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19th May - Benjamin Lee Guinness

#OnThisDay, 19th May 1868 Benjamin Lee Guinness died.

Benjamin Lee Guinness, born on 1 November 1798 in Dublin, was the grandson of the first Arthur Guinness who founded the St. James's Gate brewery in 1759.  He started working in the brewery at the age of sixteen alongside his father, Arthur II, becoming the controlling partner from 1838 onwards and head of the brewery after his father’s death in 1855.

In 1835 Benjamin Lee and his brother, Arthur Lee came to live in Clontarf when they acquired a small estate with 50 acres, called Thornhill, from John E.V. Vernon of Clontarf Castle.  Within a few months of moving into Thornhill, the Guinness brothers added to the estate by acquiring adjoining land in Raheny.  In 1837 Benjamin Lee married his first cousin, Elizabeth Guinness and built an impressive and luxurious new house for himself and his wife. This new house, called St. Anne’s, after the nearby holy well, was built in 1837 and incorporated part of the Thornhill house. It was an irregular shaped Italian style house, with an unusual observation tower on the roof, which was a replica of the Roman Tomb of the Julii at St. Rémy in France.

In 1839 he built an ornamental tower bridge to mark the birth of his first child, Anne Lee.  A formal walled garden was laid out, a Pompeian water temple was erected on the artificial lake, a Herculanean temple was built overlooking the river, a walled vegetable garden was built with an entrance through gates under a four storey brick clock tower and at a later stage a large conservatory was added to the east side of the house.

Benjamin Lee was elected Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1851.  His greatest act of generosity was his restoration of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which he saved from falling into ruin.

He died suddenly in London in 1868. His remains were brought back to St. Anne’s and lay there for six days in his private chapel. Benjamin Lee is buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery.

You can read more about Benjamin Lee Guinness in the Raheny Heritage Society’s publication ‘Raheny Footprints’.

Foe more on St Anne’s Park you can read our member Joan Sharkey’s book ‘St Anne’s - The Story of a Guinness Estate’.

Look at our photo gallery to see some photos associated with Benjamin Lee Guinness .