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Monday, December 7, 2009

Ice in Regency England

(This bog was inadvertantly posted on Saturday instead of today because I'm a cyber dunce! So my apologies to those of you who already read this and posted comments before I realized my error and removed it.)

A question was posed on my historical author loop which prompted a discussion I found interesting. It was about ice.

Was ice used in drinks?

Yes and no. There WAS such a thing as ice. (Take a look at Mother Nature) And ice houses were common in England in the Regency Era and earlier. Many estates had ice ponds where the ice was cut and it placed inside an underground ice house where it would stay frozen even during the summer. In America, ice was covered with sawdust to keep it from melting, but I don’t know if that were true in England. There was an ice house near ter' Tea Shop in London, which is famous for its “ices,” meaning a sweet frozen treat much like our shaved ice or the Italian sorbet. King Charles had an ice house in one of the city parks. The British made lemonade and sherbets as well as ice cream. They sometimes had ice sculptures as decorations for some of their fancier events. But I have found no evidence that they ever had ice IN their drinks.

England was cold during the Regency era, even more so than it is now, since they were in the middle of a mini ice age. It was so cold back then that Thames froze over more than once and they usually had a riotous party on it. During the cold winter months (and I live in Arizona where it really isn’t all that cold, comparatively speaking), I seldom want ice in my drink during the winter, so I doubt very much anyone felt the need to invent it in England during this time.

However, in warmer climates such as Italy, they frequently added ice to beverages. According to many travel writers back to the mid 1700's, Italians put ice in their lemonade, orgeate, sherbet. In Venice, they couldn’t have underground ice houses due to all the water underneath them, of course, so they brought ice in from surrounding areas to keep it from melting. Places like coffee houses and pubs would provide it to the public. Obviously, the rich had their own stash, just like everything else.

So there you have it. Something we take for granted will be in our freezer whenever we want it would have been something of a commodity in Regency England. Of course, that’s true about a lot of things. I’ve often said I’d love to visit, but I’m not sure I’d want to live there. Still, isn't the fantasy of Regency England glorious? That's why I love to read and write it!


Loretta C. Rogers said...

Very interesting article, Donna. I don't think I'd ever given much thought to 'ice' in the early ages. I can only imagine the surprise on peoples' faces when they experienced a cold drink for the first time.

Donna Hatch said...

Thanks Loretta! I'm sure the water was plenty cold, but those traveling to Italy might have been shocked at the concept of ice in their drinks.