The Ice Factory, Grimsby, Lincolnshire, UK

The Grimsby Ice Factory was the largest producer of ice in the world. Compressors from the 1930s are still in place and are the oldest and largest example of such to remain.

Grimsby Ice Factory
 

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History of the Grimsby Ice Factory

The Grimsby Ice Factory was built in 1901 to produce ice for the fishing fleets. At the time refrigeration techniques were in their infancy and it was not possible to build chilling units onto a ship. Instead, ice was produced in large quantities on land and distributed onto ships before they left port. The fish they caught could then be packed in ice for the return journey.

Initially steam was used to power the factory, however as demand increased and the benefits of electricity were realised, the plant was upgraded to use electrically driven compressors in 1930. J&E Hall of Dartford, Kent undertook the task of replacing the refrigeration equipment and Metropolitan-Vickers of Manchester were commissioned to provide the electric motors.

Grimsby Ice Factory - External including conveyors for transporting ice to ships

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Grimsby Ice Factory – External including conveyors for transporting ice to ships

The compressors were the workhorse of the factory. They compress ammonia, causing it to cool down significantly. The heat was expelled from heat exchanger coils on the roof, while the supercooled ammonia was pumped to coils around which brine from ice tanks was circulated. This in turn cooled the brine to around -13 degrees Celsius (8°F).

The tank rooms were where the ice was produced. Freshwater was pumped from two bore-holes beneath the factory and poured into moulds. The moulds were lowered into the brine where the freshwater froze as the moulds were pushed gradually through the tank. Once the moulds reach the far end of the tank the ice was tipped out and crushed ready to be used by the fishing fleet. Conveyors transported the ice directly onto the awaiting ships.

Four of the J&E Hall’s compressors were installed initially, and a fifth unit was added in the 1950s during a further period of expansion. At its height, the Ice House could produce 1,100 tons of ice per day. This made it by far the largest ice factory in the world.

The factory saw expansion to the tank rooms over the years too. In 1907 two additional ice tanks were added, and a seventh during the 1950s expansion. A decline in demand and new technologies for ice production led to the factory being scaled down in 1976. The factory closed down completely in 1990.

Grimsby Ice Factory - Four J&E Hall Compressors in the main compressor hall

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Four J&E Hall Compressors in the main compressor hall

 

Historical Significance

The huge J&E Hall compressors remain in place, and are the only example of such to remain. They are also the largest compressors of this type ever constructed, so they are of great historical significance. The Ice Factory has been Grade II listed to preserve the compressors, however the building continues to fall into a state or dereliction.

The Great Grimsby Ice Factory Trust (GGIFT) was formed to explore ideas for sustainable re-use of the building. A survey commissioned by North East Lincolnshire Council indicates it may cost £5 million to preserve the factory, and many times that amount to fully restore it.

My Visit
Being in my home town it’s surprising I’ve not visited this historic site before. Instantly recognisable by any resident of Grimsby, the Ice Factory holds a personal interest for me. Finding myself at a loose end early one morning I decided to head down to the docks and have a look around. The compressors are huge and impressive, much larger than I expected, and were certainly interesting to see. Having a rough idea about how the plant worked before I visited, I managed to follow the process of ice production around the site from start to finish, and I was pleased to discover the equipment for the whole process is still present in the factory.

 

Grimsby Ice Factory - Side-on view of the compressor hall

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Side-on view of the compressor hall

Grimsby Ice Factory - Compressor hall

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Compressor hall

Grimsby Ice Factory - J&E Hall Compressors

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Hall’s Compressors

Grimsby Ice Factory - Decaying Hall

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Decaying Hall

 

J&E Hall Compressor Details

Grimsby Ice Factory - Compressor side view

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Compressor side view

Grimsby Ice Factory - Rear of the compressors

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Rear of then compressors

Grimsby Ice Factory - The compressors stand proud amongst the grime

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Grimsby Ice Factory – The compressors stand proud amongst the grime

Grimsby Ice Factory - Metropolitan Vickers Electric Motors

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Metropolitan Vickers Electric Motors

Grimsby Ice Factory - J&E Hall Maker's Stamp

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Grimsby Ice Factory – J&E Hall Maker’s Stamp

Grimsby Ice Factory - Pipes!

