AN 18th CENTURY ICE WELL IN THE HEART OF THE MONTNEGRE HILLS

16 November, 2020
Tourism

Did you know that 18th-century Barcelonans quenched their thirst by drinking ice-cool beverages at the height of summer?

How were they able to enjoy such comforts long before the age of the refrigerator?

In those days, Barcelona was regularly supplied with ice that had been harvested or manufactured in the hilly and mountainous areas not far from the city.

Ice entrepreneurs chose the shadiest places available to manufacture and store this cold gold, which was carted off regularly, destined for Barcelona and other coastal towns for consumption during the hottest months of the year.

The production took place in sturdy circular buildings with vaulted roofs and thick walls.

Known locally as pous de glaç (literally “ice wells”) some of these constructions are still standing and can be found all over Catalonia and across Spain.

We wanted to show one of these ice wells on our blog, which was the perfect excuse for a nice excursion with friends!

After a leisurely morning walk in the heart of the lush Montnegre hills, we stopped off to rest and have a wonderful Sunday picnic by this impressive example of protoindustrial construction.

Amazing! The buttressed building, about 7 m tall and 5 m wide, rises on the edge of a clearing by the forest path.

Just behind it lie the remains of the old facilities, and the tank where water would freeze over in winter time is still perfectly preserved.

Next to it, we can see the remains of a small brickwork ramp, which was used to let the ice slide into the well.

The building faces north, and sitting there in the shade we got a sense of the cool temperature that made it such an ideal site to store ice!

The existence of ice wells dates back to the days of the Roman Empire.

However, the ice business expanded spectacularly between the 16th and 19th centuries, before being gradually supplanted by electricity-powered ice plants in the 1890s.

Still, this ancient and sustainable industry managed to survive until well into the 20th century. 

All that remains of those times is an impressive building in a forest and the memory of how similar and yet how different life was just a few generations ago.

Does this really matter? We believe it does. A little knowledge of history provides us with useful insights and a deeper understanding of the present.

Did you know that 18th century Barcelonans quenched their thirst by drinking iced beverages at the height of summer?

How could they enjoy such comforts long before the refrigerator age?

In those days, Barcelona was regularly supplied with ice harvested or manufactured in hilly and mountainous areas not far from the city.

Ice entrepreneurs always chose the shadiest places available to manufacture and store this cold gold.

It was meant to be carted off to Barcelona and other coastal towns for consumption during the hottest months of the year.

The production took place in sturdy circular buildings with a vaulted roof and very thick walls.

They are locally known as pous de glaç, literally “ice wells”. Some of these constructions are still standing and can be found all over Catalonia and across Spain

We really wanted to show you one of them on this blog, so we arranged a nice excursion with friends, a few weeks ago.

After a very leisurely morning walk in the heart of the lush Montnegre hills, we stopped over to rest and have a wonderful Sunday picnic by this impressive piece of protoindustrial construction. Amazing!

This buttressed building, about 7 m. tall and 5 m. wide, rises on the edge of a clearing by the forest path.

Just behind it, we saw the rest of the old facilities. The tank where water would freeze over in winter time is still perfectly preserved.

Next to it, part of a small brickwork ramp is still standing. It was used to let the ice slide into the ice well.

The building faces north, and we actually felt quite cold there in the shade!

The existence of ice wells is recorded since the days of the Roman Empire.

However, the ice business expanded spectacularly between the 16th and 19th centuries.

Although from the 1890s it was gradually supplanted by electricity powered ice plants, this ancient and sustainable industry managed to survive until well into the 20th century.  

All that remains of those times is an impressive building in a forest and the memory of how similar and yet so different life was just a few generations ago.

Does this really matter? We believe it does. A little knowledge of history provides us with useful insights and an increased understanding of the present.

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