Tagged: 1814

The Great London Beer Flood

Today marks the 197th anniversary of one of the strangest and most surreal disasters ever to hit London. It all started on October 17th 1814 in the premises of Meux and Company Brewery on Tottenham Court Road…

These days we see that part of central London as being an area of very expensive real estate, but in the early 19th century it was almost exactly the opposite. Tottenham Court Road was then part of the notorious St Giles ‘rookery’, which was probably the worst of all the slums in London (Hogarth’s satirical and moralising print Gin Lane was set in 18th century St Giles).

Almost fifty years after the beer flood, when the worst of the rookery had been demolished in slum clearances, the writer and reformer Henry Mayhew could still describe St Giles in scathing terms in  A Visit to the Rookery of St Giles and its Neighbourhood (1860):

The parish of St. Giles, with its nests of close and narrow alleys and courts inhabited by the lowest class of Irish costermongers, has passed into a byword as the synonym of filth and squalor. And although New Oxford Street has been carried straight through the middle of the worst part of its slums—”the Rookery”—yet, especially on the south side, there still are streets which demand to be swept away in the interest of health and cleanliness…

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