The Building

12-13 New Wharf Road

Ice House

The front of the museum building

Carlo Gatti (1817-1878) established himself on this site between 1855 and 1858, most probably in 1857, the year in which his first cargo of 400 tons of imported Norwegian natural ice was brought to London. It seems almost certain that this first cargo was stored in an ice well on this site. A second ice well was constructed in 1863, and in the course of this work one of the workmen, John Parker, fell to his death. The side walls of the building probably date from this period, and also the roof of the main hall, which was then without an intermediate floor. In 1904-6 extensive reconstruction was carried out and the previous buildings adjoining the ice wells were replaced by new ones at the front of the building including residential accommodation for a caretaker, and new drains. The brick piers at the side of the building were constructed (the brickwork is notably different) to enable floors to be put in. During this period of reconstruction the first floor was created for stabling of horses and the horse ramp constructed, so that the building became a carefully designed horse and cart depot. The architect for this work was a Mr. H. Phelps Drew. United Carlo Gatti and Stephenson used the building until 1926, after which it was used by a number of different occupiers for warehousing and light engineering.

Rear of 12-13 New Wharf RoadDuring the war the building was used by AEC as a depot for spare parts for London buses. In 1956 there were further alterations to the building including the concrete stairs which now form the main route to the first floor. The stable partitions were removed, though they had probably been disused for many years by this time. The building became an Italian food importer's warehouse. After a period of disuse, the building was taken on by the Canal Museum Trust in 1989 and work was done to make it suitable for use as a museum, but no structural alterations were made. A hole was made in the ground floor to give a view down into the west ice well. Battlebridge Basin, to the rear of the building, was constructed around 1820. The wharves around it were used for a variety of industry such as sawmills, a øottling plant, jam making, and a flour mill.