Sunday 30 September 2018

(346) Balfour of Balfour Castle, Shapinsay

Balfour of Balfour Castle
The name of Balfour is chiefly associated with the county of Fife, where the family are first recorded in 1196, and of which they were long the hereditary sheriffs. One branch of this family settled at Montquhannie (Fife), and in 1589 Michael Balfour of Montquhannie had a charter of the island of North Pharay (now Faray) in the Orkney Islands. He added to this lands on the adjoining island of Westray including the estates known as Garth and Trenabie, and in 1593 he settled these properties on his second son, Michael Balfour, at the time of the latter's marriage. The younger Michael in turn divided his property between his sons Patrick (who received Pharay), Robert (who received Trenabie) and John (who received Garth), but they were reunited in the following generation as only Patrick produced surviving issue. Patrick's son, George Balfour, married Marjorie Baikie of Tankerness in 1657 and after she died, Mary Mackenzie, the daughter of the Bishop of Orkney. He again divided his property between his sons William (d. 1736) and John (d. 1741), but William dying without issue the properties were once more reunited in the person of John Balfour (d. 1741), with whom the genealogy below begins. For a fuller account of the earlier generations, the reader is referred to the Red Book of Scotland.

John Balfour (d. 1741) was succeeded at Trenabie by his eldest son, William Balfour (1719-86). He was the first of his family to show an interest in agricultural improvement, and introduced the burning of seaweed to make kelp (which was rich in potash and soda and widely needed for the chemical industries of the day) on his estates. Like many Orcadian landowners, at the time of the '45, he was inclined to support the Jacobite cause, although he seems not to have been very active. Nonetheless, in 1746 the rather undisciplined force sent to Orkney to punish the rebels and their supporters burned Trenabie House, and it is not clear how quickly or how far it was rebuilt afterwards. By the 1750s, William considered the amount of the annual feu duty payable to his overlord, the Earl of Morton, excessive, and he was one of several Orkney men who joined in an unsuccessful lawsuit over the matter. When they lost their case his costs caused him to be made bankrupt, and he only escaped the loss of his property because of financial assistance from his brother. After Lord Morton sold his Orkney and Shetland interests to Sir Lawrence Dundas in 1766, however, William was able to rebuild his financial position by becoming Dundas' factor in Shetland, a position which provided both an income and access to Dundas' powerful patronage network until 1780, when a political rift with Dundas led to William's dismissal from his offices.

William had three sons. The eldest, John Balfour (1750-1842), secured a post with the East India Company thanks to the influence of Sir Lawrence Dundas, and made a fortune before his return to Britain in 1790, which he is said to have then doubled by successful investments. He succeeded his father at Trenabie, and was MP for Orkney & Shetland, 1790-96 and again in 1820-26, but he seems to have lived chiefly in Edinburgh and London. He was married, but had no issue, and when he died the bulk of his wealth passed to his great-nephew, David Balfour (1811-87).  William's youngest son, David Coventry Balfour (1754-1813), studied at Aberdeen University and was then apprenticed to an Edinburgh solicitor, being admitted as a Writer to the Signet in 1779. He lived and died in Edinburgh, and his chief importance to this story is that his great-great-grandson eventually inherited the family property in Orkney in 1934. 

William's second son, Col. Thomas Balfour (1751-99) was the only one of the three brothers to take a degree at Aberdeen and he went on to complete a medical doctorate at Edinburgh. While a student in Edinburgh, however, the Dundas connection opened the doors of some of the best society to him, and since he was possessed of good looks and plenty of self-confidence, he seems to have decided that the shortest route to financial independence would be to marry an heiress. Accordingly, he never took up a medical career but pursued and won the hand of Frances Ligonier, a plain lady some ten years his senior, who brought him a dowry of several thousand pounds, and also the influence and patronage of her brother, the 2nd Viscount Ligonier (later 1st Earl of the second creation). Lord Ligonier was Colonel of the 9th Foot, and he arranged for Thomas Balfour to have a commission in that regiment which seems to have been an almost complete sinecure, since he never joined it in America and only did a little light recruiting among the sons of Orkney farmers. In 1778, he and his wife took a lease of the Mains of Burray and did up the farmhouse there, but after the family break with Dundas (who was his landlord), he gave up the lease and with some financial help from his brother John, bought the Sound estate on Shapinsay, where he built a new gentry house that he called Cliffdale. He also gained something of a reputation as an improving landlord, and in the 1790s he bought another estate in Caithness with a view to further improvements there, although these were mostly abandoned following his early death in 1799. In the 1790s he was active in raising volunteer regiments in Orkney and Shetland, was appointed Colonel of one of them, and was obliged to go with his unit to Ireland. While there, he had an affair with an Irish lady in Dublin and fathered a child, who seems to have been raised after his death by his unusually tolerant and forgiving widow.

