The Fota House Game Larder
In the 21st century we don’t think twice about purchasing strawberries for Christmas in shops or supermarkets. Seasons are largely unimportant in today’s globalised world, and when we want to preserve food we can easily chill or freeze it. But in the 1800s storing and preserving supplies for winter, especially meat, was a real challenge and so ingenuity was called for.
In the 1830s, John Smith Barry added the game or wet larder and it acted as an early refrigerator and processing and preservation area. As fishing, hunting, hospitality and entertaining played a major part in Ascendancy life, a place was needed to prepare, stored and preserve all the meat and game. Foodstuffs coming into the house at this time were unprocessed and sometimes even still alive. A number of procedures had to be carried out before the food was ready for the kitchen. It is interesting to note some of the features in the Fota House game larder such as the grooves on the stone flags of the floor. These are a testament to the messy work that was carried out there, as they were designed to stop staff from slipping on blood and entrails.
A lot of thought went into the design of the game larder. It is built on a north east facing wall that gets little sunlight and has a hexagon shape to maximise outer wall surface area. There is a vent in the roof so that cross winds could blow through, creating what is known as a venture effect, which would suck any bad smells up and out. There are also screens on the windows to keep vermin and insects out but allow fresh air in. In order to ensure there was no pilferage of expensive meats, the windows of this room had iron bars fitted. To see the game larder for yourself, why not come down to Fota House and take a tour with one of our knowledgeable volunteer tour guides!