this point however, artificial ice production was becoming more common, and Gatti’s legacy was rendered obsolete. The cellars were covered and forgotten for many years.
Cube ice was introduced in 1967, and replaced the sale of large blocks of ice that needed to be broken down. In today’s world, technology ensures we create the ice faster and more economical than ever before!