Ice House News

Gardening on a boat in London!

Ice House has been working on a new topic pack for WOW!

Gardening on a boat in London!

When Eliza recently worked with the WOW Education Team to write the new Waterways for Today Topic Pack, she discovered some strange things!

British Waterways is providing communities in Central London with old hopper boats to use as allotments. Land is so expensive in the city that people are beginning to grow their veg on the boats! If you thought boating holidays were a bit primitive, take a look at the layout of a modern holiday hire boat, complete with shower, TV and fridge.

To download your own copy of the new pack, go to

Posted by Admin on 11-6-2011 12:47 am


A flatpack castle, triplets and a King?

What Ice House found at St Margaret's Church in Birmingham...

A flatpack castle, triplets and a King?

Well, you wouldn't expect us to be just interested in the Burne Jones and Claude Price stained glass windows (even though they are beautiful).

Ice House is working with St Margaret's Community Trust, Ward End, Birmingham, to help them to put together an Activity Plan as part of a Heritage Lottery Bid. This charming church was built in 1835 with money raised locally through public subscription. At that time, Birmingham was expanding rapidly. It was a place where small businesses thrived and the baptism records reveal a multitude of trades, from blacksmiths to engine drivers, carpenters, tailors and of course lots of metalworkers and gun makers.

So what of the flatpack castle? Well this is nearby Pimple Hill - right next to the busy roundabout at nearby Castle Bromwhich. The hill is the remains of a Motte and Bailey castle put up by the normans in so much of a hurry to establish their supremacy that they brought it there in pre-made sections for assembly!

The sign of King William iv is here in the form of a plaster-cast coat of arms, designed to hit you in the eye, opposite the door as you walk into church. Just like the normans, kings since Charles II were keen to show that they were in charge.

I'm afraid I can't explain the triplets - it's just that quite a few appear in the register of births! I can't help wondering why. Apparently births of triplets are more common than you'd think...

Posted by Admin on 8-2-2011 10:12 pm


Plaques' Progress

Ice House gets ready to work with the pattern maker

Plaques' Progress

Ice House is near to completing design work on a set of cast iron plaques for British Waterways in Eccleshall near Wolverhampton. Artist Pauline Rice and writer Cathy Lewis have finished their designs and it's up to the conservation officer to approve the siting of the new plaques at the canalside.

Pauline's design for one of the plaques near Chillington Wharf, also known as Monmore Green Basin shows one of the Babcock Cranes that used to operate here, transferring scrap metal into railway trucks at the far end of the basin.

When the work is finished, we'll upload pictures, so you can see the final result!

Posted by Admin on 8-2-2011 9:25 pm


Are there really crocodiles in Bilston?

Ice House works with an artist and writer to reveal the truth about canals...

Are there really crocodiles in Bilston?

When writer Cathy Lewis and artist Pauline Rice agreed to join Eliza working at a school in Bilston they wondered what they'd let themselves in for. It wasn't only the talk of crocodiles, but the fact that they soon discovered that they had to work with every class in school over two days!

Bilston Church of England Primary School had been invited to join in with special workshops all about their local canal - the Birmingham Main Line. The project was to celebrate new works to make it easier for people to get onto the canal, with new steps and ramps at three bridges. Ice House were commissioned to make some cast iron plaques which would celebrate the canal and its history.

Crocodiles soon came up in the form of nearby Chillington Tool Works logo, but during research we were fortunate enough to meet the last operator of the crane at Chillington (formerly Monmore Green) Basin! It's been a voyage of discovery, with the children finding out about all sorts of canal related things, from horse shoes to interchange basins.

And now it's down to the artist and writer to pull everything together and be creative and inspirational. We hope the final pieces of artwork will provoke thoughts and questions about the waterways and encourage people to want to find out more. Special thanks go to British Waterways and Ettingshall Local Neighbourhood Partnership for supporting this exciting project.



Posted by Admin on 26-1-2011 8:37 pm


Why is Brunel's bridge being moved?

Ice House gets to work at Paddington.

Ice House is delighted to be appointed to work with Lathams and The Waterways Trust at Stone Wharf Gardens to help to plan for the interpretation of Brunel's First Iron Bridge!

When Steven Brindle, Inspector of Ancient Monuments for English Heritage, began research for a book about Paddington Station, he discovered that there was probably an original Brunel bridge hidden beneath a 1909 redevelopment. This would have been exciting news, but it came weeks before a £62 million road scheme was to begin - one that involved demolition of the 1909 bridge!

Fortunately, Westminster Council  were keen to work with English Heritage and began investigations. Steven's search had discovered test details in one of Brunel's notebooks. It showed that the new bridge beams were all tested, (we know this was a real test because one of them had broken at 28 tons). The bridge was innovatively designed to be held together by gravity and hardly used any bolt fixings.

Amazingly, the original bridge had remained hidden from view, bearing the weight of traffic for 160 years. Following careful dismantling, parts of the orignal bridge are to be re-used in a pedestrian bridge just 200 yards from where it originally stood. The bridge is part of a canalside improvement scheme.

Eliza said "So far I've thought of  lots of questions about the bridge itself - why was Brunel so sure of his new design? who helped to build it? why did Brunel tell the canal engineers that they needed to go to meet him because he was an invalid? And of course, there are lots of questions about who will be visiting and what they'd like to find out when they get there. I'm really looking forward to working on the project!"

To find out more about  Brunel's Bridge go to:

Posted by Admin on 29-11-2010 1:52 pm

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