Bar, balcony and stage for former Ice House - relic of an industrial revolution

Ice House Great Yarmouth

Great Yarmouth's Ice House was crucial to Great Yarmouth's success as a global fishing port. New plans to repurpose it as an arts hub hope it can play a vital role in the town's fortunes again. - Credit: Google Maps

In the mid 19th century the landmark Ice House in Great Yarmouth was at the forefront of an industrial revolution that would see the town's fortunes soar.

It was built at the same time as Southtown railway station, meaning freshly caught fish could be packed and transported to London's Billingsgate fish market, reaching a whole new consumer base.

Ice was cut from the broads and imported from Norway to be stored in the structure, once one of a pair and the only one of its kind left in the UK.

Ice House

The old Ice House on the Southtown Road side of Haven Bridge could be transformed into a national centre for arts and circus. - Credit: Archant library

With a capacity for over 42,500 cubic metres, packed ice could stay frozen for months ensuring a steady supply of fresh herring to the capital and beyond.

However, advances in modern technologies saw it overtaken and overlooked, serving for a time as a grain store for JH Bunn who also renovated it in 1980.


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Now it could have a new role driving a second revolution - a cultural one.

Plans have been submitted by arts charity Seachange Arts to repurpose the building as a hub for all things circus including training, and fabricating apparatus.

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Documents submitted to Great Yarmouth Borough Council describe the Grade II listed heritage asset as "uncelebrated" and with an uncertain future.

The papers say the "big, dark, brick box" is perfect for the kinds of activities the charity wants to carry out.

Joe Mackintosh

Joe Mackintosh of Seachange Arts has submitted plans to Great Yarmouth Borough Council to transform the Ice House in Great Yarmouth into an arts hub for circus. - Credit: Gina Long

The changes will transform it into a "unique and delightful" space that could lift the whole area, it is claimed.

Modern requirements to do with safety, access, and toilet facilities mean some changes and an extension are needed, and to make the most of its position overlooking the River Yare and town hall there will be  an outdoor balcony.

A bar is also being installed, to help with revenue.

The papers go as far to say that Yarmouth could not  have progressed without the Ice House, now a rare survival, so significant was its role.

Ice House Great Yarmouth

The Ice House is passed by thousands of motorists every day travelling over Great Yarmouth's Haven Bridge. - Credit: Google Maps

They conclude: "It has taken a forward thinking charitable arts organisation in the shape of Seachange to recognise the building for its worth and to

propose an innovative model that would make appropriate use of the large uninterrupted volume, and bring life to the currently dreary west bank.

"The proposal demonstrates a way to conserve the Ice House and to provide a contemporary addition to enable the building to function as a community arts space."

The bid is part of a wider regeneration plan for Yarmouth  under a £60m Town Deal bid.

To view the plans click the link here. Comments are due by January 21.


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