Edward Benn was born in Tandragee, County Armagh, in 1798. Edward and his brother George and began working in the brewing trade in Downpatrick, County Down. Later they moved to the Glenravel estate in Antrim where they distilled potatoes. They also made their fortune through iron ore which was found in the hills at Glenravel. It was this Glenravel which gave name to Glenravel Street in Belfast which was just behind the Poor House.
Both Edward and George were members of the Belfast Charitable Society and were generous with both their time and money. They built two extensions to Clifton House in 1872 which brought much needed space and comfort to the Poor House. Edward had also suffered with poor health throughout his life and along with George, established the Benn Skin Hospital in Glenravel Street in 1875; the Benn Ulster Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital; and the Samaritan Hospital. The Skin Hospital was later destroyed in the Belfast Blitz in 1941. Edward’s generous donation also allowed Royal Belfast Academical Institution to open a school of mathematics. Edward was tremendously generous throughout his life and was regarded highly in Belfast and further afield. His obituary in the Belfast Newsletter read:
“Mr Benn has left tangible proofs of his interest in the welfare of this town and its inhabitants. Amongst other tokens of this kind we point with gratifying pride to his munificence, out of which has been built two wings to that valuable institution administered by the Belfast Charitable Society; the splendid hospital for diseases of the eye, ear and throat; the Samaritan Hospital on the Lisburn Road; and kindred institutions, which will long preserve his memory and fame.”
Edward was buried in Clifton Street Cemetery.