Based on childhood recollections
of life in north London
in the early 1900s.
When I was a child in the early 1900s, there were no refrigerators. So shops
like fishmongers and butchers had to use ice to keep their goods from going
off. They kept the ice in large walk-in cupboards, known as ice cupboards, in
the main shop.
The ice was delivered to the shops in an ice cart which was easy to spot
because it had ICE printed in bold letters on the side. Like all the other delivery
carts, it was horse-drawn. The delivery man was known as the ice man.
The ice was in long blocks about 2½ ft long, a foot deep and 8 inches wide.
To reach the ice from the rear of the ice cart, the ice man would use a long
S-shaped hook to drag the blocks forward. He carried the ice into the shops
using a padded sack over his shoulder protect himself.
Blinkers, as worn by all workhorses in the early to mid 1900s and as shown
on a small scale
in all the photos of horses and carts on this website. The blinkers blocked
anything but straight ahead from the horses' vision, which kept them calmer
and more controllable.
Photo courtesy of Peter Hambrook.
We children were always thrilled to see the ice cart coming along the street:
the ice man had to use a lot of force to get his hook into the ice, and we would
delight in picking up the bits that fell off. Goodness only knows what water
source they came from and they were probably dirty from the cart and the road
- but that never worried us. We had few such treats and would pop the broken
ice into our mouths regardless.
It was easy to follow the ice cart around on its deliveries because cart
horses lumbered along no faster than our own walking pace.
This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in early to mid 20th century Britain, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times. It is © Pat Cryer.