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Pipes!

Grimsby Ice Factory - Between the compressors

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Between the compressors

Grimsby Ice Factory - Compressors and switchgear

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Compressors and switchgear

Grimsby Ice Factory - Controls

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Controls

Grimsby Ice Factory - Traditional green and gold paintwork

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Traditional green and gold paintwork

Grimsby Ice Factory - Please close this  door

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Please close this door

Grimsby Ice Factory - Electrical Switchgear

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Electrical Switchgear

Grimsby Ice Factory - Power consumption records

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Power consumption records

Grimsby Ice Factory - Small hall office

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Small office

 

Ice Tank Rooms

The ice tanks were super-cooled tanks of brine. Buckets of freshwater were lowered into them which froze into ice as they were slowly pushed through the tank.

Grimsby Ice Factory - Array or pipes used for filling the ice buckets

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Array or pipes used for filling the ice buckets

Grimsby Ice Factory - A set of ice buckets

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Grimsby Ice Factory – A set of ice buckets

Grimsby Ice Factory - Tipped buckets

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Tipped buckets

Grimsby Ice Factory - Once frozen, the ice buckets were hauled up and the ice tipped out

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Once frozen, the ice buckets were hauled up and the ice tipped out

Grimsby Ice Factory - Spiked rollers crushed the ice ready for use

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Spiked rollers crushed the ice ready for use

Grimsby Ice Factory - Conveyors move the ice between floors

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Conveyors move the ice between floors

Grimsby Ice Factory - Conveyors outside transport the ice to ships

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Conveyors outside transport the ice to ships

 

Pumps and Tanks

A number of pumps were used to retrieve freshwater from bore holes under the factory.

Grimsby Ice Factory - Ammonia storage tanks

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Ammonia storage tanks

Grimsby Ice Factory - Pumps and valves

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Pumps and valves

Grimsby Ice Factory - Pump bed

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Pump bed

Grimsby Ice Factory - Pump room

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Pump room

 

Compressor Number 5

A fifth compressor was added in the 1950s in a seperate, smaller hall.

Grimsby Ice Factory - Number 5 in small hall

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Number 5 in its hall

Grimsby Ice Factory - Compressor Number 5

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Compressor No. 5

 

Other areas of the factory

Grimsby Ice Factory - Smashed up offices

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Smashed up offices

Grimsby Ice Factory - Electrical Workshop

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Electrical Workshop

Grimsby Ice Factory - View from the roof

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Grimsby Ice Factory – View from the roof

Grimsby Ice Factory - Freshwater storage

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Freshwater storage

Grimsby Ice Factory - Remains of the heat exchangers on the roof

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Grimsby Ice Factory – Remains of the heat exchangers on the roof

 

Now and Then - a look at how the Ice Factory has changed
I found some historic photos of the Ice Factory, so re-took the same shots to show a comparison of how it has changed. Many changes were made to the equipment over the years since these photos were taken, and the factory has become a mess since its closure.

Grimsby Ice Factory Now and Then - Overview of the compressor hall

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Grimsby Ice Factory Now and Then – Overview of the compressor hall

Grimsby Ice Factory Now and Then - Compressor number 3

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Grimsby Ice Factory Now and Then – Compressor number 3

Grimsby Ice Factory Now and Then - Pump and electrical gear

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Grimsby Ice Factory Now and Then – Pump and electrical gear. All equipment replaced since original photo.

Grimsby Ice Factory Now and Then - Ice Tank Number 1

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Grimsby Ice Factory Now and Then – Ice Tank Number 1

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