Benjamin Guinness

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Statue of Benjamin Guinness in the grounds of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin

Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness, 1st Baronet (1 November 1798 – 19 May 1868) was an Irish brewer and philanthropist.


Born in Dublin, he was the third son of the second Arthur Guinness (1768–1855), and his wife Anne Lee, and a grandson of the former's namesake (1725–1803) who founded the Guinness brewery in 1759. He joined his father in the business at an early age, and in 1839 took sole control. By 1855, when his father died, Guinness had become the richest man in Ireland, having built up a huge export trade and by continually enlarging his brewery.[1]

Dublin politician[edit]

Benjamin Guinness ILN.jpg

In 1851 he was elected the first Lord Mayor of Dublin under the reformed corporation.

In 1863 he was made an honorary LL.D. (Doctor of Laws) by Trinity College Dublin, and on 15 April 1867 was created a baronet by patent, in addition to which, on 18 May 1867, by royal license, he had a grant of supporters to his family arms.

Guinness was elected to the House of Commons in 1865 as a Conservative representative for Dublin City, serving until his death. His party's leader was Lord Derby. Previously he had supported the Liberal Lord Palmerston, but in the 1860s the Liberals proposed higher taxation on drinks such as beer. Before 1865 the Irish Conservative Party did not entirely support British conservative policy, but did so after the Irish Church Act 1869.


The Guinness Tower on the grounds of Ashford castle, built by Benjamin Guinness in 1864.

From 1860 to 1865, he undertook, at his own expense, the restoration of the city's St Patrick's Cathedral, an enterprise that cost over £150,000. In 1865 the building was restored to the dean and chapter, and reopened for services on 24 February. The citizens of Dublin and the dean and chapter of St. Patrick's presented him with addresses on 31 December 1865, expressive of their gratitude for what he had done for the city. The addresses were in two volumes, which were afterwards exhibited at the Paris Exhibition.

In recognition of his generosity, he was made a baronet in 1867. He was one of the ecclesiastical commissioners for Ireland, a governor of Simpson's Hospital, and vice-chairman of the Dublin Exhibition Palace. He died the following year at his Park Lane London home. At the time of his death he was engaged in the restoration of Archbishop Marsh's public library, a building which adjoins St. Patrick's Cathedral, which was finished by his son Arthur.

He showed his practical interest in Irish archæology by carefully preserving the antiquarian remains existing on his large estates around Ashford Castle in County Galway, which he bought in 1855. Nearby Cong Abbey was well-known, and the famous Cross of Cong had been moved to a Dublin museum in 1839.


On 24 February 1837 he married his first cousin Elizabeth Guinness, third daughter of Edward Guinness of Dublin, and they had three sons and a daughter, living at Beaumont House, Beaumont, in north County Dublin. In 1856 he bought what is now Iveagh House at 80 St Stephen's Green. Ashford Castle was described in William Wilde's book on Lough Corrib in the 1860s.[2]

He was succeeded in the baronetcy by his eldest son, Arthur, who took over the brewery with his brother, the third son, Edward. His second son Benjamin (1842–1900) married Henrietta, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Howth; they moved to England where he was a Captain in the Royal Horse Guards.[3] His daughter Anne (1839–1889) married William, Lord Plunket in 1863. The present-day Guinness Baronets descend from his second son Benjamin.

He was buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin, in the family vault, on 27 May. His personalty was sworn under £1,100,000 on 8 August 1868. A bronze statue of him by John Foley was erected in St. Patrick's churchyard, on the south side of the cathedral, in September 1875, which was restored in 2006.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lynch and Vaizey, Guinness's Brewery in the Irish Economy 1759–1876 Cambridge 1960
  2. ^ Wilde on Ashford
  3. ^ Link to, seen Sept 2012
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Edward Grogan
John Vance
Member of Parliament for Dublin
with Jonathan Pim

Succeeded by
Jonathan Pim
Sir Arthur Guinness
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
New creation
(of Ashford)
Succeeded by
Arthur Edward Guinness
Civic offices
Preceded by
John Reynolds
Lord Mayor of Dublin
Succeeded by
John D'Arcy