Historic Ice House Opened Up Monday, 12 June 2023

Archaeologists from Durham University and The Auckland Project have revealed the inner chamber of an historic Ice House, as part of ongoing archaeological excavations in the Deer Park of Auckland Castle.

The 18th– and 19th-century phases of the Ice House can clearly be seen following archaeological excavations, and the inner chamber has remarkably survived undamaged.

With the help of Roger Caulton, The Auckland Project’s stonemason, and Andrew Hart, volunteer stonemason, the archaeologists broke open the doorway to the inner chamber on Monday 12 June.

John Castling, Archaeology Curator at The Auckland Project, said: “The doorway to the Ice House has been blocked up for as long as anyone can remember, probably well over 100 years. Archaeology is all about discovery so it's really exciting to be going into the unknown! Likely the last people in the ice house were providing cooled treats for the table of the Prince Bishops, so it’s great to be exploring how those luxuries – which have been recreated inside Auckland Castle, made their way to the Bishops’ feasts.”

Professor Chris Gerrard, from the Department of Archaeology at Durham University and the Site Director, said: “We had no real idea what condition the interior would be in, so it's wonderful to see the inner chamber in such good condition. The next step will be to map out the inside so that it can be conserved for another 250 years.”

The Ice House is just one of several historic features in the parkland which are being uncovered to help archaeologists learn more about the hidden past of the Prince Bishops’ medieval parkland. Alongside medieval rubbish dumps and fish ponds, the archaeologists hope to discover burial mounds and possibly even a Roman Road!

The archaeologists will be digging in various locations in the Deer Park from 5 June – 23 June and visitors can come and see the archaeological discoveries as they happen between 9am and 4.30pm from Monday to Friday.