Benjamin Guinness

Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness, 1st Baronet (1 November 179819 May 1868) was an Irish brewer and philanthropist.


Born in Dublin, he was the third son of the second Arthur Guinness, and grandson of the latter's namesake (1725–1803) who founded the Guinness brewery. 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.

Dublin politician

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.


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. A statue by JH Foley was erected on the south side of the cathedral in 1873.

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.


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 in north County Dublin. In 1855 be bought Ashford Castle in County Galway and what is now Iveagh House at 80 St Stephen's Green in 1856, both of which he rebuilt. Ashford was described in William Wilde's book on Lough Corrib in the 1860s.

He was succeeded in the baronetcy by his eldest son, Arthur, who took over the brewery with his brother, Edward. A third son Benjamin (1842–1900) moved to England and had a career in the Royal Horse Guards. His daughter Anne (1839–1889) married William, Lord Plunket in 1863.

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 Foley was erected in St. Patrick's churchyard, south of the cathedral, in September 1875, which was restored in 2006.

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