Historic Long Stratton landmark collapses

A historic landmark in a south Norfolk village lies in ruins after its fragile brickwork succumbed to the harsh winter weather.

The Grade II listed Ice House, in Long Stratton, which dated back about 200 years, collapsed in the early hours of Friday.

The domed red brick building, visible to passing traffic on the A140, originally served a former manor house which was demolished more than 50 years ago.

Ice would have been stored inside during the winter months and the exterior covered with six feet of earth to preserve it until needed in the summer.

Efforts had been made by local councillors to restore the treasured structure, which had fallen into such poor condition that it was placed on Norfolk's historic buildings at risk register.

But their pleas came too late, as shopkeepers at the neighbouring Ice House Shopping Precinct discovered when they arrived for work last week to find its ancient bricks strewn across the pathways.

Considering the Ice House's deteriorating brickwork and internal timber support, police officers who spent two hours investigating the scene believe the collapse was due to the recent freezing temperatures and not the result of vandalism.

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Peter Adams, owner of Bekays DIY and Hardware store in the precinct, said he was devastated that the Ice House had gone, saying it had sparked the interest of many customers throughout the years.

'I'm devastated. I arrived this morning and couldn't believe it had gone. We have had bad weather before but it's never collapsed,' he said.

'I called the police and they came and did an investigation. At first it looked like vandalism but after investigation they said it was due to the weather. It's such a shame. It was a landmark and a feature. A lot of people came in and asked about it.'

Long Stratton parish councillors had tried for years to acquire the aged building so it could be restored, but South Norfolk Council had struggled to find any record of its owner.

Evelyn Riches, clerk of Long Stratton Parish Council, said: 'The parish council did start looking at it again this year [2010]. It was getting in a worse state of repair and had been vandalised to a certain extent. So we looked into it and asked South Norfolk Council to look into the possibility of a compulsory purchase and asked them if funding would be available.'

A spokesman for South Norfolk Council said its health and safety officers had visited the site to clear rubble from the footpaths and fence off the area.

A spokesman for Norfolk police said officers were called to Long Stratton shortly after 8am on Friday.

'Officers made door to door inquiries but no-one saw anything. They believe the collapse was caused by frost damage,' he said.