Farmleigh was bought in 1873 by Edward Cecil Guinness (1st Earl of Iveagh), the great-grandson of Arthur Guinness, founder of the Guinness brewery.
Edward’s main residence at the time was 80 St. Stephen’s Green (now Iveagh House, the headquarters of the Department of Foreign Affairs) and he viewed Farmleigh as ‘a rustic retreat’. In 1886 Edward Cecil Guinness floated the brewery on the Stock Exchange increasing his wealth and social standing and this reflected in an extensive rebuild of Farmleigh. Despite this work, Edward and his wife Adelaide spent relatively little time there. Their primary residence was in London, but when in Dublin, they stayed mostly at 80 St. Stephen’s Green. The family only stayed in Farmleigh for short periods of a couple of weeks, mainly in the spring and summer months.
After Edward Cecil’s death in 1927, his eldest son, Rupert, became the second Earl of Iveagh and inherited Farmleigh and 80 St Stephen’s Green. The latter he presented the Irish State in 1939. Rupert, who was a British MP for Southend at the time, ceased to be an MP when he succeeded to his father’s earldom. His wife The Countess of Iveagh, Gwendolen Guinness, won the Southend by-election in November 1927 to replace her husband as MP. She served until her retirement in 1935.
Rupert gave Farmleigh to his grandson and heir, Benjamin (Rupert’s eldest son and Benjamin’s father, Arthur, was killed in WWII). Farmleigh became a family home for Benjamin (3rd Earl of Iveagh) and Miranda Guinness, and their children. Benjamin became a keen bibliophile and collector of rare books, parliamentary and early bindings, as well as first editions of the modern poets and playwrights. The library in Farmleigh in now dedicated to Benjamin Iveagh and his wonderful collection of books.
Benjamin died in 1993 in London and in 1999, his son Arthur Guinness (4th Earl of Iveagh), sold Farmleigh to the Irish State.