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The attack of Haynau

May 01, 2014 | 4 Minute Read

The Spring of Nations took Europe by storm. People for various reasons from different background thought it was time to act. From Paris to Debrecen people fought for what they thought was right against their opressor, military officials like Julius Jacob von Haynau.

In 1801 he started his military career in the Austrian army, rose quickly in the ranks and when the revolutionary insurrections of 1848 broke out in Italy, Haynau was selected to command troops to suppress them. He is still known as the “Hangman of Arad“, the “Hyena of Brescia” or just simply as “The Butcher” He had earned his delightful moniker by torturing prisoners and flogging women while suppressing revolts in Italy and Hungary.

But this is a beer blog, so why do I write all about this you ask? I get to it now.

Austrians like their beer, and Haynau was no exception. There’s an urban legend about him enjoying a pint while watching the hanging of 13 Hungarian generals in Arad on 6th October 1849. Because of this in Hungary, people traditionally do not clink their glasses or mugs when drinking beer.

In August 1850 the Butcher decided to take a holiday in London, because even tyrants need a break every now and then. His visit wasn’t widely publicized he was just one of the many foreigners in the city. The sightseeing itinerary included a tour of Barclay and Perkins Brewery in Park Street, just off Southwark Bridge Road.

Down with the Austrian butcher!

The brewery was considered one of the wonders of London for much of the 19th century and a must-visit destination for the serious traveler. Visitors included the Prince of Wales, the German statesman Otto von Bismarck, Prince Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte and Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt.

Haynau arrived to the brewery on 4th September with his nephew and his interpreter, trying to keep a low profile. Some sources say workers spied on his signature in the visitors book and this is how his cover was blown, but more likely his well known mustache gave him away. In the period reading was not as common as nowadays and around London every small stationer’s window had pictures representing him in the humane and gallant act of flogging women. He was a known figure of his time.

Either way, within minutes a posse of draymen (cart drivers who delivered beer from the brewery to the pubs) gathered, and as Haynou entered the stables, they lobbed a bale of hay at his head. And then began to pelt him with manure. Haynau and his company fled to the streets chased by lightermen and coalheavers tearing at his clothes, yanking out great tufts of his notorious long mustache. The mob had quickly swelled to more than 500 people, men and women alike, armed with whips and brooms.

The desperate Haynau tried to hide in a room at the George Inn in Bankside, but was soon discovered and showered with yet more horse dung. By the time the police finally arrived, the pub was under siege and they had to rescue the general though the window and rowed him across the Thames to Somerset House guarantee his safety. The humiliated butcher was in no fit state to continue his holiday.

Letters congratulating the Barclay and Perkins dreyman arrived from workers’ associations as far afield as Paris and New York, and hundreds turned up for a huge celebration rally at Farringdon Hall. Not everyone was so enthusiastic about Haynou’s humiliation: Queen Victoria furiously condemned the mob, calling it a riot “got up by Hungarian refugees”.

But to the working classes and many sections of the press, the Barclay and Perkins Draymen were heroes and defenders of female honor. Even Giuseppe Garibaldi visited the brewery later to congratulate the workers years later.

The Barclay and Perkins brewery later was known as the Anchor, but in 1981 the brewery was demolished. Residential houses were erected on the site, but a commemorative plaque still reminds people of the international incident that happened in 1850. It’s definitely worth to take a walk there if you’re in London, The George Inn is still open to this day and there’s the Anchor pub near the brewery site, which used to be a brothel back then, but that’s a whole different story.