There is no brand that is more closely associated with Ireland, and in particular Dublin, than Guinness. The company has made an impact on the culture, economy, architecture and history of the city in an immeasurable amount of ways.
In the city, most Dubliners would recognize the footprint of the Guinness Brewery on the architecture of the Liberties area of the capital. However, fewer would realize how much of the city’s housing was constructed with the help of the Guinness family.
The original Guinness factory at St. James’s Gate, in Dublin, was established in 1759 when Arthur Guinness signed a nine thousand-year lease for a four-acre site. The surrounding area was already popular for breweries due to its good water supply.
In the 1790s the first major expansion of the brewery took place and ever since the brewery has continued to grow and adapt to changing brewing techniques. The current location of the brewery’s visitor’s center is the Storehouse, which was built between 1902 and 1904 to be used as a fermentation house, and then converted in the 1950s into a sterile plant. By the 1980s the Storehouse was no longer suitable for modern use and in 1997 plans were accepted to turn the building into the visitors center. The Storehouse is now Ireland’s most popular tourist location with over one million visitors per year.
Employee welfare was of upmost importance to the Guinness family and the employers at Guinness. Along with providing access to medical, educational and financial benefits to employees, in 1872 the First Lord Iveagh Edward Cecil Guinness began building housing close to the brewery for three hundred employees and their families.
Following the investment in housing for his own employees, in 1890 Edward Cecil Guinness established the Iveagh Trust. Guinness was unhappy with the living conditions of many of the poorest Dubliners. Many lived in cramped tenement buildings where the spread of disease was rife and mortality rates were high.
Guinness initially invested £50,000 in the Trust in order to build social housing for the working class of Dublin.
Housing was built in Thomas Court and Kevin Street between 1891 and 1901 and the most substantial development of housing came in 1899 with the Dublin Improvement Act introduced to redevelop the Bull Alley area of the city.
The Dublin Improvement Act cost around £300,000 and consisted of a rearranged street plan of blocks of apartments, public baths, a play house for the children of the area, and a hostel catering to Dublin’s homeless men.
The Iveagh Hostel was opened in 1905 to provide shelter for the homeless men of Dublin. Architects Joseph and Smithem designed the hostel with assistance from Kaye, Parry & Ross and was built using mainly Irish materials. The hostel provides private cubicles and lockers for residents and allows for an unlimited stay.
The Iveagh Trust still operates in Dublin today providing housing to many of the city’s poorest and most vulnerable. The Trust manages 1,350 units of social rented and hostel accommodation in Dublin City and suburbs.
The architecture built by the Guinness’s and the Iveagh Trust remains some of the most impressive in the city today.
Are there any other companies in your city that have had such a profound impact on public housing and homelessness?
Credits: Images by Rebecca Mullen. Data linked to sources.