One of our summer hobbies, on lazy days, is visiting gardens. Sometimes these are village gardens, but more often they are the gardens of stately homes. Highnam Court is a 17th Century country house (which isn’t open to the public), surrounded by formal and informal gardens.
One of my summer hobbies is visiting National Trust properties and other country houses in England and Wales (and Scotland, when I get that far north), mainly for the wonderful gardens that many of them have. In some of these gardens, the NT have maintained part of what was once the kitchen garden, so we can get some idea of what such places may have looked like when they were the main source of fruit and vegetables for the house.
I picked up this book in the shop of a National Trust property somewhere in England. If you want to see what kitchen gardens looked like, this is not the book for you as there are only a few black and white illustrations. The book is a collection of essays, and covers everything from methods of growing different crops, how gardens were laid out at different times, the staff employed, how year-round supplies of food were ensured, and even something on cooking and using herbs for medicine.
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 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.