You are currently viewing the International Edition. You can also switch to the Hong Kong Edition.
Thursday 2 July 2015

On this day…the London Beer Flood

17th October, 2013 by Rupert Millar

On this day in 1814 London’s Tottenham Court Road was flooded with over one million litres of beer when the vats from a local porter brewery gave way.

The-vat-before-it-ruptured1

The type of vat employed at London breweries in the 18th/19th centuries

The vats belonged to the Meux and Company Brewery, a major supplier of porter-style beers in the area, at its Horse Shoe Brewery on the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street.

Throughout the 18th century there had been a growing trend for larger and larger vats of beer.

In 1785 Meux & Co proudly proclaimed that one of their barrels alone could hold “four thousand five hundred barrels of wholesome liquor”.

Until the end of the century the barrels kept increasing in size.

This aggrandising trend ended in tragedy on 17 October 1814 when a vat containing 3,550 barrels of fermenting beer, literally bulging at the seams, ruptured – probably due to corroded hoops.

The explosion is said to have caused a domino effect, knocking the cocks out of another huge vat and smashing many hogsheads – not least because the rupture brought down the back wall and part of the roof.

In total some 323,000 gallons (1.4m litres) of porter rushed out into the street in a tidal wave weighing several hundred tons and around 15 feet high, destroying two homes and badly damaging the nearby Tavistock Arms pub.

The area around St Giles parish where the accident took pace was a poor area at the time and which were known as “Rookeries” due to the number of persons living in each house and the generally low standard of living and housing they enjoyed.

Many also lived in cellars and it was there that the most fatalities occurred, trapped and drowned in the rapidly filling basements.

Thankfully deaths were few – at that time of the day most people were out at work – seven to eight died, all women and children and including a teenage girl who worked at the Tavistock Arms.

meuxbwy-1830

The brewery in around 1830

Incredibly, no one in the brewery was killed by the accident although several were badly injured.

The brewery was taken to court but the judge and jury ruled it an Act of God and no one was prosecuted. Parliament fined the company over £20,000 but Meux & Co successfully petitioned to be let off paying £7,250 in excise duty which saved it from bankruptcy.

The brewery was demolished in 1922 and is now occupied by the Dominion Theatre.

Meux & Co, through moves and mergers, became Friary Meux in 1956 but went into liquidation in 1961 and was acquired by Allied Breweries.

Brewing ceased altogether in 1969 and in 1997 Allied sold its brewing interests to Carlsberg-Tetley.

A fuller account of the accident can be read here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

If that's interesting, how about these?

Brewers and suppliers tack on to craft

Leading drinks suppliers and brewing companies are expanding their craft beer more...

Savoy launches vintage Pimm’s menu

The American Bar at the Savoy hotel in London has launched a vintage Pimm’s more...

Lidl hints at plans for online wine shop

UK supermarket Lidl has not ruled out launching an online wine shop, reporting more...

Digital and Communications Executive

£22,000-£26,000 dependent on experience

Top 10 Hong Kong craft beer bars

Anyone looking to quench their thirst with a ginseng microbrew should more...

Carlsberg creates beer-shampoo

Danish brewer Carlsberg has launched a new range of men’s grooming products more...

World's cheapest city for a beer revealed

The average price of a bottle of beer is £1.07 in Krakow and Kiev, making them more...

E-commerce, Sales & Marketing Executive

London, United Kingdom

Competitive salary and bonus package based on experience and qualification.

Ten dead at beer company after attack

An attack at a beer distributor in the Mexican state of Nuevo León has left 10 more...

Around the world in 80 cocktails

Mr Fogg’s bar in Mayfair has launched an ambitious Around the World in 80 more...

World's best beer and wine festivals

Forget Glastonbury, these are the festivals you should be making a beeline for more...

Wine Buyer

London, United Kingdom

Based on experience

AB InBev invests $1.5bn in US

Brewing colossus Anheuser-Busch InBev has announced plans to invest over US$1 more...

Queen releases Bohemian Lager

Rock band Queen have launched a lager to celebrate 40 years since the release more...

Chinese student builds house out of beer bottles

An engineering graduate and his father have built a two-storey house made out more...

Marketing and eCommerce Manager

London, United Kingdom

Competitive, includes equity options

UK customs seize 550,000 litres of alcohol

More than 550,000 litres of illegal beer, wine and spirits have been seized by more...

Top 10 London rooftop bars

London's many rooftop bars offer not only an opportunity to get away from the more...

Top 10 new craft beers

With new beers coming onto the market all the time, it can be difficult to keep more...

Supplier Relationship Manager

London, United Kingdom

Beer festival in China’s Muslim area angers 'exiles'

In China’s predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang, exiled groups of Uighur more...

Antipodean craft brewers in tax tussle

A proposed tax refund for craft brewers in Australia should not be extended to more...

UK market in growth as price increases slow

The latest figures from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association show that more...

PR Manager

Competitive

Bar launches festival-themed cocktail list

Matt Whiley, the liquid alchemist in charge of Peg + Patriot, the bar at the more...

Beck's forced to issue $50 refunds

Anyone that has bought a Beck's beer in the past four years could be entitled more...