Thursday, 17 October 2013

An act of God?

Meux's Brewery Co Ltd was a London brewery owned by Sir Henry Meux. Established in 1764 the company was a major supplier of porter in the area.

 In 1807, Sir Henry purchased the Horse Shoe Brewery, located on the junction of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street, which had been established in 1764.

By the end of the 18th century, large vats were commonplace in London's porter breweries. A report of 1790 describes how, in 1785, Meux's Brewery on Liquor-pond-street could store about 35,000 barrels of beer; one vat held "four thousand five hundred barrels of wholesome liquor". By 1790 the same business contained a specimen 60 feet in diameter and 23 feet tall, which held about 10,000 barrels. An even larger vat was installed in 1795, 25 feet tall, and with a capacity of about 20,000 barrels.

This trend, of building ever larger vats, came to an end on Monday 17 October 1814. At Henry Meux's Horse Shoe brewery in St Giles in the Fields, corroded hoops on a large vat prompted the sudden release of about 7,600 barrels of porter.The resulting torrent caused severe damage to the brewery's walls and was powerful enough to cause several heavy wooden beams to collapse. The flood's severity was exacerbated by the landscape, which was generally flat. The brewery was located in a densely populated and tightly packed area of squalid housing (known as "the rookery"). Many of these houses had cellars. To save themselves from the rising tide of alcohol, some of the occupants were forced to climb on furniture.Several adjoining houses were severely damaged, and eight people killed.

The accident cost the brewery about £23,000, although it petitioned Parliament for about £7,250 in Excise drawback, saving it from bankruptcy. The brewery was demolished in 1922; the Dominion Theatre now occupies the site. The adjacent brewery tap, built on a grand scale as a combined pub and restaurant, survived in other uses until 2004.

In 2012, a local tavern the 'Holborn Whippet' has started to mark this event with a specially created vat of Porter brewed especially for the day.

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