Index. Origins of Skating. Skaters and Championships. The Development of Skating. The Early Years upto 1914. Between the Wars. 1946 Onwards. BBC Book of Skating. Ice Skating Memorabilia..
The Early Years
upto 1914
The first experiments made for the production of real ice by artificial means must concern everyone interested in the history of figure-skating, for without this man-made ice the development would have been slow indeed. That evaporation was an agent for producing intense cold had been known for a long time, but had received only
scant attention from the scientists; on December 17, 1812, a report made to the Royal Society by its secretary, Dr. W. H. Wollaston, on the experiments of a Mr. Leslie, wherein, by the use of an instrument called a Cryophorus a frost bearer, to absorb vapour by sulphuric acid ice could be formed in a few minutes, by condensation through the means of Salt and Snow.
Then, in 1842, Henry Kirk invented a mixture of alum and other chemicals and, in a cellar in Baker Street, London, lied down a small ice floor which, although because of its size and smell were a complete failure, did set scientific brains on the right lines of enquiry. In 1865, W. A. Parker discovered a process by which ice could be produced by carbonic acid and brine, thick enough to stand the hard use of a skate. In 1870 William Newton designed a building in New York suitable for a skating rink and, using the invention of one Matthew Julius Bujac of that city, produced ice by the circulation of ammonia gas, ether and carbonic acid, through tubes placed below the surface of the water.
This project did not last long but, in the same year, a Professor John Gamgee patented a process which he claimed was an improvement on all previous systems of refrigeration, and five years later, he patented his Improvements applicable to the formation and maintenance of Skating rinks.
The professor took a small room in a side street off Kings Road, Chelsea, and there installed his rink. Although it was of no use for actual skating it did attract much attention.
Manchester was actually first in the field, with the Rushoim Ice Rink, formed on Gamgees process, opened in 1876. It ran for about 12 months supported by skaters and curlers but, mainly because of its uneven surface and the intense, damp cold which often caused a thick impenetrable mist, it was an extremely uncomfortable place and, in consequence, it closed down.
Another rink was later constructed at Southport, about 16 miles away from Liverpool. It was mainly built and supported by the businessmen of the two great cities. 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 January 10th, 1879, thus coinciding with the foundation of the National Skating Association. This famous rink, 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.
It is interesting to note that the manager and chief engineer of this rink, Mr. Nightingale, whom many of us remember so very well, eventually came to London and served as ice maker and engineer at the celebrated Princes Skating Club, the private club started and supported entirely by the Duchess of Bedford, and housed in the same building where now is the Daimler Hire Co. in Knightsbridge. In 1881 an artificial rink was opened in Frankfurt and another in Munich in 1892, which lasted a long time, for it was run in connection with the brewery and by all accounts was a most amusing and refreshing place. Then there came, in 1893, the Pole Nord in Paris and in London the Niagara Hall near Charing Cross. These were followed by a rink on the site of Henglers Circus, where is now the London Palladium, and was known as the National Skating Palace and where, in 1898, the I.S.U. held the memorable World Championship which was won by the Swedish skater Henning Grenander.
Part 1
The Early Years upto 1914 (Part 2).