The Griffin in Shoreditch is connected to the Great Beer Disaster of 1814

In Shoreditch there is a pub called The Griffin, which in 2017, is surrounded by a lot of building and development work, in an era during which many parts of Shoreditch are being knocked down, to make way for corporate towers. Since the development work started around The Griffin, The Griffin closed down. I don’t know if there are plans to transform it, or what it will become once it is transformed.

Prior to its closing I patronised The Griffin one or twice. Frankly, I felt that it was a bit of a shit hole and I didn’t enjoy the beer much. However what always struck me were the old brown tiles and the lettering on the outside of the pub. Old coloured tiling is a feature of several of the pubs in Shoreditch, its very pretty, and gives the area a historical feature. Of particular interest to me was the lettering on the tiles, advertising ‘famous Meux’ products. I found this intriguing, especially the idea of Meux being famous, because I had never heard of Meux drinks.

Recently I discovered that an extraordinary event that occurred in London in 1814, which I have known about for a few years, which involved several Irish Londoners being drowned in beer, is closely connected to The Griffin. The event in question occurred when a vat of beer, or porter to be precise, burst on Tottenham Court Road. Such was the volume of beer, that it managed to fill an underground cellar in a neighbouring house. Unfortunately at the time there were several Irish women and children holding a wake in the cellar. Everyone died.

Martyn Cornell has penned an article about the disaster. His research revealed that the brewery, which owned the vat, was called Henry Meux’s Horse Shoe Brewery. Cornell provides a detailed look at the history of the Meux brewery company. Henry Meux was the son of Richard Meux, who had gone into the brewery business in 1757. In 1763 Richard built a brewery in Clerkenwell, which they called The Griffin. Later on Henry Meux bought a brewery already in existence on Tottenham Court Road, which is where the Great Beer Disaster occurred.

The Griffin, in Shoreditch, must have been one of the old Meux brewery pubs. Quite why they decided to call this particular pub The Griffin, I don’t know, but it is obviously homage to the brewery built in Clerkenwell. According to Martyn Cornell, Meux merged with two other companies in 1956 and was then bought by Allied Breweries in 1964. Allied Breweries pubs were then sold to a company called Punch in the 1990s.

So it seems that The Griffin, as its old brown tiling suggests, has seen a few comings and goings.

What I’d be fascinated to know more about is quite how the pub with its name and the old brown tiling has survived all these years.


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