When he died in 1799, Col. Balfour was succeeded by his elder son, John Edward Ligonier Balfour, who was on campaign in Europe at the time. Unfortunately he survived his father by little more than a month before being killed in action, so the eventual heir was his younger brother, William Balfour (1781-1846), who was a midshipman in the Royal Navy. Having risen to the rank of Commander, he left the Navy at about the time of his first marriage in 1806, and went on to produce fifteen children by his two wives: six sons and two daughters by his first wife and two sons and five daughters by his second. In reaction to his father, he seems to have been conservative in his views, and he allowed his tenants to persist in the traditional ways of working the land if they wished to. In 1821 he sold the Scotscalder estate in Caithness which his father had bought, and reinvested the proceeds in buying the other estate on Shapinsay, so that he owned the whole island.

Capt. Balfour was succeeded in 1846 by his eldest surviving son, David Balfour (1811-87), who seems to have inherited his grandfather's entrepreneurial spirit. He was trained as a solicitor, but in 1842 inherited the bulk of his great-uncle John's wealth. When he came into the Shapinsay estate he at once engaged David Bryce to enlarge and remodel his grandfather's modest house, Cliffdale, as a much larger and grander Baronial mansion, which he renamed Balfour Castle. He went on to remodel the agricultural landscape of Shapinsay on a scale his grandfather would have admired but could not afford. His was the generation most influenced by the writings of Sir Walter Scott, and Scott's romantic celebration of Scottish traditions was reflected not just in the architecture of Balfour Castle, but also in his published collections of Orkney traditions and melodies. David Balfour was married but had no issue, and his heir presumptive was his nephew, William George Balfour (b. 1847), until the latter became bankrupt in 1875 and sold his reversionary interest in the estate to his half-uncle, Col. James William Balfour (1827-1907).
Berstane House, Kirkwall: built by David Bryce for William Balfour in 1850
Another of David's brothers was William Balfour (1813-71), who probably also inherited part of John Balfour's estate and used it to build a modest gentleman's house at Berstane near Kirkwall on the Orkney Mainland, which was designed by David Bryce at the same time as Balfour Castle.

Having bought his half-nephew's reversionary interest in Balfour Castle, Col. Balfour moved to Orkney and threw himself into the role of being one of the county's leading landowners, becoming Colonel of the local Artillery Volunteers, and Chairman of the County Council. In 1897 he made an unsuccessful attempt to claim the dormant Balfour of Denmiln baronetcy. He died a few months short of his 80th birthday, and was succeeded by his eldest and only surviving son, Col. William Edward Ligonier Balfour (1855-1934), who was winding down his career with the Royal Artillery in a desk job at Dover (Kent). In 1911 he retired from the army and moved to Orkney, but unlike his predecessors he seems to have had no desire to play an active part in the public life of the islands, and became something of a recluse. He disentailed the estate and sold most of the estate farms, and when he died he left the castle not to his daughters but to his nearest male line relative, a third cousin who was a descendant of David Coventry Balfour (1754-1813), the brother of Col. Thomas Balfour of Shapinsay. The recipient, John Hubert Bampfield Balfour (1879-1957), was a stockbroker living in Essex, and the third generation of his family to follow that trade.
Moor Hall, Harlow: the early 19th century house owned by John Balfour
from 1898 and sold after his death in 1934. It was demolished c.1960.
His father, John Balfour (1853-1934), was keen on country sports and had bought Moor Hall at Harlow (Essex) in 1898, but J.H.B. Balfour seems to have had no interest in the country house way of life. Having inherited Moor Hall and Balfour Castle in the same year, he sold the former and placed the latter in a family trust. Balfour Castle was actually occupied by Col. W.E.L. Balfour's unmarried daughter, Doris Ella Ligonier Balfour (1893-1950), who opened the house to the public in the 1940s for the benefit of wartime and local charities. When she died, the house was taken on by J.H.B. Balfour's only son, David Hubert Anthony Balfour (1908-61), who was the last of the family to occupy it. After his death, the castle was sold and the long connection of the Balfours with Orkney was finally severed.

