AN UNDERGROUND igloo has been uncovered by builders working at on an extension in a Newbury house.
The workmen uncovered, what is believed to be, an underground Victorian ice house in Remon Puig's back garden while building a three-storey extension to his home.
The large brick-built igloo has a limestone top and is four meters in diameter and more than two meters tall. It was found buried a meter-and-a-half underground behind the house.
Archaeologists believe the icehouse was used as a freezer for food in Victorian times by stacking ice blocks on shelves and packing around the shelves with straw and sawdust.
The structures had to be buried deep so that the earth surrounding it would maintain a constant temperature and not melt the ice.
Ice houses were usually accessed from the top via a north-facing door. But the underground igloo has left archaeologists baffled because it does not have an accessible entrance.
The ice house is considered a rare find as such structures are mainly used for large manor houses and not many good examples are in the UK. Those that are found are usually in a state of disrepair.
The builders discovered the ice house while pulling out a Victorian soak-away pipe and the owners say they would not have discovered it at all if they hadn't decided to position their garden steps where they had.
Homeowner, Remon Puig said: We wish it was in a different location because we would have exposed it as a feature but it's just not in the right place.'
Sarah Orr from West Berkshire Council's archaeology service said that the structure could not be confirmed as an ice house owing to its unusual location. However she said it was too well-built to be a soak-away or cesspit, which leaves few alternatives. She said the limestone roof did not offer easy access to the ice house which was uncharacteristic of the structures.
Mr Puig said that he would like to re-seal and re-bury the ice house with a time capsule containing information about him and his partner and details of the find for future generations to read.