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Ice houses, succession houses and ha has

Do you know what ice houses, succession houses and ha has are? They are all structures often found in the grounds of stately homes in Georgian times – and later. All three are mentioned in The Mrs MacKinnons, and there were a few ‘what does that mean?’ comments from people who read the manuscript in development.

Ice houses

Ice houses were used to store ice from frozen lakes or streams in the winter, keeping it cool enough for it to be used the following summer. Some were below ground; the ones that were not were often covered with a thick layer of earth for extra insulation. All you would see from the outside would be a wooden door.

UPDATE: An ice house has been discovered beneath a Georgian house in London. Here’s a link to the Guardian article on it.

Succession houses

A succession house or orangery is effectively a fancy greenhouse or conservatory. As you might guess from the name, the first orangeries were used to grow citrus fruits, and were often built against garden walls. Later they were attached to houses, and became something of a status symbol.

Grand Orangery and Triton Fountain in Peterhof, St Petersburg

A succession house is more like a greenhouse, intended to grow on young plants until they are large enough to be planted out. A succession house was often built against the wall of the house or garden.

Here are two photos of the orangery at Belton House, in Lincolnshire. Belton House is now run by the National Trust, and the orangery contains various tropical plants, rather than being used to grow fruit.

The orangery at one end of the Italian Garden at Belton House.


Tropical plants inside the orangery.


Ha has

A ha ha is a kind of hidden fence, allowing the owners of a stately home to have an unbroken view across their gardens to the parkland or farmland beyond, without allowing deer or sheep to eat their flowers and shrubs. The name ‘ha ha’ is thought to be from the expression of surprise when an unsuspecting person came upon one.

The depth of the ha ha can vary quite a bit – some are as high as a person. The photos below are of a smaller one, but show you how effective they can be at making the boundary invisible.

This ha ha is only a few feet high.

ha ha

Approaching the end of the ha ha, note the gate near the end of the wall.

This is the same gate, seen from the ‘house’ side of the ha ha. From this angle, it’s almost impossible to see where the ha ha is. This was the case in reality too – it’s not just the photograph disguising it.

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