No. 1 Thomas Street was once the thoroughfare’s most prestigious address. Built by Arthur Guinness Esq in 1799, the house was a classic example of a manufacturer wishing to keep as close an eye as possible on his business… by living next door to it! The house was extended over time and occupied by the large Guinness family (Arthur and his wife Olivia Whitmore had 10 children) until 1850. By that time, the second Arthur Guinness was the wealthy master of a burgeoning brewing business and his family moved to more salubrious houses in the city and countryside.
Arthur I had leased a four acre site at Crane Lane for his then Leixlip-based brewery in 1759. The lease famously extended to 9,000 years, at a rent of £45 per annum, and with the right to use a water course that ran through the site. The brewery grew rapidly, adding lands along the south side of Thomas Street and James Street, before spreading across the street to the north lands that ran down to the River Liffey. By the 1880s, it had become the largest brewery in the world.
The brewery took its name from an extramural (outside the walls) gate that stood on James Street, marking the extent of the historic parish of St James. A culverted water course, which was so important to the early success of the brewery, ran directly beneath it. As Dublin grew, the gate became increasingly incongruous and it was removed by the Wide Streets Commissioners in the 1790s.
No. 1 Thomas Street was built on the site of an earlier house and brewery complex, and possible retained elements of this earlier building. Records show the development of the house was subject to horsetrading between the wily Arthur Guinness and the Wide Streets Commissioners, who made a grant of ‘one thousand guineas’ to Arthur to remove the remaining gate structure and build his new house on a widened Thomas Street. The house was later accompanied by a new entrance to the brewery with gate lodges – the famous St James’s Gate we see today.
After Arthur II vacated the house in the 1850s it was turned to office use by senior brewery management. In the 186o, a fine Doric portico was added to the building, likely a salvaged doorcase from Parnell Square following demolition there to make way for a Presbyterian church. An additional bay was also added to make the house appear symetrical. Unfortunately the choice of brick was poor and so this extension can still be clearly seen today with two brick tones.
Some historic interior features of the house survive, most notably the principal staircase. However No. 1 has undergone many changes, right into the 20thC when the Crane Building, built in 1965, was added to the rear of the house. Most recently, the building has been the main reception area for the brewery and houses the offices of senior management.
Today, it remains Thomas Street’s best known address.
No 1 Thomas Street is now proposed to be conserved and repurposed to house the famous Guinness Archive as part of a wide ranging redevelopment of St James’s Gate Brewery known as Guinness Quarter. The development by Ballymore and Diageo will see new residential, hotel, office, cultural and leisure uses developed around reinstated streets and new public spaces to create a vibrant city neighbourhood on the old brewery site.
Source for above: Arthur’s House & Guinness Archive Conservation Report & Impact Assessment, prepared by Howley Hayes Cooney Architects, June 2022.