Hundreds of Bottles of Toxic Beer Found Hidden Beneath Victorian-Era Staircase

More than 600 beer bottles found under the basement stairs of an old brewery in Leeds, England.

More than 600 beer bottles found under the basement stairs of an old brewery in Leeds, England.
Statue: Archaeological services WYAS

Archaeologists in Leeds, England discovered over 600 beer bottles at the site of an old Victorian brewery. Neatly stacked under a cellar staircase, the beer in these 19th-century bottles contains dangerous concentrations of lead.

The bottles were found among the remains of what used to be the Scarborough Castle Inn, in the basement of the old Tetley brewery, reports The Drinks Business.

Archaeological Services WYAS is investigating this part of Leeds as developers prepare to build a residential area, according to to the Yorkshire Evening Post. The Tetley Brewery dates back to the Victorian area, but the site itself dates back to England’s medieval era.

The excavation site in Leeds city center.

The excavation site in the center of Leeds.
Statue: Archaeological services WYAS

The bottles, which were found in February, probably date back to the 1880s, David Williams, senior project manager for Archaeological Services WYAS, told The Drinks Business. Several brands were identified in the stack of bottles, but most were labeled ‘J. E. Richardson from Leeds. ‘

Many of the bottles still contained liquid, which the archaeologists initially thought was ginger beer, according to the group Facebook page. Samples of the fluid were sent to West Yorkshire Joint Services for analysis.

“Remember those bottles we found? Well, the analysis has come back! the archeology group wrote in a Facebook post of March 20, 2020.

Illustration for article entitled Hundreds of bottles of poisonous beer found hidden under Victorian era stairs

The liquid was not supposed to be ginger beer, but real beer. And it was disturbing that the beer contained a lot of lead.

The test found a pH of 5.07 (indicating acidity), an alcohol content of 3 percent (so light beer!), And “no traces of most heavy metal except lead!” The group said. The lead concentration was measured at 0.13 mg / l, which is well above the maximum acceptable level of 0.01 mg / l located by the World Health Organization.

“This beer would have been harmful to health,” the group wrote on social media. “We suspect this is due to water coming out of lead pipes.”

And of course this water was used to make the beer. Lead tubes were certainly used in England during the Victorian era also in the United States), but it was around this time that people finally began to point out the dangers excess lead in drinking water.

The bottles as discovered by archaeologists.

The bottles as discovered by archaeologists.
Statue: Archaeological services WYAS

High concentrations of lead can cause a variety of health problems, which can vary with age. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say Excessive lead consumption in children can lead to behavioral and learning difficulties, lower IQ, hyperactivity, slowed growth and anemia. In adults, it can lead to cardiovascular problems, weakened kidneys and fertility problems in both women and men. It is especially dangerous for pregnant women because, according to the CDC, lead can affect fetal development and cause premature birth.

As for the hundreds of bottles discovered on the site, the developer of the future neighborhood will display them on the site of the former Tetley’s Brewery, The Drinks Business reports.

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