King George’s Refrigerator.
By Mark Tully
The photo above is the entrance of King George III’s ice house in Kew Gardens, Richmond–site of the country palace where he spent much of his time. The cave-like, brick-lined interior would hold several tons of ice blocks cut from a nearby pond in the winter. A layer of sawdust spread between the layers of blocks would provide additional insulation and keep the blocks from sticking together.1
What did “Farmer George” keep in his ice house? Ice, mostly, but King George also had a great fondness for ice cream!
Ice cream dates back to Roman times and by 1533 was a popular confection in France.2 England’s Charles I (16??-17??) often served it at court, and it was being advertised for sale in British-occupied New York in 1781.
Ice Cream is just one of the many confectionary recipes featured in Hannah Glasse’s Art of Cookery (see review in the Summer 1998 Spy).2 18th century ice cream was made pretty much the same way as it is now; the cream, sugar and flavoring of choice was placed in a covered pewter container and it was set inside a larger container that was packed with lots of ice. Salt was thrown over the ice, causing it to melt rapidly for a super-chilling effect. After half an hour and stirring a few times the ice cream was ready to be served.3 Try it at home!