The Vision of Edward Cecil Guinness

The word visionary is much used, but few people befit the description. Edward Cecil Guinness (“Edward”) is one that probably does.

He was born to Benjamin Lee Guinness and his wife Elizabeth on November 10th, 1847. His father was the grandson of the founder of Guinness and a very successful brewer in his own right, a man who oversaw the development of export markets for Guinness, in particular Britain.

On top of his duties at the brewery, he was Lord Mayor of Dublin and latterly Member of Parliament for Dublin. Furthermore he undertook the massive restoration of St Patrick’s Cathedral, and subsequently, that of Marsh’s Library.

Edward Cecil Guinness’s received his education primarily at home or with private tutors. Known as Ned, he was deeply involved in the affairs of his father from an early age, including taking trips to hop markets with his father.

After his father’s death in 1868, Edward Cecil Guinness and, in part, his brother Arthur (later Lord Ardilaun) pioneered a massive expansion of the brewery. This culminated in Edward Guinness buying out his brother’s share of the brewery in 1876 and then the floatation of the brewery on the London Stock Exchange in 1886.

Although he did not participate in politics as actively as other members of his family, he took an active interest in the welfare and living conditions of his fellow citizens. An example was his donation of some £250,000 to establish the Guinness Trust in London and Dublin, which oversaw the building of the Iveagh Trust's first communities at Thomas Court and Kevin Street/New Bride Street. Edward would go on to invest an even larger sum to bring his vision for the Trust's scheme at Bull Alley to fruition.

Edward and Arthur continued their father’s support for St Patrick’s Cathedral. Edward later designed and gave St Patrick’s Park, in the shadow of the Cathedral, to the people of Dublin as a “breathing lung” for the City, which also brought great benefits to the residents of Kevin Street and Bull Alley.

His prodigious donations to Trinity College Dublin led to his election as Chancellor in 1908. He added the Iveagh Play Centre, known as the Bayno, which was in effect Ireland’s first after school club. He opened one of Ireland’s earliest public swimming pools, the Iveagh Baths.

Edward was rewarded by being made a baronet of Castleknock in 1885 (the location of his country residence, Farmleigh). He was subsequently made Baron Iveagh, of Iveagh in the County of Down, in 1891, the historic title of the Clan Magennis. In 1905 he was made Viscount Iveagh and was given the Earldom of Iveagh in 1919.

Edward had a vision that his fellow Dubliner should be able to benefit from safe and sanitary accommodation, conveniently located near facilities to enable not just survival but self-improvement. In many ways, that remains the vision of the Iveagh Trust to this day.

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Science, medicine and brewing: the links to The Iveagh Trust

The foundation of the Iveagh Trust was enabled by the success of the Guinness Brewery at St James’s Gate in Dublin. However the links between the brewery and The Iveagh Trust go deeper than a financial level.

Since Arthur Guinness (1725-1803) signed the lease to St. James’s Gate on 31st December 1759, the family of brewers had always placed enormous emphasis on the quality of the beer, stout and ale produced, coupling a genuine concern for colleagues and their community with the use of modern management and scientific techniques.

The earliest record of the family’s involvement with medical and social causes was the recruitment of Arthur Guinness to the Board of the Meath Hospital. Latterly his son, Arthur Guinness II (1768-1855) was a founder member of the 'Society for Improving the Conditions of Children Employed as Chimney Sweepers'.
The quality of raw materials used was a hallmark of Guinness’s brewery, so as founder of the Iveagh Trust, Edward Cecil Guinness used appropriate materials for the construction of its dwellings, shops and amenities, regardless of expense.

Brewing also gave an insight into the importance of sanitary conditions: the emphasis on light and fresh air in the design of The Iveagh Trust’s dwellings was pioneering thinking at the time of their construction. The Iveagh Market and washing facilities were built by Edward as Dublin’s first indoor market with washing and disinfecting rooms in an attempt to eradicate the spread of disease through the sale of dirty clothes.

Concern for mankind and an appreciation of the dangers of microbial activity was also behind the family’s donations to medicine, most notably to the Lister Institute of Preventative Medicine, the Radium Institute, Oxford University, the Wright-Fleming Institute, Trinity College Dublin, and The Coombe Hospital. This extended yet further into agricultural research through the Chadacre Institute.

As an employer, Guinness provided what where novel benefits to its employees, such as paid holidays, pensions, on-site health care, and care for brewery families. The brewery’s medical department provided an insight into the pitfalls of contemporary accommodation construction. Of particular note are the insightful surveys of Guinness employee living conditions by the Brewery’s Medical Officer, Sir John Lumsden 1900 - 1901.

Aside from Guinness family members, the management of Guinness and the Iveagh Trust have a long history of sharing personnel, starting with Col. George W. Addison in 1890. More recent luminaries from St James’s Gate include Frank Peard, Harry Byrne, Ernie Bodell and Clive Brownlee. Charles Coase is currently Chairman of The Iveagh Trust’s General Purposes Committee, as well as being Chairman of the Trustee Board for the Diageo Pension Scheme, amongst other notable positions. That shared history endures to this day.

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