An ice house was the 18th century must have of the rich and famous – had they been around then, Posh and Becks would definitely have had one and, with all that lavish entertaining, so would Sir Elton John.

The fashion for ice houses date from the late 17th century and one of the earliest was built for Charles II in Upper St James’ Park in 1660.

Usually situated away from the house in the shade of trees, an ice house comprised a brick lined pit sunk wholly or partially underground, often with a domed roof to control the circulation of air.

Two wealthy Swindon families boasted this most modern of household appliances. The Goddard gazebo with ice house beneath was built in the 1850s but the St John family one at Lydiard Park predates this by about a hundred years. The north range of the Goddard mansion house dated from the 18th century and was most likely built on the site of the medieval manor house. Today the gazebo and ice house is all that remains of the Goddard’s family home. Deserted and derelict, the house was eventually demolished in 1952, but fortunately the gazebo managed to avoid the wrecking ball.

Today the structure is boarded up and covered in graffiti, but when Borough Architect J Loring Morgan made his inspection on January 12, 1962, the gazebo was in a sorry state. Stone tiles on the roof were in a poor condition with holes exposing rotting rafters beneath. External walls needed re-pointing while inside the situation was even worse.

The plaster on the walls was in a bad condition while the ceiling had come down revealing joists in need of repair. All the flag paving had been torn up revealing a hole in the ground floor.

West of former Old Swindon in the former parish of Lydiard Tregoze, the ice house at Lydiard Park has fared much better, enjoying a makeover as part of a £5 million restoration project.

Probably built around the same time as Sir John, 2nd Viscount St John spent his wealthy wife’s dowry on remodelling the mansion house in 1743, the ice house in Lydiard Park is of the cup and dome variety, the most popular 18th century model and apparently the most expensive.

The business of stocking and maintaining the ice storage was labour intensive. Ice would be gathered from the frozen estate lake during the exceptionally cold winters of the period. Then, sealed by a layer of straw or reeds, it had a shelf life of about 13 months. The ice would be used in the preparation of food, particularly the 18th century novelty dessert, ice cream. The building was also used as a larder, preserving meat that would otherwise have to be salted.