Balfour Castle, Shapinsay, Orkney

The estate acquired by the Balfour family in 1782 had previously been known as Sound, and the original mansion house, the House of Sound, was built in 1674 for Arthur Buchanan of Sound, but was burnt in 1746 by Government troops sent to the area to hunt down Jacobites in the aftermath of the rebellion of 1745: the then owner, James Fea of Clestrain on Stronsay, having been active in rallying troops and support for the Jacobite cause.
Balfour Castle: the surviving fragement of the House of Sound.
Nothing now survives of the House of Sound except for a richly detailed archway, set at the end of a walk in the gardens west of the house, which is now a garden seat. This has paired classical columns carved with spiralling vines either side of the central archway, a frieze carved with human, animal and mermaid musicians and symbols of the Scottish monarchy, and above that a smaller pedimented aedicule, in which an atlantean and a caryatid in 17th century dress flank a mantled coat of arms recording the marriage of Arthur Buchanan and his wife Margaret Buxton. The original context of this arresting feature (which could have been a gateway or the principal entrance doorway) is unclear, but it suggests that the House of Sound was a building of remarkable pretension for its early date and remote location.

When Thomas Balfour bought the estate in 1782 he built a new house on the present site to the east of the former mansion, which he named Cliffdale. In 1790 the house was said to bear 'rather the appearance of a neat little villa in the vicinity of some opulent city, than of a gentleman's house recently raised in a remote sequestered part of the kingdom'. A small part of the house is visible on the west side of the present house, and it seems to have been a simple harled building with crowstepped gables, consisting of a three-storey main block and recessed two-storey wings.

Balfour Castle: the west front. To the right of the late 19th century single-storey addition is a harled section with a bay window representing the only visible part of Cliffdale to survive.

By 1844, the Balfours owned the whole island of Shapinsay, and on inheriting in 1846, David Balfour decided to enlarge and remodel the house to take advantage of the wide views to the south over the Bay of Kirkwall to Wideford Hill. He appointed as his architect David Bryce (1803-76), then in partnership with William Burn but in practice designing most of the firm's Scottish commissions in his hallmark Scottish Baronial style.  Bryce kept the north wing and about two-thirds of the main block of Cliffdale, but refaced the east front and added a large new block to the south, containing new principal rooms, and a service block to the north-east. A later 19th century north-west addition now also hides the Georgian north wing from view.

Balfour Castle: the house from the north-east, with the view across the Bay of Kirkwall to Wideford Hill in the background. Image: Smithy Café, Balfour, Shapinsay.

The east and south fronts are entirely the work of David Bryce between 1846 and 1850. The east front has the low crowstep-gabled service block projecting at its northern end. A conical-roofed tower marks the angle with the main block, which has a very busy elevation, dominated by a tall central entrance tower, corbelled out at the top, with a higher stair tower at one corner, again with a pointed roof. To either side of this are crowstepped gables, at different heights, and to the south is a projecting bay window. 

Balfour Castle: the south and east fronts. Image: Orkney Archives TK2572.

The south front is quieter, having a broadly symmetrical composition framed by two square bartisans with tall pyramidal roofs, derived from the 17th century Pinkie House in Midlothian. In the middle is a narrow round tower with a tall candle-snuffer roof, but the walls between this and the corner bartisans are differently arranged, with two flat crowstepped gables on the west and one projecting one on the east. The latter is joined to the central tower by a narrow two-storey arch inspired by Fyvie Castle (Aberdeens.). To the west, the range is continued by a lower two-storey block, pierced by a passageway on the ground floor and with an extensively glazed conservatory on the first floor.

The main rooms of the interior are still very largely as decorated by David Bryce in the 1840s, with neo-Jacobean plaster ceilings, carved woodwork and fireplaces that meld historic and contemporary motifs. The porch leads into an entrance hall with the billiard room to its left and the main staircase to the right. The other main rooms are all on the first floor. The dining room is in the south-east angle of the house, and the drawing room (leading into the first-floor conservatory), occupies the south-west corner; the library, with elaborate panelling incorporating bookcases, is on the west front. 

Balfour Castle: the drawing room with the conservatory beyond.

To the north and west of the house are extensive woodlands, probably planted in the 18th century in association with Cliffdale, and overlooking the harbour to the south is an early 19th century castellated gateway with drum towers flanking the entrance, a corbelled parapet, and gunloops. This seems to have guarded the original main entrance to the estate. After the house was altered by Bryce, Craigie Halkett laid out new terraced gardens to the south and west of the house, and Bryce designed lodges at the north end of Balfour village which have canted corners corbelled out to form rectangular gables. From here a new drive was laid out which cuts through the woodland north-east of the house to join the old drive and approach the house from the south-east.

The house remained in the possession of the Balfour family until 1962. During the Second World War it was opened to the public as a way of raising funds for war charities. In recent years the house was operated as an hotel that was also available for exclusive use rentals, but it is now once more a private home.

