Edward Cecil Guinness

(10/11/1847 - 07/10/1927)

Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh (1847–1927), who was a remarkable Anglo-Irish businessman, philanthropist, and key member of the renowned Guinness family, which was renowned for its brewing business. In Crumlin, he is best known for the creation of the Iveagh Gardens housing estate for Guinness workers and the creation of the Iveagh Grounds sports facility.

Born in Clontarf, Dublin, Edward Cecil Guinness was the third son of Sir Benjamin Guinness, 1st Baronet, and the younger brother of Arthur Guinness, 1st Baron Ardilaun. He pursued his education at Trinity College Dublin, graduating with a BA in 1870. His public life included serving as Sheriff of Dublin in 1876 and later becoming the city’s High Sheriff. For his assistance during the visit of the Prince of Wales to Ireland, he was created a baronet of Castleknock, County Dublin in 1885. In 1891, he was ennobled as Baron Iveagh, and he went on to receive several additional titles, including Viscount Iveagh and Earl of Iveagh in 1919. His numerous public roles included being elected to the Royal Society in 1906 and serving as Chancellor of the University of Dublin from 1908 to 1927.

In the business sphere, Edward Cecil Guinness played a pivotal role in managing and expanding the Guinness brewing enterprise. By the age of 29, he became the sole owner of the Dublin brewery, significantly increasing its value and production. In 1886, he floated two-thirds of the company on the London Stock Exchange for £6 million, becoming the richest man in Ireland at the age of 40. He continued to serve as the chairman of the new public company Guinness, retaining a significant share of the stock.

Edward Cecil Guinness was a generous philanthropist, contributing to slum clearance and housing projects in London and Dublin. He founded the ‘Guinness Trust’ in London in 1890, managing over 66,000 homes as of 2020. In Dublin, his philanthropic endeavours resulted in the creation of the Iveagh Trust, which funded extensive urban renewal and provided social housing. One of his most noteworthy contributions was the development of the Iveagh Gardens, a housing estate situated in Dublin. This housing complex was explicitly constructed to provide comfortable accommodations for Guinness brewery employees. Cecil was deeply committed to enhancing the living conditions of the brewery workers, and the establishment of the Iveagh Gardens stands as a testament to his dedication to their welfare.

Beyond the housing estate, Cecil Guinness played a pivotal role in establishing the Iveagh Grounds, an extensive sports facility that catered to the local community, particularly in the Crumlin area of Dublin. The sports complex featured a wide array of sports fields, facilities, and green spaces, enriching the lives of the community’s residents and offering them opportunities for leisure, recreation, and athletic pursuits.
Furthermore, Edward Cecil Guinness supported medical and scientific research. He donated to the Lister Institute and co-funded the Radium Institute in London. He sponsored the construction of new physics and botany buildings in Trinity College Dublin. Additionally, he played a role in financing the British Antarctic Expedition (1907–09) and had a mountain in Antarctica named after him, “Mount Iveagh.”

An art enthusiast, he amassed a notable collection of Old Master paintings, antique furniture, and historic textiles, much of which was donated to the nation and is now housed in the Iveagh Bequest at Kenwood, Hampstead.

Edward Cecil Guinness’s political engagement was relatively limited, as he preferred to bring about social improvements through his philanthropic efforts. However, he achieved a seat in the House of Lords in 1891 and supported the Irish Unionist Alliance.

A keen sportsman, he enjoyed coaching and yachting. He won a yacht race sponsored by Kaiser Wilhelm in 1897, and his schooner “Cetonia” was a familiar sight at Cowes Week.

Following his passing in 1927, Edward Cecil Guinness left a substantial estate. His will bequeathed Kenwood House in Hampstead as a museum for his art collection, known as the “Iveagh Bequest.” The “Iveagh Window” was installed in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, in his memory. His Dublin home, 80 St. Stephen’s Green, was gifted to the Irish Free State and became the headquarters of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Edward Cecil Guinness’s contributions to business, philanthropy, and society continue to be celebrated and have left a lasting legacy.

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Connection with area: 1st Earl of Iveagh , businessman and philanthropist who Iveagh grounds and Iveagh gardens are named after.