Guinness, Benjamin Lee (DNB00)

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GUINNESS, Sir BENJAMIN LEE (1798–1868), brewer, and restorer of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, born in Dublin 1 Nov. 1798, was third son of Arthur Guinness, brewer, Dublin, who died 9 June 1855, by Anne, eldest daughter and coheiress of Benjamin Lee of Merrion, county Dublin. He early joined his father in the practical business of the brewing firm of Arthur Guinness & Sons, and on the death of his father in 1855 became sole proprietor of a large establishment. In the management of this commercial enterprise, to the minutest details of which he personally attended, he manifested a remarkable power of organisation, the effects of which were visible in the steady growth of his fortune, and in the comfortable condition and fidelity of his workmen. Until his time Dublin stout was chiefly used in home consumption; he developed an immense export trade, and became probably the richest man in Ireland. In 1851 he was elected the first lord mayor of Dublin under the reformed corporation, and magnificently fulfilled the duties of the office. In 1860 his attention was directed to the state of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. It was so far decayed that in a few years it would have fallen in, and have become a mass of ruins. He undertook the restoration, in exact conformity to its original style, and the works were carried out under his personal superintendence at a cost of 150,000l. In 1865 the building was restored to the dean and chapter, and reopened for service 24 Feb. In 1863 he was made an LL.D. of the university of Dublin, and on 15 April 1867 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. On 17 July 1865 he was elected a member of parliament for the city of Dublin in the conservative interest, and continued to represent that city till his death. The citizens of Dublin and the dean and chapter of St. Patrick's presented him with addresses on 31 Dec. 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. He was one of the ecclesiastical commissioners for Ireland, a governor of Simpson's Hospital, and vice-chairman of the Dublin Exhibition Palace. 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. He showed his practical interest in Irish archæology by carefully preserving the antiquarian remains existing on his large estates in co. Galway. He died at his London residence, 27 Norfolk Street, Park Lane, on 19 May 1868, and was buried in Mount Jerome cemetery, Dublin, in the family vault, on 27 May. His personalty was sworn under 1,100,000l. on 8 Aug. 1868. A bronze statue of him by Foley was erected in St. Patrick's churchyard, Dublin, in September 1875. He married, on 24 Feb. 1837, Elizabeth, third daughter of Edward Guinness of Dublin. She died on 22 Sept. 1865. His eldest son, Arthur Edward Guinness, succeeded his father in the baronetcy, and was created Lord Ardilaun 1 May 1880. His third son, Edward Cecil, was created a baronet 27 May 1885, Baron Iveagh in 1891, and Viscount Iveagh in 1905.

[Freeman's Journal, 25 and 28 Feb. 1865, 20 and 28 May 1868; Times, 21 and 22 May 1868; Illustrated London News, 4 March 1865, pp. 200, 201, 207, 209, with views of St. Patrick's Cathedral and portrait, 29 May 1868; Graphic, 15 Sept. 1875, pp. 278, 293; Leeper's St. Patrick's, Dublin (1878), pp. 19, 24, 64.]

G. C. B.