Descent: Arthur Buchanan (fl. 1674)... James Fea (fl. 1745)... Laing of Papdale; sold 1782 to Col. Thomas Balfour (1752-99); to son, Capt. William Balfour (1781-1846); to son, David Balfour (1811-87); to half-brother, Col. James William Balfour (1827-1907); to son, Col. William Edward Ligonier Balfour (1855-1934); to third cousin, John Hubert Bampfield Balfour (1879-1957). The castle was occupied by Doris Ella Ligonier Balfour (1893-1950) and subsequently by David Hubert Anthony Balfour (1908-61); sold after his death to Tadeusz Zawadzki (c.1922-91); to son, Richard Stephen Zawadski (b. 1951); sold 2009 to Christopher P. Harrison..

Balfour family of Balfour Castle

Balfour, John (c.1680-1741). Eldest son of George Balfour (d. 1706) of Pharay and Westray (Orkney) and his second wife, Mary, only daughter of Murdoch Mackenzie, Bishop of Orkney, born about 1680. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Traill of Skaill, Westray, and had issue:
(1) William Balfour (1719-86) (q.v.);
(2) Thomas Balfour (1721-87); of Huip, Stronsay (Orkney); married, 10 June 1759, Mary Mackenzie, and had issue three daughters; died 9 July 1787;
(3) John Balfour; MD;
(4) Robert Balfour;
(5) Archibald Balfour;
(6) Mary Balfour (d. 1794); married, 22 October 1745, John Traill (d. 1795) of Westness House, Rousay (Orkney).
He was granted his father's estate of Trenabie on Westray in 1722 and may have acquired further lands through his marriage. He inherited the remainder of his paternal estate on the death of his half-brother, William Balfour of Pharay, in 1736.
He died 3 January 1741. His wife's date of death is unknown.

Balfour, William (1719-86). Eldest son of John Balfour (c.1680-1741) and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Traill of Skaill, Westray (Orkney), born 1719. He and his brother Thomas exploited Orkney's kelp resources so vigorously that they provoked resistance to the practice in the Stronsay Anti-Kelp riots of 1742. Objecting to the heavy feu duties exacted by the Earl of Morton's Chamberlain in Orkney, he played a leading role in legal attempts to reduce feu duties and, the suit ending unsuccessfully, he was made bankrupt in 1759. He survived financially thanks to his own exertions and considerable assistance from his brother. Lord Morton having sold his estates in Orkney and Shetland to Sir Lawrence Dundas in 1766 he became Dundas' factor in Shetland in 1769, gaining a good income, local power, and access to Dundas' extensive patronage until a decisive break with Sir Lawrence in 1780, when he was dismissed from his offices. He married, 9 February 1744, Elizabeth (1715-96), daughter and heiress of Rev. Thomas Covingtrie of Sanday (Orkney), and had issue:
(1) Elizabeth Balfour (1745-1822?), baptised on Westray, 29 January 1745; married, 29 September 1787, William Manson (1747?-1808), Comptroller of Customers at Kirkwall, and had issue one daughter (Mary Balfour Manson (1788-1820), who married her cousin, William Balfour (1781-1846) (q.v.)); said to have died in 1822;
(2) Margaret Balfour (b. 1747), born 27 January and baptised on Westray, 28 January 1747; died unmarried;
(3) Catherine Balfour (b. & d. 1749), baptised on Westray, 3 March 1749; died in infancy;
(4) John Balfour (1750-1842), baptised on Westray, 21 October 1750; educated at Aberdeen; joined the staff of the East India Company, where he made a large fortune; MP for Orkney & Shetland, 1790-96, 1820-26; inherited the Trenabie estate from his father, 1786, and bequeathed it at his death to his nephew, William Balfour (1781-1846); married, 10 November 1783, Henrietta, sister of Sir Richard Sullivan, 1st bt. and widow of Col. Alexander MacLellan, but had no issue; died in London aged 92 on 14 October 1842;
(5) Maj. Thomas Balfour (1752-99) (q.v.);
(6) David Coventry Balfour (1754-1813) (q.v.);
(7) Mary Balfour (1757-1818), baptised on Westray, 29 May 1757; married, 4 January 1792 on Shapinsay, Capt. George Craigie (1741-96) of Saviskaill (Orkney), but had no issue; died 6 December 1818 and was buried on Shapinsay.
He inherited the Trenabie estate on Westray (Orkney) from his father in 1742; the house was burned in 1746 by Government troops in reprisal for Balfour's support of the Jacobites.
He died 29 October 1786 and was buried in Canongate Cemetery, Edinburgh. His widow died 29 June 1796 and was buried at Kirkwall.

