What are Cellars, Storage, and Outbuildings?

Cellars were used for storage, and outbuildings were small buildings separated from the main house that also provided some sort of storage. There were a variety of cellars and outbuildings. These included such things as beer-cellars, bins, coal-cellars and wood-houses, fruit-stores, ice-houses, lumber-rooms, miscellaneous cellars, and wine-cellars.


Example of a large cellar. Author’s collection.

  • Beer-cellar: Superior residences often had a Beer-cellar. Beer-cellars were not necessarily located next to Wine-cellars — despite the convenience it would have afforded — because unlike Wine-cellars, Beer-cellars required light and ventilation. Access to Beer-cellars also depended on whether or not the beer was brewed at home or delivered. Beer-cellars were usually also sparsely furnished and contained nothing more than beer casks and some stools. Sometimes there was a Receiving-cellar that accommodated both wine and beer and was used for unpacking beer or wine, washing bottles, stowing hampers, etc. In small residences the Beer-cellar was often placed in front of the Wine-cellar due to space restrictions.
  • Bins: Bins provided temporary storage for refuse and when placed under some sort of cover outdoors. Bins tended to be readily accessible from the Kitchen, but they also had to be placed so as not to cause offensive odors. One Bin regularly used was the Ash-bin. Ash-bins held dry rubbish, cinders, and ashes from fireplaces and usually had a wire screen placed over the top to allow sifting. Offal-bins were another type of refuse Bin. These were used for kitchen offal and because Offal-bins were known for their offensive odors, they were usually emptied every day or two, depending on the season.
  • Coal-cellars and Wood-houses: Houses needed to be warmed during cold months and coal and wood were the primary means used for warming a house. Coal-cellars and Wood-houses stored coal and wood. They also needed to accommodate delivery wagons and be conveniently located for easy access from the Kitchen, Wash-house, or Bakehouse. Therefore, they were often placed among other outbuildings or sometimes in the basement of a house. In Country houses the horses needed to be capable of being brought up close to the delivery point without passing the principal approach or crossing gardens or pleasure grounds. They also needed to be able deliver their loads without interfering or causing excessive noise to occupants. Coal-cellars needed to have floors and walls that were reasonably dry. Unlike Coal-cellars that might be in basements, Wood-houses were never placed indoors. They were generally some soft of outbuilding as wood was usually stacked and split for use. Wood-houses might also contain supplies needed for lighting fires and, so, they were readily accessible from the house and the Coal-cellar.
  • Fruit-store: Sometimes a home owner wanted a special area for apples and other fruit. These areas were known as Fruit-stores. However, care had to be taken to prevent odors and the area had to be well-ventilated and dry.
  • Ice-house: Ice houses were used to preserve every kind of food. Meats, such as fish, game, venison, beef, pork, and poultry, could be kept for a considerable amount of time inside them. Ice houses also made excellent Larders, and they allowed people access to ice, a great luxury during hot summer months. Ice-houses also could not admit heat or dampness. Ice-houses were reduced to freezing temperatures and straw or chaff was packed around a large block or blocks of ice. In this way, ice could be protected for a long time even if it was a hot sunny summer day. Demonstrative of this was the Ice-house at Marie Antoinette‘s famous Petit Trianon. Huge blocks of ice were stored in it that supposedly lasted five years. Ice-houses were either attached or detached from the home, but either way the construction was usually the same. Ice-houses were best placed on the north side and almost always double-walled with a space of about 9 inches between the walls. The ceiling was also similarly constructed. A small doorway on one side allowed entrance. A small drain was needed to allow water to drain away as the ice melted, but the drainage also had to be secured so as to prevent vermin from entering. Sometimes there were passageways to an Ice-house from the main house. They were also double walled and it was best if such passageways were also short and not over five feet.
    Cellars - Example of Ice House of 1818, Author's Collection

    Example of Ice House of 1818. Author’s collection.

  • Lumber-room: A Lumber-room was important because it accommodated lumber new and old and it also held other incongruous articles, such as spare furniture, broken articles, packing cases, etc.. A Lumber-room also needed to be of sufficient height to hold long lumber pieces, and it also needed to be dry and have windows and a fireplace, if possible. It was best to have a Lumber-room located near the Servants’ quarters. Sometimes there was also a Workshop attached to the Lumber-room used to repair furniture and other items. Lumber-rooms and Workshops were also sometimes located in a Stable loft. If a Luggage-room was unavailable, a Lumber-room might serve function in that capacity too.
  • Miscellaneous Cellars: Some home owners liked to use Cellars to store root vegetables, such as parsnips, carrots, etc. Fruit was also sometimes stored in Cellars but the Cellar needed to be extremely dry to accommodate fruit. Cellars also needed to be protected from dampness and frost, and, at the same time, there needed to be some light and ventilation to prevent the contents from spoiling. Housekeepers often kept a small Cellar near their work areas during sultry weather. There were also sometimes small cellars for lumber or other such things and sometimes spare cellars contained locking closets or cupboards.
  • Wine Cellars: Wine-cellars were generally underground, situated so that butlers could access them from the Butler’s-pantry, and placed away from general traffic. Their size was dependent on the owner. Light was not admitted into the Wine-cellar despite the fact that the temperature was often controlled by a window. The best place for Wine cellars tended to be towards the interior of a house where temperatures remained moderate and where artificial heat would not be generated. Wine-cellars usually had paved floors and often had bins 24 or 30 inches square and 22 inches deep so that two bottles could be laid neck to neck. These bins were often arched and formed with brick from floor to ceiling. Shelves were created from slate, stone, or brick. The door to the room also needed to be strong and have a “proof-lock.” Sometimes adjacent to the Wine-cellar was a Receiving-cellar. Receiving-cellars for wine generally had a window and served as a Vestibule to the Wine-cellar. Wine-Cellar doors needed to be wide to admit a pipe (cask) of wine, which was usually 5 to 6 feet in length and 30 to 36 inches in diameter. Sometimes there was also a bottling area called the Wine-in-wood-cellar. It was interposed between the Wine-cellar and the Receiving cellar. Additionally, sometimes there was a Butler’s-cellar, which was outside of the main Wine-cellar. When a master kept the key to the wine cellar the Butler’s-cellar was where the master deposited wine for the butler to serve. This area was usually furnished with a closet or cupboard and was used by the butler to lock up wine in decanters. In certain homes there might exist a separate Madeira-cellar because Madeira required a higher temperature for storage. Sometimes to avoid people accessing the Wine-cellar altogether, a smaller cellar or closet was used to hold bottled drinks.


  • Kerr, Robert, The Gentleman’s House, 1865.

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