Why build an ice stadium in Littleport?

The recreational and competitive fun of skating and speedskating on ice  has ever been synonymous with the ancient East Anglian village of Littleport since at least the 18th century.Set in the heart of the fens, 25 miles from the Wash where King John lost his Crown Jewels; 6 miles north east of Ely, famous for its Cathedral that the Normans built over the women’s religious sanctuary founded by Saxon Queen Etheldreda; 6 miles east of Welney and its washes and Wetland Wild Bird Trust, and 21 miles north of the university town of Cambridge, it has all the basic modern amenities and is a growing community with new houses going up as well – thanks largely to its proximity to the network of A class roads and a smart railway station with a frequent commuter service, but even though Littleport is known to be the home and cradle of speedskating in England, its ice skating facilities are lodged firmly in the distant past.

Opportunity for anyone to enjoy and participate in the recreational or competitive sport of speedskating or bandy, or indeed to have the pleasure of learning to skate, is dependent upon the temperature dropping below zero Celsius every day for 5 consecutive days with the nights measuring 4 degrees or under... Added to this is that there is no natural standing water, the nearest venue fulfilling the old criteria has always been and still is, Welney.(pictured above) In fact the Welney, Littleport and District Division of the Fen Centre, the governing body responsible for all outdoor ice skating in England and affiliated to the National Ice Skating Association, is an active organisation that is 100% behind this new project. Also the England Bandy Federation is heavily involved in this project.                   


There is a long history linking Littleport and its residents to the icy conditions that were more prevalent in those days.

Apart from the prehistoric use of bone skates and stickpicks that continued until the middle ages when skates more like our present day types were used – a skate with an iron runner set in a wooden platform that could be attached to the feet of a skater was excavated in Amsterdam dated at 1225 AD – it was recorded that on February 4th 1763 the first organised race was held on the fens. Races were held thereafter at every opportunity, whenever conditions allowed, for the next 200 plus years.

In the latter quarter of the 1800’s a new initiative was made to facilitate skating both recreational and competitive in Littleport itself right by the railway station... Literally thousands of people came to the area by rail to watch or take part. Plenty of locals were to be found among the speed skaters racing for the many prizes on offer.

Interestingly one of those keen Littleport skaters in the 19th century also happened to be the wealthy owner of the local Hope Brothers factory.

He was Thomas Peacock who had returned to the place of his birth and upbringing after making his original fortune in merchant shipping in China, then increasing it after opening Hope Brothers shops in the City of London.

And it was he who in 1892 purchased the land known as the Moors, a 40 acre site close to Littleport railway station, to flood it so that when the winter freezes set it provided a ‘skating ground’ where his own much loved sport and recreational needs could be met and shared with all his fellow Littleport inhabitants. In fact eight years later in 1900 both the British Amateur and Professional speed skating Championships took place there with record crowds attending.

The proposal is to erect an ice stadium to bring that history to life on a regular basis by putting the outdoor track indoors, and in the style of a Fen Shed, in Littleport. It will be a large fen shed, but it will still be recognisable as any of the sheds that are dotted around the fen landscape that house the luscious produce of the countryside, the arable flat-lands of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Lincolnshire.

Inspired by fen skating of all sorts, as well as racing against the clock in pairs on the 400 metre oval track, the ice stadium will also fully encourage enjoyment of the newest old sport of Bandy within this 21st century ice shed as a recreational pastime too. Those two ice skating pursuits will also be benefited by expert coaching so that should skaters who desire to progress through to competition will find the Littleport Ice Stadium is  definitely up to the task! The Stadium will be geared up to provide as equal an opportunity to participate on the ice as possible, fully staffed and fully accessible, with ramps to all parts including one to the ice, all automatic doors wheelchair user-friendly, lifts to all levels, housing an ‘outdoor’ 400 metre track (all 400 metre tracks used to be termed outdoor in skating vernacular) and the inner ice field will be of internationally accepted proportions to host Bandy games from club level to international and World Cup tournaments! An ice field of around 100 metres by 50 metres!

 The roof will be covered in solar panels and will therefore supply its own energy requirements altogether.

As befits an international venue there will be 3 ice cleaning machines, Naturally there will be a Box Office and Reception area, separate off-ice exercise areas for men and women, seating for at least 2,000 spectators, separate lavatory facilities for men and women, as well as  gender neutral toilets, crèche with nursing room, showers and changing rooms, warm-up/down areas, coaching rooms with analytical performance equipment, ‘first aid’ suite, administrative offices, skating equipment and clothing shop, fast food outlet/s, specialist sports food and drink outlets, non-alcoholic soft drinks, tea, coffee served in a social bar, Bureau de Change, WiFi lounge, Press Room, VIP lounge and two spiritual multi faith quiet rooms. 

A new leisure centre is planned within walking/jogging/pushing distance of the ice stadium, and two new secondary  schools are being built in the village to service the ever increasing population.

The Littleport Ice Stadium that is morphing into the Littleport Ice Shed will be a truly recreational and therapeutic experience for all, from beginners through every stage of skating pleasure through to elite performance and competitions.

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