The First Baronet

Sitting in the winter sun on the south side of St Patrick’s Cathedral is a statue of Benjamin Lee Guinness. Named after his maternal grandfather, he was the third son of Arthur Guinness Jr and Anne Lee, after William, a clergyman, and Arthur Lee. After the latter’s death in 1839, Benjamin Lee assumed control of the family business from his father in 1840. He transformed the brewery from the largest in the city to the largest brewery of porter in the world.

Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness Bt

Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness Bt (Photo: B)

As his fortune amassed, Benjamin Lee moved the family home from Number One, Thomas St (now marked with a plaque) to Stephen’s Green. Here he combined two houses in what Dickson calls a “kind of opulent Victorian palace not otherwise seen in in the city”. The transfer can be observed in street directories: in 1832, No. 1 was home of Arthur Guinness, Esq., in 1862 it was listed as a Brewer’s house, as the original brewery stood behind it. The family had lived in No. 1 since its construction in the 1750s-1760s. Casey describes the now seven bay building as much extended.

Guinnes Plaque, No 1 Thomas St

Guinnes Plaque, No 1 Thomas St

While philanthropy to varying degrees was common among the gentlemen of the early nineteenth century, Benjamin Lee brought this to new levels, spending £110,000 on the restoration of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, with the aim of restoring it to its “medieval magnificence”. The aim was to create a national cathedral. The building, like its neighbour at Christchurch had fallen into disrepair, and according to Cullen, demolition was considered in 1805. As the century progressed, some work was completed, but as disestablishment of the Church of Ireland was imminent, any significant state investment was unlikely. One could consider that the cathedral would not have survived but for his investment. The work was not without controversy—no architect was hired, and Guinness himself directed the project. A view of the Cathedral from 1739 demonstrates how much work was done subsequently.

St Patrick's Cathedral, 1739. Reproduced in Stalley.

St Patrick’s Cathedral, 1739, by J Blaymires. Reproduced in Stalley.

He also began the restoration of Archbishop Marsh’s library. For this work and more, Benjamin Lee Guinness was created 1st Baronet Guinness of Ashford Castle in 1867. It was evidently a popular decision. A book of memorials from the citizens of Dublin ran to two volumes. As mentioned previously in the article on St Sepulchre’s Palace, the street in front of Benjamin Lee’s statue was for some time called Guinness St, before reverting to St Patrick’s Close. What a pity the name changed back!

St Patrick's Close on the OSi 25" map - "Sch" marks the location of the School

St Patrick’s Close on the OSi 25″ map – part of the street is called Guinness St

Benjamin Lee Guinness died in 1868, a few months before his 70th birthday. His worth was put at £1.1 M at the time. An astute businessman, his will declared that the company could not be split, a decision which perhaps prevented his two sons with remaining interest from doing so. The Guinness empire continued to grow. His son Arthur, 2nd Baronet Guinness, and was later created 1st Baron Ardilaun, completed the work on Marsh’s Library, opened Stephen’s Green to the public (commemorated by a statue of Lord Ardilaun in the Green, facing the Royal College of Surgeons), and rebuilt the Coombe Hospital in 1880. He also initiated interest in the Dublin Artisan’s Dwelling Company (see article on Reginald St), that his brother would later take up in the form of the Iveagh Trust.

In 1876, Arthur sold his share to his brother Edward Cecil, a man who did much to transform the city of Dublin. He was created 1st Baron Iveagh in 1891, and the Viscountcy and the Earldom soon followed. There is plenty more to write about him of course, but for now we can say that a good claim to fame is that the two “cunning brothers” appear in Ulysses: 

“a crystal cup full of the foamy ebon ale which the noble twin brothers Bungiveagh and Bungardilaun brew ever in their divine alevats, cunning as the sons of deathless Leda. For they garner the succulent berries of the hop and mass and sift and bruise and brew them and they mix therewith sour juices and bring the must to the sacred fire and cease not night or day from their toil, those cunning brothers, lords of the vat.”

No. 1 Thomas St, to the left of the entrance of St James Gate Brewery (Photo: informatique on Flickr)

No. 1 Thomas St, to the left of the entrance of St James Gate Brewery (Photo: July 2012 by informatique on Flickr)

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Notes

The amount spent on St Patrick’s Cathedral varies with the source. Dickson quotes £110,000.

