A novel by Felicity Kinross

Ice House

London Canal Museum Introduction

This novel was written by the late Felicity Kinross whose book Coffee and Ices is the main text on Carlo Gatti and the ice trade in London. It has never been published in print, and the manuscript lay unread in the archives of the museum. It is a fictional story which paints a picture of Victorian London and of the Tichinese community. It brings in many aspects of life and London in Queen Victoria's reign. The ice trade, social conditions, crime, fasion, the Great Exhibition, even the Fire Brigade and firefighting are brought into the story. As such, it is an educational portrait as well as being a very entertaining, easy read which readers won't want to put down. It is suitable for both adults and children. In publication of this work on the Internet, we pay tribute to Felicity Kinross who did so much to research the ice trade and to educate the public about it. We thank her late brother for his kind permission to do so. The novel is published for personal enjoyment and for educational purposes. Copyright rests with the executors of Felicity Kinross's estate and these pages may not be reproduced elsewhere without their permission.

Author's Introduction

The story is centred on an Italian waif, Ragazzo, found abandoned in a London street by Carlo Gatti in 1848. Ragazzo is imaginary, but the other principal characters are real and the story is based on the facts behind Carlo Gatti's own rags to riches career in London. Carlo Gatti - a Swiss Italian from the Ticino - probably came to London at the end of the 1830's. He made his living first selling coffee and waffles in the street, set up a number of kiosks and cafes, which he manned with his own Tichinese people, together with a chocolate-making business. Later he opened a large cafe in Hungerford Hall where coffee was served to ordinary people "with a little light music". Here he introduced the penny ice cream for the first time and probably on to the streets of London where the Hokey Pokey Italian ice cream seller was to become a permanent feature for the rest of the century. In the mid 1850's he became a large-scale Ice Merchant, importing thousands of tons of natural ice from Norway, for use in butcher's shops, fishmongers, restaurants, ice cream sellers and later to private homes. In the 1860's he branched out into Music Hall, buying what was to become Gatti's in the Road and Gatti's in the Arches (now the Players Theatre). Arriving in London from Paris with a few sous in his pocket, he died in 1878, a millionaire. His businesses were continued under his daughter, Rosa and his nephews, Agostino and Stephano, whose famous restaurant in the Strand closed only in 1939. The Ice business closed in 1981. Over a thousand Tichinese people came over to work in his various employments and their descendants live and work here today.

Section separator

Chapter Title
Story Summary Author's Precis
Chapter 1 Introducing Ragazzo
Chapter 2 Coppice Row
Chapter 3 Ragazzo and the Flower Makers
Chapter 4 The Ice Breakers
Chapter 5 Stefano
Chapter 6 Battista Bolla - Chocolate Maker
Chapter 7 Mr. Cattley's Proposal*
Chapter 8 Luke Corazza
Chapter 9 Rosa
Chapter 10 Rosa's Birthday
Chapter 11 The Great Exhibition
Chapter 12 Difficult Customers
Chapter 13 The Arrival of the Brothers
Chapter 14 Fire at Hungerford Hall
Chapter 15 The New Cafe
Chapter 16 The Ice Cream Barrow
Chapter 17 Tom*
Chapter 18 Tom's House*
Chapter 19 The Ice Well*
Chapter 20 The Butcher*
Chapter 21 A Policeman Calls*
Chapter 22 Norway*
Chapter 23 Ice Harvest*
Chapter 24 Homecoming*
Chapter 25 Nellie Moore*

Ragazzo: Copyright

Copyright, Executors of the estate of Felicity Kinross. London Canal Museum is grateful to the late Ray Kinross for permission to publish this novel. The novel is published on the London Canal Museum website for the benefit of the public.