OTD: 6th June

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london_glaciarium

On 6th June 1844 the world's first mechanically-frozen ice-skating rink opened at the Baker Street Bazaar on Portman Square in London.

The rink was named "The Glaciarium". It was decorated with painted alpine scenery and featuring live music to skate to, courtesy of a resident 'promenade band'. Visitors included Prince Albert and Prince Alexander of the Netherlands.

An item in the 8th June 1844 issue of Littell's Living Age reported:

"This establishment, which has been removed to Grafton street East' Tottenham-court-road sic, was opened on Monday afternoon. The area of artificial ice is extremely convenient for such as may be desirous of engaging in the graceful and manly pastime of skating".

glaciarium_Littells
Littell's

A later rink was opened by John Gamgee in a tent in a small building in Chelsea in January 1876, before moving in March to a permanent venue on the Kings Road.

The rink was based on a concrete surface, with layers of earth, cow hair and timber planks. Atop these were laid oval copper pipes carrying a solution of glycerine with ether, nitrogen peroxide and water. The pipes were covered by water and the solution was pumped through, freezing the water into ice. Gamgee had discovered the process while attempting to develop a method to freeze meat for import from Australia and New Zealand and had patented it as early as 1870.

The rink was for members only to attract a wealthy clientele, experienced at ice-skating during winters in the Alps. He installed an orchestra gallery, which could also be used by spectators, and decorated the walls with views of the Swiss Alps.

southport_glaciarium
Southport Glaciarium

The trend spread around the country, and, in 1879 one of the largest artificial skating rinks in the world opened in Southport at 184 Lord Street. The foundation stone was laid by Lord Clarence Paget on April 5th, 1877, it cost £30,000, was 164 by 64 feet and was opened on 10th January two years later.

The Southport Glaciarium was advertised as: The Only Real Ice Skating Hall in the World! The Figure Skaters' Paradise! Open in all Seasons! Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter! Admission 6d.

In 1889 after ten years of struggle and eventual financial loss, it closed down.

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