  • Christine Casey (2005) The Buildings of Dublin, Yale University Press.
  • Frank Cullen (2015) Dublin 1847: City of the Ordnance Survey, RIA (Dublin).
  • David Dickson (2014) Dublin – The Making of a Capital City, Lilliput (Dublin).
  • Roger Stalley (2009) St Patrick’s Cathedral Dublin, Irish Arts Review 26(3), 116-119.
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The Kevin Street Medley: 1. St Sepulchre’s Palace

If there is another street in Dublin that doffs its cap to as much history in five hundred paces as Kevin St does, I’d like to walk it. I can’t quite say why, but I think it is a peculiar street. Perhaps it is the awkward meeting of its Upper and Lower sections; once linked by the street Cross Kevin St., but now joined together by a serpentine junction. Or perhaps it is the lack of much street-level function; there is but a few number of shops on the street. Instead it is punctuated with large buildings which make it a street to go to, rather than to be on. But Kevin St is one of Dublin’s oldest streets, and deserves our attention. It is recorded on Speed’s 1610 map and its name—derived from the ancient church of the eponymous saint now accessed off Camden Row—hasn’t changed over those four centuries. That’s quite a feat.

St Sepulchre's Palace (click to go to NLI FLickr)

St Sepulchre’s Palace, 1771 (click to go to NLI FLickr)

Even if the name hasn’t changed, Gabriel Beranger’s gorgeous drawing of St Sepulchre’s Palace from around 1770, now the site of Kevin St Garda station shows how much the street has changed over the last two centuries. The palace is also marked on Speed’s map, although it was much older than 1610. It dates from the twelfth century, after the Synod of Kells increased the number of Archbishops in Ireland from two to four: Tuam and Dublin getting the loot. Bishop Gregory of Dublin subsequently became Archbishop Gregory, and the palace was built sometime over the next century. The church’s 74,000 acres of lands in county Dublin included the Manor of St Sepulchre, which consisted of the parishes now known as Crumlin, Donnybrook, SS Catherine. Nicholas and Peter, and Taney. The poor archbishop was bounced in and out of the palace over the centuries. Edward VI, Henry VIII’s son, dissolved St Patrick’s Cathedral and moved the Lord Lieutenant (“the Deputy of our Realm”) into the palace, with the Archbishop moving to the Deanery.

Dublin Mounted Police outside barracks at Kevin St

Dublin Mounted Police outside barracks at Kevin St

Edward’s sister Mary moved the bishop back in, but then the Earl of Sussex (Elizabeth’s Lord Deputy) moved him back out again, but this, again, appears to be short lived, for in Archbishop Adam Loftus’ time there at the end of the sixteenth century, it was described as “a semi-regal abode well pleasantlie sited as gorgeously builded“. St Sepulchre’s Library, originally part of the complex, obviously still exists— it is now known as Marsh’s Library.

After 41 Archbishops, an Act of Parliament was passed in 1806 transferring ownership to the Crown, and the palace became a barracks for the Mounted Police. The Archbishop moved to St Stephen’s Green (No. 16), probably as these quarters were more salubrious than what Kevin St had become. John Carr, writing in 1806 stated that:

“The palace of the Archbishop of Dublin is converted into Barracks and is situated in a close neighbourhood with a collection of more mud, rags and wretchedness than London can exhibit in its most miserable quarters”

kevinstmy4

What might have been… Probably just as well. (Links to Archiseek)

While the palace technically still exists, there isn’t much in Kevin St to relate back to the original structure, some interior detail aside. The unusually large gate-posts into the Barracks have been dated to about 1720.

The entire site is now a bit of a mess. During the boom, plans were well advanced for a new Garda station at the intersection of Kevin St Upper and Lower. Those plans came to a halt very abruptly, and all that remains of that is a large hole in the ground. Even the sign proclaiming the building that was meant to be has disappeared.

Kevin St Garda Station

Site for new Kevin St Garda Station, as seen from DIT Kevin St

The OSi 25″ map from the late nineteenth century shows both the size of the original complex, and I think, how much more lively the street was at that time—the number of houses both on Kevin St Upper and Bride St (now site of Large Hole) is substantial – a glimpse of those houses on Bride St is available at the photo on this Come Here to Me! article.

Kevin Street in the late 19th century (Ordnance Survey of Ireland)

Kevin Street in the late 19th century, showing Guinness Street (Ordnance Survey of Ireland)

The lane running between the barracks and the Deanery to the west was originally called Patrick’s Close, although the connection between the two ends looks like it would only fit a pedestrian in the earlier OSi map from ca. 1840. It has regained the name Patrick’s Close, but it is clear on the map shown that it was for some time known as Guinness Street. This is likely due to the substantial amount of money provided by Edward Cecil Guinness for the restoration of St Patrick’s in the nineteenth century. It’s hard to avoid his name when reviewing the Cathedral’s excellent history timeline on their website.

