Some say Marco Polo brought it back from his travels to the Far East, others that Catherine de Medici introduced it to France when she relocated to marry King Henry II.
In fact, it has a much more ancient history with biblical references to King Solomon enjoying during harvest season and during Nero’s reign of Rome from 54 – 68 BC, ice was harvested from nearby mountains and held in “ice houses”—deep pits covered with straw.
The emperors of the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD) are believed to have been the first to eat “a frozen milk-like confection.” This version was made with cow, goat or buffalo milk that was heated with flour and then flavoured.
The oldest in the world opened in Paris in 1686 and Le Procope is still there today, New York first got one in 1790 but it was over 60 years later before a Swiss immigrant called Carlo Gatti opened one in London.
He built a large ice warehouse near King’s Cross and began importing ice from Norway Starting with a single ice well in 1857, he built a second and became the largest ice importer in London. Today the ice warehouse houses the London Canal Museum
Hungerford Market burned down in 1854, but Gatti was insured, and used the proceeds to build a music hall, known as Gatti’s. He sold the music hall to South Eastern Railway in 1862, and the site became Charing Cross railway station.
Gatti acquired restaurants and more music halls and was the largest manufacturer and seller of ice cream in the country, and now 166 years after he opened the first, Chorleywood gets its own ice cream parlour.