Balfour, Col. Thomas (1752-99). Second son of William Balfour (1719-86) and his wife Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Rev. Thomas Coventry of Sanday (Orkney), born 2 February and baptised on Westray (Orkney), 4 February 1752. Educated at Aberdeen University (BA) and Edinburgh University (MD 1774). By the patronage of his brother-in-law, who was Col. of the 9th Foot, he became an officer in that regiment (Ensign, 1776; Lt., 1779; Adjutant, 1781), but it seems to have been largely a sinecure appointment; however, as Major commanding Orkney & Shetland Fencibles, 1793-97 and Col. commanding the North Lowland Fencibles, 1794-99, he was more actively engaged and he took the latter regiment to serve in Ireland. After purchasing the Sound estate he became the most active agricultural improver in the Orkney Islands, and he was also owner of fishing vessels and local agent for the building of lighthouses in the Orkneys. He provided information about the Orkneys for Sir John Sinclair's General View of the Agriculture of the Northern Counties and Islands of Scotland (1795). In 1784 he was one of those who founded an Association for Preventing Smuggling, designed to embarrass his political opponents in Kirkwall, many of whom were engaged in that trade. Sheriff Substitute for Orkney, 1786. He married, after a determined courtship, 19 September 1775 at St James, Piccadilly, Westminster (Middx), Frances (1742?*-1813), daughter of Col. Francis Ligonier and sister of Lt-Gen. Edward Ligonier, 2nd Viscount Ligonier and later 1st Earl Ligonier of the second creation, and had issue:
(1) Mary Balfour (1778-1818), born on Burray (Orkney), 1 November 1778; novelist; author of Self-control (1811) and Discipline (1814); her husband published The works of Mary Brunton (1820) after her death; she eloped with and married, December 1798, Rev. Dr. Alexander Brunton DD, later minister of the Tron Kirk, Edinburgh, Professor of Oriental Languages at Edinburgh University, and Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, but had no surviving issue; she died in childbirth, 7 December 1818 and was buried at Canongate Cemetery, Edinburgh;
(2) Capt. John Edward Ligonier Balfour (1780-99), born 11 January 1780; educated at Harrow; an officer in the North Lowland Fencibles (Capt.) and later the 9th Foot; killed at Battle of Alkmaar, 19 September 1799;
(3) William Balfour (1781-1846) (q.v.).
He also had an affair while serving in Ireland with the North Lowland Fencibles with Mary Chute (sometimes referred to as 'Mrs Jackson') of Dublin, by whom he had issue:
(X1) [forename unknown] Clifford.
He leased the Mains of Burray from 1778 and improved the house there, but after the family's break with Sir Lawrence Dundas, he gave up the lease and purchased the Sound estate on Shapinsay (Orkney) for £1,250 in 1782. He built a new house there which he called Cliffdale. In 1795 he purchased the estate of Scotscalder (Caithness), but did not live to carry out the improvements he planned there except for the building of Achavarn House.
He died, probably of stomach cancer, 9 August 1799. His widow died in 1813.
* She is said to have been 33 at the time of her marriage, but admitted only to 27 on the marriage allegation.

