The London Beer Flood Killed Eight People 200 Years Ago Today

On October 17, 1814, a million litres of beer were unleashed onto London’s streets. The 4.5m tall tidal wave of booze crashed into buildings and flooded cellars, even killing eight especially unfortunate souls. The culprit? A busting vat.

The epicentre of the London Beer Flood was Horse Shoe Brewery on Tottenham Court Road, which was brewing porter in huge vats. A metal hoop on one of these vats snapped. The force unleashed by one bursting vat broke a several others, and pretty soon there was a flood of porter pouring through the streets.

George Crick, the clerk on duty, gave this account to the newspaper, which was recently reprinted in the Independent:

I was on a platform about 30 feet (9m) from the vat when it burst. I heard the crash as it went off, and ran immediately to the storehouse, where the vat was situated. It caused dreadful devastation on the premises – it knocked four butts over, and staved several, as the pressure was so excessive. Between 8 and 9,000 barrels of porter [were] lost.

Unfortunately, the brewery also happened to be right next to the poorly built slums of St Giles. The beer flooded into the houses, sweeping away and killing several people in them. All told, the London Beer Flood claimed eight victims and demolished two buildings.

You can read more about the London Beer Flood in the Independent, just in time for happy hour.

Picture: Map showing Tottenham Court Road running horizontally and St Giles.