The Ice Factory next to Sourton Tor

On Sunday whilst checking pointing our 10 Tors teams we had a gap in our schedule which allowed us to divert and have a quick look at the Ice Factory below Sourton Tor. I had heard about it and despite having been to Sourton Tor a number of times had never seen it.

The story of the Ice Factory is one of entrepreneurial endeavour which seems to characterise so much of Dartmoor’s industrial history.

Between 1875 and 1886 James Henderson, an engineer, built the structure for the production of natural ice. Water off the moor would be collected in the shallow ponds where it would freeze. The ice would then be shipped to Plymouth and be used to preserve fish as they were taken to London and elsewhere by train. It of course relied on Dartmoor’s harsh climate to work. The venture was short lived and was a financial disaster – a series of mild winters along with competition from ‘artificial’ ice making operations  meant the plant closed a few years after it commenced.

Ice Factory 5
The Ice Factory consists of a number of excavated shallow pools

Ice Factory 6Part of the structure with Sourton Tor above

Ice Factory 4Another view with Corn Ridge in the background

Ice Factory 3This picture shows the location of a building that was constructed to store the ice before transporting it to Plymouth

Ice Factory 2This book – ‘The Field Archaeology of Dartmoor’ by Phil Newman gives an excellent account of the project p230-32. It is also a superb book on the archaeology of Dartmoor as a whole and I can thoroughly recommend it.

Ice Factory 1The book includes this map and photo – the aerial photo shows the scale and layout perfectly

Well worth a visit – park up at Prewley Moor off the A386 and it is then a 15 minute walk

Also recommend you get the The Field Archaeology of Dartmoor – see here.

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