Capt. William Balfour (1781-1846)
Balfour, Capt. William (1781-1846). Second but only surviving son of Col. Thomas Balfour (1752-99) and his wife Frances, daughter of Col. Francis Ligonier, born 8 December 1781. Educated at Harrow. After begging his father to be 'anything but a lawyer', he became an officer in the Royal Navy, 1795-c.1810 (Lt., 1801; Cmdr., 1806; Capt., 1840); DL for Orkney (Vice-Lieutenant). He obtained a grant of supporters for his coat of arms from Lord Lyon King of Arms, 1843. He was 'a reserved, cautious man' with a reputation for 'fairness and honesty, a Tory dislike of change, and a gruff benevolence to his servants and tenants'. He married 1st, 28 August 1806 on Shapinsay, his cousin, Mary Balfour (1788-1820), only child of William Manson of Kirkwall (Orkney) and 2nd, 27 January 1823 at Edinburgh, Mary Margaret (1795-1869), daughter of Andrew Baikie of Kirkwall, and had issue:
(1.1) John Balfour (1807-08), born 1 August 1807; died in infancy, 10 May 1808;
(1.2) Mary Henrietta Balfour (1809-71), born 22 April and baptised on Shapinsay, 15 May 1809; married, 6 March 1832 at Kirkwall, James Kinnear WS (1810-49) of Edinburgh, seventh son of George Kinnear of Edinburgh and had issue one son and two daughters; died at Aberdour (Fife), 9 February 1871;
(1.3) Thomas Balfour (1810-38), born 2 April 1810; advocate, 1831; Tory MP for Orkney & Shetland, 1835-37; Ruling Elder of the Presbytery of the Northern Isles; died unmarried, 30 March 1838;
(1.4) David Balfour (1811-87) (q.v.);
(1.5) William Balfour (1813-71), born 19 August and baptised on Shapinsay, 15 September 1813; an officer in 79th Foot (Ensign, 1833; Lt., 1836; retired 1842); built Berstane House, Kirkwall, to the designs of David Bryce in 1850; married, 19 September 1840 at Holy Trinity, Littleborough (Lancs), Jessy Alexina, daughter of Rev. Thomas Steele of Littleborough, but had no issue; died at Kirkwall, 31 August 1871;
(1.6) Elizabeth Manson Balfour (1815-23), born 5 October and baptised on Shapinsay, 19 October 1815; died young, 2 May 1823, and was buried in Edinburgh;
(1.7) George Craigie Balfour (1818-60), born 18 February 1818; advocate, 1853; rented a succession of country houses including Umberslade Hall (Warks), Ashburn House (Bute) and Hescombe (Orkney); married 1st, 9 December 1848, Margaret (d. 1849), daughter of James McNair, and 2nd, 11 January 1851 in London, Sarah Catherine (d. 1892) (who m2, 25 March 1862, Simon Keir of Ceylon), daughter of Clement McCoan  of Dunlow (Co. Tyrone), and had issue one son (William George Balfour (b. 1847), who was heir presumptive to the Balfour Castle estate until he became bankrupt in 1875 and sold his reversionary rights to his uncle, Col. J.W. Balfour); died at Bridge of Allan (Stirlings.), 13 July 1860;
(1.8) James Traill Balfour (1820-26), born 25 October and baptised on Shapinsay, 5 November 1820; died young, 1826;
(2.1) Margaret Craigie Balfour (c.1824-1901), born about 1824; married, 17 January 1847 at Edinburgh, Capt. McIntosh Balfour RN (c.1823-96) and had issue one son and three daughters; died at Bath (Somerset), 23 September 1901; will proved 12 October 1901 (effects £147);
(2.2) Frances Ligonier Balfour (c.1826-89), born about 1826; married, 19 July 1853 at Edinburgh, John Forster-Pratt (1829-58), solicitor, of Berwick-on-Tweed, and had issue one son; died 14 June 1889 at Riva, Tyrol (Austria); will confirmed 6 December 1889 (effects £1,868);
(2.3) Col. James William Balfour (1827-1907) (q.v.);
(2.4) Isabella Traill Balfour (1829-83), born 19 October 1829 and baptised on Shapinsay, 13 January 1830; married, 19 September 1850 in Edinburgh, Maj. James Robertson (1823-86) of 79th Foot and had issue two sons; died in London, 31 May 1883;
(2.5) Edward Balfour (1831-54), born 12 November and baptised on Shapinsay, 13 December 1831; died unmarried at Erzerum in the Crimea, 1854;
(2.6) Janet Edmestone Balfour (1833-60), born 22 May and baptised on Shapinsay, 12 July 1833; married 1st, 20 April 1851 at Edinburgh, Capt. Edward Stanley (d. 1854) of 57th Foot, second son of John Bacon Stanley of Dublin, and 2nd, 10 March 1857 at Edinburgh, Maj. Thomas Ellis Bridgeman Lees (1818-65) of Indian Army, son of Rev. Sir Harcourt Lees, bt. of Blackrock House (Co. Dublin), but had no issue; died at Jezpur, Bengal (India), 3 August 1860;
(2.7) Harriet Balfour (1835-1915), born 1 August 1835 and baptised on Shapinsay; married, 3 October 1850 at St John, Edinburgh, Charles Maximilian Thomas Western (1824-94), postmaster of Bath (Somerset), and had issue three sons and one daughter; died 15 July 1915 and was buried in Perrymead Catholic Cemetery, Bath; her will was proved 18 October 1915 (estate £1,311).
He inherited the Cliffdale/Sound estate on Shapinsay and Scotscalder (Caithness) from his father in 1799, and his uncle's property on Westray in 1842. He sold Scotscalder for £17,000 in 1821, and purchased the remainder of the island of Shapinsay before 1844.
He died 10 February 1846; his will was proved in England, 9 March 1846. His first wife died 1 November 1820 and was buried on Shapinsay. His widow died 3 February 1869 and was buried in St John's kirkyard, Edinburgh, where she and her husband are commemorated by a monument; her will was confirmed in Scotland, 14 April 1869 and sealed in London, 20 April 1869.

