chapter  6
8 Pages

Ice rinks

The world’s first mechanically frozen ice rink was opened by John Gamgee in Chelsea, London, in January 1876. Two months later he established a bigger, 40ft (12.2m) × 24ft (7.3m), permanent ice rink at 379 King’s Road, Chelsea. This had a concrete surface overlain with earth, cow hair, timber planks and oval copper pipes. The pipes were covered with water and a solution containing glycerine, ether and peroxide of nitrogen was pumped through them (this being a process discovered by Gamgee during his research into methods of freezing meat for import into the UK from Australia and New Zealand). Gamgee operated the rink on a membership basis, appealing to wealthy people who had experienced open-air ice skating during winters in the Alps. He installed an orchestra gallery and decorated the walls with views of the Swiss Alps. Initial success encouraged Gamgee to open additional rinks at Rushholme, Manchester, and Charing Cross in London. The latter ‘Floating Glaciarium’ contained a much bigger rink measuring 115ft (35m) × 25ft (7.6m). But the process was expensive and the club members were put off by mists rising off the ice. All three of Gamgee’s rinks had closed by mid-1878 but the Southport Glaciarium, opened in 1879, perpetuated application of the invention.