It was sad to read about the suspicious fire and subsequent demolition of The Crooked House at Himley. Our Heritage is always at risk and I would encourage everyone to watch our heritage assets closely and report signs of neglect, damage and unusual activity to the council conservation officers, ward councillors and if needed, to the police.

Worcester is a very special place, with many sites and buildings of importance. One such building is often referred to as the ‘Old Ice Works’ or the ‘Old Mill’ in Bromyard Road. This is currently being restored and developed by JJS Developments. This is an excellent example of where development is being chosen instead of the easier option of demolition. The work being carried out will also remove the site from the Heritage at Risk Register.

The site has a long history and is mentioned in Medieval Court Rolls, dating back to 1086, when a simple Water Mill stood on the High Road near a bridge over Laugherne Brook. This belonged to the Manor of Laugherne D'Abitot. This would have been a simple water wheel that turned Mill Stones to grind grain into precious flour.

In 1294, it is in the control of the Monastery attached to the Priory on the East Bank of the Severn. At that point a Mill Race and Mill Pond is mentioned also.

Over the years the Mill can be seen on various maps. It was also renamed numerous times, including ‘Mudwall Mill’, ‘New Mill’ and ‘St John's Mill’ in the 19th Century. Between 1868 and 1873, new buildings were built, of which many still stand today. These include the main six storey building that is being developed into apartments. The site has been carefully recorded and most features are being preserved and used as part of the development. This includes the iconic ‘Lucam’ a system of pulley and trap doors, used in lifting sacks of grain into the Mill from the road. One of the owners was William Hadley and Sons and in more recent times, the Ballard family.

In 1898, with the demand for Ice increasing, the Mill was insulated to allow it to be converted into an Artificial Ice Works or Ice Plant. This used machinery to turn clean water into standard blocks of Ice. This was a much safer option than harvesting natural Ice in the winter and storing it in Ice Houses, like the one seen in Lansdown Crescent recently. This Ice was taken from pools, ponds and rivers and often tainted with sewerage and anything trapped in the water when it froze.

In 1900, it was one of over 100 Ice Works in Britain, making Ice to supply Butchers, Fishmongers, Cafés and even the Infirmary for medical purposes. Even small scale traders could buy the Ice and store it in their Ice Houses such as the one in Lansdown. From the 1841 census, we see Henry Southan, fishmonger and wholesale Oyster Merchant owned that Icehouse and stored Ice for his shop on the High Street.

The Worcester and Midland Ice Company Ltd, who became the owner of the Bromyard Road Works, stored about 500 tons of Ice in the building and was extremely important in an age before Refrigerators and Freezers.

By the 1950s and 60s, households had begun to acquire such appliances to help store food and make treats such as Ice Creams and Sorbets. This household revolution would reduce the importance of- buying food daily, using the pantry cold slab or leaving a bucket of water by the back door step holding a bottle of milk! It would also reduce the need for Ice Works across Britain.

This led to the sites’ closure and it becoming an Industrial Estate with multiple units being used for various purposes. Sadly the old Ice Works eventually became unused and began to fall into decay. Luckily, JJS Developments had a vision of repurposing the site, unlike some developers who would have stamped it with a Demolition Order.

We may have lost many buildings, due to modernisation in the 1960’s, but we must embrace what we still have and safeguard them for future generations.