Untold lives blog

17 October 2015

The London Beer Flood 1814

On 17 October 1814 catastrophe struck at Meux’s Brewery on Tottenham Court Road London.  Eight people lost their lives when a vat full of beer burst, releasing 3,555 barrels of liquid.  The shock demolished the brick wall of the brew-house which was 25 feet high and 22 inches deep and caused a substantial part of the roof to fall in.  The cock of the adjoining vat was broken and the contents poured out, adding to the flood of beer. 


  Brewery scene with beer barrels Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

A brewery in happier times – image taken from George Cruikshank, The House that Jack built ... (London, 1853) shelfmark 11647.g.15


Those who died were named as:
Eleanor Cooper aged 14, servant to Richard Hawes of the Tavistock Arms, Great Russell Street
Mary Mulvey, a married woman aged 30, and her son Thomas Murry aged 3 by a former husband
Hannah Banfield aged 4
Sarah Baten aged 3
Ann Saville aged 60
Elizabeth Smith, a married woman aged 27
Catherine Butler, a widow aged 65

Richard Hawes gave evidence at the coroner’s inquest held on Wednesday 19 October that he was in the tap room of the Tavistock Arms at 5.30pm on the previous Monday when he heard a crash. The back part of his house was beaten in and everything in his cellar destroyed. Beer was pouring into his pub and across the street.  Eleanor Cooper was in the yard washing pots and her body was dug out from the ruins nearly three hours later. She was found standing by the water butt.

One little girl lost her mother, brother and grandmother in the accident.  They were buried and suffocated in the kitchen of a house in New Street adjacent to the brew-house. She escaped because she had just been given permission to go out to play in the street.

Others suffered serious injuries: the brewery superintendent and one of the labourers were taken to Middlesex Hospital and were reported to be ‘in a dangerous way’. The coroner’s jury returned a verdict that the victims had met with their deaths ‘casually, accidentally, and by misfortune’.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive - Nottingham Gazette 28 October 1814, Liverpool Mercury 28 October 1814



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