Circus hub plan for historic Ice House given major funding boost

The Ice House on Bridge Road in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Danielle Booden

The Ice House on Bridge Road in Great Yarmouth. - Credit: Archant

A Grade II listed building and reminder of Great Yarmouth’s once-thriving fishing industry is to become an arts and circus training hub. 

The historic thatched Ice House, in Bridge Road, will soon get a new lease of life. 

It comes after the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) announced new Transformational Project Grants, which will help to transform historic buildings into new arts and cultural hubs across the UK. 

Among the projects chosen to receive funding was the Ice House, which is currently being used by Out There Arts, an independent arts development charity, to store festival equipment. 

But now, with the support of a £350,000 grant, work can now begin to transform the building into a National Centre for Arts and Circus, with facilities for circus training and teaching. 

Matthew Mckeague, chief executive officer for the AHF, said: “It’s not surprising that so many arts organisations are inspired by the architecture and drawn to the open, flexible spaces these historic buildings can provide – also to spaces on high streets and within town centres that help put these organisations at the centre of their communities.  

“It is fantastic to see the imaginative and creative reuse projects we have been able to fund through the latest round of transformational grants, as well as the other awards made to projects across the UK.” 

The 19th century Ice House is a prominent survivor of Great Yarmouth's herring fishing industry which once dominated the town.  

With a capacity of 42,588 cubic feet, it could house 1,000 tons of ice – and is the only one of its kind in the country. 

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The building used to accommodate hundreds of fishing boats and thousands of herring workers who landed, packaged and delivered Yarmouth’s ‘silver darlings’. 

Ice was key to the fishing industry at the time, as it was before any form of refrigeration was available. The building later became a grain store and was renovated in 1980.

The plans were originally lodged in November 2020, but with permission now granted and funding in place, the vision is set to soon become a reality.