David Balfour (1811-87)
Balfour, David (1811-87). Third, but eldest surviving son of Capt. William Balfour (1781-1846) and his first wife, Mary Balfour, daughter of William Manson of Kirkwall (Orkney), born 14 October 1811. Apprenticed to John Mowbray WS; admitted Writer to the Signet, 29 June 1837 and practiced in partnership with his brother-in-law, James Kinnear. In 1842 he inherited most of the fortune of his great-uncle, John Balfour, and this enabled him to build Balfour Castle and to carry out sweeping improvements in the agricultural landscape of Shapinsay. He and his wife travelled in Italy c.1847-50 while Balfour Castle was being built. JP and DL for Orkney. Convenor of the county of Orkney, 1854-87. Hon. Col. of Orkney Artillery Volunteers. Author of Odal Rights and Feudal Wrongs: a memorial for Orkney (1860) and Ancient Orkney Melodies (1885), the latter combining tunes he collected and his own execrable verse. He married, 12 December 1844 at Berwick-upon-Tweed, the 'thin and theological' Eleanor Alder (1810-1902), daughter of Capt. Samuel Barker Edmeston, but had no issue.
He inherited the Cliffdale/Sound estate on Shapinsay and the Trenabie estate on Westray from his father in 1846, and remodelled Cliffdale as a much larger Baronial house called Balfour Castle. 
He died 19 November 1887; confirmation of his will was granted, 7 July 1888 (effects £21,305). His widow died aged 92 on 21 December 1902; confirmation of her will was granted, 15 July 1903 (estate £8,483).

Balfour, Col. James William (1827-1907). Eldest son of Capt. William Balfour (1781-1846) and his second wife, Mary Margaret, daughter of Andrew Baikie of Kirkwall (Orkney), born 30 December 1827. An officer in the 7th Dragoon Guards (Cornet 1847; Lt., 1850; Capt. 1855); Adjutant of the North Somerset Yeomanry Cavalry, 1858-c.1877; Lt-Col. of Orkney Artillery Volunteers, 1880-97. JP (from 1878) and DL for Orkney. Convenor of Orkney and Chairman of Orkney County Council. In 1897 he made an unsuccessful attempt to claim the dormant Balfour of Denmiln baronetcy. He married, 28 December 1852 at St Peter, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Isabella (1830-1907), only daughter of Lt-Col. James Craster of 22nd Foot, and had issue:
(1) Col. William Edward Ligonier Balfour (1855-1934) (q.v.);
(2) James Edward Stanley Balfour (1856-62), born 15 February 1856; died young, 29 July 1862;
(3) John David Balfour (1857-1902), born in Edinburgh, 17 June 1857; tea planter at Aigburth estate, Rackwana, Ceylon; married 22 September 1885 at St John, Paddington (Middx), Sophia (1857-1928), daughter of John Orred of Ashwicke Park, Marshfield (Glos), but had no issue; died at Lydd (Kent), 11 December 1902; will proved 23 January 1903 (estate £2,807);
(4) Isabella Frances Emmeline Balfour (1858-71), born 16 October and baptised at Bathwick (Somerset), 10 December 1858; died young, 28 January 1871;
(5) Mary Eleanor Edith Balfour (1860-1938), baptised at Bathwick, 16 January 1861; died unmarried in London, 25 June 1938; will proved September 1938 (estate £12,457);
(6) Maud Alice Balfour (1866-1947), baptised at Bathwick, 20 April 1866; lived at The Old Dower House, Cosgrove (Bucks); died unmarried, 12 April 1947; will confirmed in Scotland and sealed in London, 13 October 1947.
He inherited the Balfour Castle estate from his half-brother in 1887.
He died 6 June 1907; his will was confirmed November 1907 (effects £43,175). His widow died intestate, 30 July 1907; administration of her goods was confirmed to her surviving son, 9 December 1907 (estate £1,135).

Col. W.E.L. Balfour (1855-1934)
Balfour, Col. William Edward Ligonier (1855-1934). Eldest and only surviving son of Col. James William Balfour (1827-1907) and his wife Isabella, only daughter of Lt-Col. James Craster of 22nd Foot, born in Edinburgh, 17 February 1855. Educated at Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. An officer in the Royal Garrison Artillery (Lt., 1874; Capt., 1883; Maj., 1891; Lt-Col., 1901; Col., 1907; retired 1911), who served in the Bechuanaland Expedition, 1884-85, as Adjutant of East Riding of Yorkshire militia, 1888 and as commanding officer of the Royal Artillery in Ceylon, 1901-06, and who was in charge of Royal Artillery records at Dover, 1907-11. JP and DL for Orkney and Shetland. He married, 27 August 1887 at St Peter, Eaton Square, London, Florence Augusta Catherine Elizabeth (1857-1941), daughter of Frederic Bernal CMG, HM Consul at Le Havre (France), and had issue:
(1) Mildred Ligonier Balfour (1888-1966), born Jul-Sept 1888; married, 24 September 1918, Col. John Herbert Johnston DSO (1888-1964) of Royal Garrison Artillery; died 15 April 1966; will proved 6 July 1966 (estate £10,560);
(2) Doris Ella Ligonier Balfour (1893-1950), born Oct-Dec 1893; JP for Orkney; an officer of the Order of St. John; occupied Balfour Castle from 1934 until her death in 1950 and opened it to the public during and after the Second World War; was unmarried and without issue; died of cancer, 9 February 1950 and was buried at the South Church, Shapinsay; her will was confirmed in Scotland and sealed in England, 20 July 1951.
He inherited the Balfour Castle estate from his father in 1907, but disentailed the estate and sold most of the farms to the tenants in the 1920s and 1930s. On his death the estate passed to his third cousin, John Hubert Bampfield Balfour (1879-1957) (q.v.).
He died at Balfour Castle, 22 April 1934; his will was confirmed at Kirkwall, 22 June, and sealed in London, 13 July 1934 (estate £22,598). His widow died 31 December 1941; her will was confirmed in Scotland and sealed in Llandudno, 2 April 1942.