View of Marsh's Library from Cathedral Lane (Links to the National Gallery of Ireland)

View of Marsh’s Library from Cathedral Lane (Links to the National Gallery of Ireland)

Just opposite the entrance to Guinness Street, we can get a glimpse of what the house on the corner looked like from Flora H Mitchell’s pretty watercolour “Marsh’s Library from Cathedral Lane.” It shows a three storey building with a shop on the ground floor. This is number 15, which in 1911 was home to Michael Doyle, a “coal factor”, and his family. Back on the mid-nineteenth century, it was home to George Close and Sons, Saddlers and Harness Makers; perhaps more fitting given that the Mounted Police were in the Barracks across the road.

More to come on Kevin St!

 

Notes

Victor Jackson (1975) The Palace of St. Sepulchre, Dublin Historical Record, 28(3), 82-92.

Hume Row and Smith’s Buildings now Ely Place

Stephen's Green East on Rocque's map, shows an unoccupied plot that would later become Hume St

Stephen’s Green East on Rocque’s map, shows an unoccupied plot that would later become Hume St (from cover of Lennon and Montague) 

Ely Place seems to have formed almost by accident in 1768. Rocque’s 1756 plan of the city shows that the east side of St Stephen’s Green had some vacant plots, including one plot that aligns with what is now Hume St. Perhaps spotting an opportunity to increase the earning potential of the land area, Gustavus Hume (the man who brought Richard Cassels to Ireland) constructed Hume St. With Ely House the first house to be built in 1771 at the end of Hume St, the connection from Merrion St turning the corner to Hume St—thus forming Ely Place—was a natural result of the new arrangement. The name Ely comes from the marriage of Gustavus’ daughter to the Earl of Ely. Maurice Craig notes—with some satisfaction I feel—that not only were these city streets adjacent, but the ancestral homes Ely Lodge and Castle Hume are also side by side in Enniskillen (Craig, 1952).

Updated version of Rocque's map by Scalé, 1773

Updated version of Rocque’s map by Scalé, 1773

Hume’s work was captured on Scalé’s update of Rocque’s map in 1773, although Ely Place was called Hume Row, until Ely House was built (Irish Builder, 1893). By the time Dublin was mapped again in 1789, it is recorded as Ely Place. Since then, Ely Place has enjoyed a significant status. Even as the shift away from Dublin hit St Stephen’s Green in the 1820s and 1830s, Ely was quoted as being “more select” (McCabe, 2011).

Ely House, by Fiona H Mitchell (National Library of Ireland)

Ely House, by Flora H Mitchell (links to National Library of Ireland catalogue)

Ely House, now Nos. 7 – 8 is the largest house on the street. It was the first to be built, and is clear to see on Scalé’s map, facing Hume St. No. 7 was home to the physicist and Trinity Fellow George Francis Fitzgerald, and there is a plaque in his honour, the first of three plaques at this junction.

Much more interesting for me though is next door, No. 6, which was bought from the Earl of Clare by the 4th Viscount Powerscourt, prior to selling up his very grand townhouse on South William St. Poor Lord Clare, the Lord Chancellor, was attacked by a mob in College Green during riots of 1795, according to a story retold by his sister in 1807:

My late brother the Earl of Clare was always an active, faithful servant to his king and country and ever supported the Protestant interest both in Ireland and England… on the day Lord Fitzwilliam was re-called [prompting the riots], when my brother, was returning from the Castle, after having assisted in swearing in the newly-arrived Lord Lieutenant, a ferocious mob of no less than 5,000 men and several hundred women, assembled together in College green, and all along the avenues to my brother’s house. The male part of the insurgents were armed with … every other weapon necessary to break open my brother’s house: and the women were all of them armed with aprons full of paving stones. They wounded my brother, in the temples in College green; and if he hand not sheltered himself by holding his great square Official Purse before him, he would have been stoned to death. [Irish Builder, 1893]

No. 6, Ely Place Lord Powerscourt had to retrieve his paintings in a van while his step-grandmother was away. No. 6 is the first house past the white railings (from McCullough, 1989)

No. 6, Ely Place. Lord Powerscourt had to retrieve his paintings while his step-grandmother was away. (from McCullough, 1989)

