The Newchurch Poor Rate Books, which are held in the County Record Office at Hillside, Newport, list the owners and tenants, rates, etc., of buildings and businesses from the early 1830s. The Arcade is rated as 14 separate retail units, a Large Room (now The Lanes), a Gas House, Wine vaults and Ice Well.
This ice well served Charles Dixon in 1836, who ran The Soup Room from Number 8. (Turtle soup sold at 15 shillings (75p) a quart.) Another Union Street fishmonger leased the well for several years. The well later became an opportunity for Henry Knight and his family to attend to the increasingly popular demand for confectionery in early Victorian Ryde.
In October 2012, the ice well was revealed in all its glory, having been bricked up and forgotten for the last fifty or so years. In remarkable condition, and with amazing brickwork, the well has been cleared of over 10000 litres of PH 7, so long-standing, stagnant water. A large pile of wood, rubbish and silt has been removed, as well as a large amount of metalwork. So far parts belonging to a Victorian range, tools and pipes have been identified.
More images on the Ryde District Heritage Centre Gallery page. Recent research on ice wells has revealed the exciting fact that this well could be unique in the British Isles! Of 2099 ice houses and wells listed in The Ice Houses of Britain, Beamon and Roaf, 1990, only two are integral to a building. One is in a house near Northallerton, of a completely different design, and the other was destroyed during WWII.
A rare find indeed and worthy of public support!
Recent research has revealed the one-time existence of another ice well in Number 12, Union Street, currently Zabre. A domestic well originally, this was later used by confectioners, before the building became the Hampshire Bank.