1 Dec: There’s Poison In My Pint

Rerun. Thousands of beer barrels were emptied into the streets across Lancashire on 1st December, 1900 – when it finally dawned on people that the cheap stout they’d been drinking with years was in fact contaminated with arsenic. 

Over 6,000 victims were poisoned, mostly across Manchester and Salford, thanks to the practice of padding out the barley used in the brew with inexpensive glucose syrup. 

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider the role that the class system played in the initial diagnoses of mass ‘alcoholic multiple neuritis’; reveal the one company in the supply chain who eventually stumped up £136,000 compensation; and explain how general elections were believed to push the general public into the public houses…

Further Reading:

• ‘The Lancet’ covers the news (1900): https://www.sciencedirect.com/sdfe/pdf/download/eid/1-s2.0-S014067360189036X/first-page-pdf

• ‘The 1900 arsenic poisoning epidemic’ (from the Journal of the Brewery History Society): 


• ‘Arsenic: The Most Popular Poison In Victorian Britain’ (Victorian Pharmacy, 2018):

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