The Earl escaped further injury by dressing up as a kitchen maid once he arrived at the back door of his house. Having escaped this drama, he died in 1802 and the house was sold to 4th Viscount Powerscourt. This Lord Powerscourt, one of only five Irish Lords to oppose the Act of Union (that is my tenuous link to the previous post about Pitt St) died in 1809 and the house became the dower-house of his second wife, Isabella, the Dowager Viscountess Powerscourt. A formidable woman, she lived there until 1848, out-living not only her step-son but her step-grandson, who was just eight when his father died. When he came of age, one of his duties was to retrieve paintings and furniture from the house at 6 Ely Place taken from the house at Enniskerry by Isabella. In his memoirs, Mervyn, 7th Viscount describes the operation (Wingfield, 1903):

All the family pictures now at Powerscourt… had been removed by Dowager Lady Powerscourt sometime in my father’s minority and before his marriage. He was determined to recover the pictures, and on occasion when Isabella, Lady Powerscourt, was absent he went to the house with a van and carried off all the pictures and brought them back to Powerscourt.

Hume House,birthplace of Richard Griffith taken in 2012.

Doorway of Hume House,birthplace of Richard Griffith taken in 2012.

Powerscourt did however install a new staircase in the 1830s. Soon after the Dowager’s death in 1848, No. 6, along with its pair No. 5 (Glentworth House) had a very different use—they were given over in 1859 to the Offices of the General Valuation and Boundary Survey of Ireland under Sir Richard Griffith, becoming the nerve centre of his enormous land valuation survey. Griffith’s birthplace was just opposite, at the junction of Ely and Hume. Marked with an old plaque, it is now neglected—a sad testimony to the man involved in every major undertaking in 19th century Irish administration: Bog Surveys, Ordnance Survey, Griffith Valuation, Census. For good measure, he is also father of Irish geology, having been Professor of Geology and Mining at the Royal Dublin Society. The Valuation Office moved out in 1998 to the Irish Life Mall.

Quoin at No. 1 Smith's Buildings, Ely Place

Quoin at No. 1 Smith’s Buildings, Ely Place

The extension of Ely Place towards the Royal Hibernian Academy was originally called Smith’s Buildings, with Thomas Dodd Smith, builder living at No. 1. Not sounding grand enough, its residents opted instead for the name Ely Place Upper. A stone quoin with the engraving “Smith’s Buildings” is visible at No. 1, of the 5-block terrace at the end of Ely Place Upper.

The third plaque is dedicated to George Moore, who lived at No. 4 Ely Place Upper, and apparently made use of the garden at No 15, opposite, now the site of the Royal Hibernian Academy (Moore, 1966). The Tinker, by Douglas Hyde, first President of Ireland, was played in the garden in 1906, as Gaelige (Daly, 1945). It seems everywhere you look on this street, there is something to commemorate with a plaque!

Three plaques in this area, George Francis Fitzgerald, Sir Richard Griffith, and George Moore

Three plaques in this area, George Francis Fitzgerald, Sir Richard Griffith, and George Moore

Further reading and notes:

Pettigrew & Oulton’s Dublin Directory 1842Dublin Street Directory

Pettigrew & Oulton’s Dublin Directory 1842
Dublin Street Directory for Ely Place. The Dowager is at No. 6.

  • If plasterwork is your thing, Christine Casey (2005) has a lot to say about that, along with Ros Kavanagh, both of which feature a picture the staircase at Ely House. (Christine Casey,2005, The Buildings of Dublin, Yale University Press, Ros Kavanagh, 2007, Irish Arts Review, 24(3), 80 – 83).
  • Niall McCullough’s gorgeous book also has a lot about the architecture of Ely Place, including a picture of the kitchens at Ely House, architectural plans for No. 5 and No 6, and pictured here, the impressive entrance hall and staircase at No. 6. (Niall McCullough, 1989, Dublin: an urban history, Anne Street Press).
  • Old Dublin Mansion Houses, The Irish Builder, 1893, XXXV, May 1, 100 – 102.
  • Maurice Craig, 1952, (2006 repr), Dublin 1660 – 1860: The shaping of a city, Liberties Press.
  • M. H. Daly, 1945, La Touche Bridge to Hoggen Green, Dublin Historical Record, 7(4), 121 – 133.
  • Colm Lennon and John Montague, 2010, John Rocque’s Dublin: A Guide to the Georgian City, Royal Irish Academy, Dublin.
  • Desmond McCabe, 2011, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, 1660–1875, Government Publications, Dublin.
  • Desmond F Moore, 1966, The Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin Historical Record, 21(1), 28 – 37.
  • Mervyn Wingfield, 1903, A Description and History of Powerscourt.

Edited 29 March to insert photograph of quoin at Smith’s Buildings and amend text that said I couldn’t find it… 🙂