Catastrophic ‘beer tsunami’ killed eight people at London brewery in 19th Century

Catastrophic 'beer tsunami' killed eight people at London brewery in 19th Century

THE GREAT Beer Flood was one of London’s most bizarre and tragic industrial accidents and yet it is often forgotten about.
On October 17, 1814 an exploding beer vat at the Horse Shoe Brewery on Tottenham Court Road unleashed a 15 foot beer tidal wave, demolishing houses and killing eight unsuspecting people.

The fermentation tank that exploded could hold up to up to 3500 barrels of beer.
George Crick, the clerk on duty at the time, said this to a local newspaper: “I was on a platform about 30 feet 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.”
The wave of beer gushed through the surrounding alley ways and flooded the nearby slum of St. Giles Rookery.
2 The brewery was closed in 1921 and the Dominion Theatre now stands in its placeCredit: Alamy
Because this poor area didn’t have drainage systems, the beer seeped into basement’s and people had to cling to furniture to stop themselves from drowning.
The beer flood victims included a young girl called Hannah Banfield and her mother who were drinking tea at home when the flood crashed in and swept them away.
Five of the victims were mourners who were attending a nearby wake for a two year old boy who had just died.
2 It happened when a 22-foot high wooden fermentation tank, holding more than 3,500 barrels’ worth of London brown porter ale, burst at the Horse Shoe Brewery, pictured, on Tottenham Court Road
Rumours spread that the locals took advantage of the free beer and riots started.
However, other reports suggest that people in the surrounding area remained very quiet so victims could be heard crying in the rubble.
No one was charged for the beer flood deaths because it was considered to have been an ‘unavoidable act of God’.
Around £23,000 worth of beer was lost.
The British government paid the brewery for some of its losses but no compensation was given to the families of the victims.
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Had you heard about the London beer tsunami? Let us know in the comments…

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