Once a year, two large ice wells near King’s Cross are opened for the public to climb down into and learn about how ice was stored before the refrigerator was invented.

Canal Museum ice well (c) ianVisits

Ice Wells were usually subterranean chambers of varying sizes that kept ice cool enough that it would melt very slowly. Originally something only the rich could afford, a winter’s supply harvested from local lakes could last into the summer months.

Later, much larger ice wells were constructed in cities, and ice would be imported from Scandinavia in bulk and stored in cities for sale. London’s Canal Museum sits on top of an ice well that would have been supplied by ice shipped from Norway to the UK and then by canal to King’s Cross.

Although you can peer down into the ice well when you visit the Canal Museum above it, you can only climb down the ladder and stand inside it once a year.

It’s not a well in the style of a deep, narrow water well, but rather a very large, round underground storage space, so it’s not at all claustrophobic. It’s very atmospheric.

Ice Well Sunday takes place on Sunday 21st July, with visits into the ice well every half hour throughout the day.

Ice well-guided descents are £11.50, including general admission to the museum and all other activities on the day.

You can book tickets here.

The Canal Museum is a short walk from King’s Cross.

You can also visit a much smaller ice well in south London, which is open twice a month.

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