How Beer Killed 8 People In 1814 London

Journalist, author, and food and beverage aficionado William Bostwick once said, "Humankind was built on beer. From the world's first writing to its first laws, in rituals social, religious, and political, civilization is soaked in beer." 

While the vast history of beer and its influence on society is a whole other matter, what we know for certain is this: People love their beer. According to USA Today, a whopping 6.3 billion gallons of beer were consumed by Americans in 2018 alone. That's a lot of brew for the crew.

We've all been told about the negative effects of alcohol consumption since we were children. In extreme cases, drinking can pose lethal consequences to one's health, but if you calibrate your intake and keep it to the occasional pint, you're not likely to keel over any time soon. However, once upon a time in early 19th century London, beer managed to kill eight people in a single day, and no one was even drinking it (via Historic U.K.). 

The London Beer Flood of 1814

According to Historic U.K., it was on October 17 of 1814 that a terrible industrial disaster befell the city of London and claimed eight innocent lives. The culprit: beer, and a whole lot of it. The Horse Shoe Brewery was one of the city's prime producers of foamy fun back in those days, but the fun ended when 320,000 gallons of beer erupted onto the streets after a series of vats and containers burst open unexpectedly.

Some people dream of an ocean of free beer cascading through the streets, but history itself tells us that such a reality is more of a nightmare than a dream. The tidal wave of hoppy liquid reportedly reached some 15 feet high (per Historic U.K.), and given the fact that there was no drainage system in the impoverished neighborhood that got the brunt end of the flood, it had nowhere else to go but directly into the homes and establishments of local citizens. According to The History Press, terror-stricken civilians were hopping (no pun intended) up onto tables and furniture to avoid being engulfed by the flood of beer, and while most made out okay, eight others tragically weren't so lucky. 

Eight people died that day

The first casualties of the London Beer Flood of 1814 were Mary Banfield and her four-year-old daughter who were sitting at home enjoying a midday cup of tea together. The tower of beer burst into their home and caused their floor to cave in, tragically killing them both in turn, as Historic U.K. reports. A little ways up the road, Anne Saville and four others were mourning the death of her recently deceased two-year-old son at a wake when the beer wave crashed through the walls and killed them as well (via The History Press).

The final death was that of Eleanor Cooper, a barmaid at the Tavistock Arms pub. When the flood of beer reached the establishment, it broke through the wall and engulfed everyone inside. Cooper lost her life in the devastation, though the other bar goers who were present at the time managed to survive.