Map of the week – The Great London Beer Flood of 1814

On October 17 1814 tragedy struck as nine people lost their lives in tidal wave of beer. The Horse Shoe Brewery of Messrs. Meux & Co. at the junction of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street (where the Dominion Theatre now stands) was an impressive collection of buildings with enormous beer-vats towering above the roof tops.

OxfordStreet
(map shown: OS County Series 1:2,500)

Every one of these vats held 3,550 barrels of beer each amounting to more than a million pints.

At around half past five on the evening of Monday October 17 an iron strap binding one of the giant barrels snapped, causing the weakened vessel to split, releasing its entire contents. Worse was to come as the force of its disintegration ruptured nearby vats, releasing more than 300,000 gallons of beer that smashed down the brewery wall and surged through the streets. The surrounding area, known as St Giles Rookery, was a multitude of small tenements, crowded with tenants of the poorer classes. Several people were found drowned in their basements; one was crushed in a pub demolished by the wave; two children were also described as having been swept away by the onrushing wall of beer. One source also tells of a man who died days later due to alcohol poisoning after succumbing to the lakes of beer left behind.

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