A HISTORIC ice house in Whitchurch has been featured on a national website.

The Old Rectory Ice House was built in the 18th century and a photograph of it was featured on the website of Heritage Open Days, earlier this month, as part of a feature looking at the country's top inventions.

Heritage Open Days organises events across England to celebrate history and culture, and people were able to visit the Grade II listed building in September earlier this year.

The tour was organised by the Whitchurch Museum & Archives and its volunteers were both surprised and delighted to see the building, which lies in Sainsbury's car park, feature on a national website.

Museum curator, Dr Judith Hoyle said: "We were amazed to discover before Christmas that the ice house in Whitchurch was the lead item on the Heritage Open Days web news page.

"It included our photo of the ice house with St Alkmund's in the background.

"The museum has been organising guided visits to the site, as part of Heritage Open Days, since the structure was restored by Sainsbury's more than 10 years ago.

"The volunteers and trustees are all excited to have the spotlight shone on such an important part of the town's heritage."

Ice houses were vital to people in the centuries before modern day refrigeration because it allowed them to store food, some of which would be transported.

Sarah Holloway from Heritage Open Days said: "Fridges (and their predecessors) truly changed our lives.

"Allowing us to store food for longer meant people didn’t have to go out to forage every day.

"Packing things in ice also meant exotic foodstuffs could be transported over longer distances.

"Plus, it made ice cream possible for those hot summer days.

"Before the white boxes in our kitchens though, there were these wonderful structures, ice houses.

"Usually designed with small entrances and a passage leading you deeper into a windowless space, often with sections underground or built into a hillside to keep them dark and cold year round.

"Blocks of ice could be stored here in layers packed with straw or sawdust to keep them freezing together.

"Not all ice houses are the same though.

"You’ll find warehouse scale ones by the coast used to store and pack fish ready for transportation, as well as really quite fancy ones on historic house estates."

To find out the latest about the next Heritage Open Day Events visit www.heritageopendays.org.uk