London Beer Flood

The London Beer Flood occurred on 17 October 1814 in the parish of St Giles, London, England. At Meux's and Companies Horse Shoe Brewery on Tottenham Court Road[, several casks burst, spilling more than 1,470,000 litres of beer into the surrounding streets.

London Beer Flood
© Photo by Don Lodge on Unsplash

On 17 October it was noticed that a barrel hoop on the large tank had come loose and this was also reported to the supervisor, but this was not an unusual occurrence. The supervisor was only supposed to pass this on to the boss, but it never came to that. Only an hour later, the large tank burst, damaging other tanks that subsequently burst as well. The 4.6 metre high flood wave with porter destroyed walls and houses and flowed into inhabited basements in the poor district.

Unfortunately, there were also fatalities, for example, a family was holding a wake for their deceased toddler. The mother of the deceased boy and four other mourners were killed by the flood of beer. In total, eight people between the ages of 3 and 63 died as a result of the beer flood.

Following testimony about the loosened barrel hoops, however, which was considered a normal occurrence several times a year, the jury concluded that all eight people died "accidentally due to an unfortunate mishap". Due to the court ruling that it was an act of God, the brewery did not have to pay compensation to the victims.

As a positive consequence of the disaster, the large wooden tanks were gradually replaced by lined concrete tanks throughout the brewing industry.