Balfour, David Coventry (1754-1813). Third son of William Balfour (1719-86) and his wife Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Rev. Thomas Coventry of Newark (Notts?), born 8 November and baptised on Westray, 11 November 1754. Apprenticed to Samuel Mitchelson WS; admitted as Writer to the Signet, 19 July 1779; in partnership with Robert Moir from c.1800. His father's influence with Sir Lawrence Dundas ensured that he secured lucrative legal business relating to the Dundas property in Orkney and Shetland, and he was involved with Thomas Parker and Alexander Alison in efforts for the relief of poverty in Shetland, c.1784-85. He married, 1 September 1782 at Barony, Glasgow (Lanarks), Marion (1765-1843), daughter of George McIntosh of Dunchattan, and had issue:
(1) Lt-Col. William Balfour (1784-1838) (q.v.);
(2) George Balfour (1785-95); died young, of consumption, 3 June 1795;
(3) Marion Balfour (1787-1849), born at Edinburgh, 21 January 1787; married, 25 April 1816 at St George, Hanover Sq., London, Godfrey Meynell (1787-1854) of Meynell Langley (Derbys) and had issue two sons; died 29 July 1849.
He died 23 May and was buried at Canongate, Edinburgh, 29 May 1813. His widow died 27 March 1843 and was also buried at Canongate, where they are commemorated by a monument.

Balfour, Lt-Col. William (1784-1838). Only son of David Coventry Balfour (1754-1813) and his wife Marion, daughter of George McIntosh of Dunchattan, born 17 July and baptised at Edinburgh, 26 July 1783. An officer in the Infantry (Ensign, 1798; Lt., 1799; Capt., 1802; Maj., 1808; Lt-Col., 1827; retired 1832). He married, 1810 in Dublin, Charlotte Stanley (1792-1825), daughter of Capt. Christopher Clarke of Muckamore (Co. Antrim) and had issue:
(1) David William Balfour (later Ogilvy) (1811-55), baptised at St Mary, Dublin, 31 July 1811; an officer in the Infantry (Lt-Col.); took his wife's surname in addition to his own; married, 31 January 1833 at Tannadice House (Angus), Mary Ogilvy (1805-75) of Tannadice (Angus) and had issue three sons and one daughter; died of cholera in the Crimean War, 12 July 1855;
(2) Mary Balfour (b. 1812), baptised at Kill St. Nicholas (Co. Waterford), 1 August 1812; perhaps died young;
(3) Charlotte Balfour (1813-90), baptised at Kill St. Nicholas, 5 September 1813; married, 20 April 1843, Arthur Forbes-Gordon (1806-73) and had issue three sons and one daughter; died 16 April 1890;
(4) John Osborn Balfour (1815-70) (q.v.);
(5) Charles Anthony Balfour (c.1818-42), born about 1818; an officer in the Royal Artillery (cadet, 1832; 2nd Lt., 1836; Lt., 1839); married, 29 December 1840 at Millbrook (Hants), Charlotte (d. 1846), only daughter of John Offley Crewe-Read of Pen-y-Bryn (Montgomerys.) and Laverton House (Hants), and had issue one daughter; died 24 November 1842;
(6) Marion Balfour (c.1819-91), born in Ireland about 1819; married, 20 September 1849 at Reay (Caithness), Rev. Dr. John Kerr FRS (1824-1907) and had issue three sons and four daughters; died at Kelvin (Lanarks), 7 March 1891;
(7) Capt. George McIntosh Balfour (c.1823-96), born in Ireland about 1823; an officer in the Royal Navy, 1837-71 (Lt. 1846; Cmdr. 1856; retired as Capt., 1871); Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society; married, 17 January 1847 at Edinburgh, Margaret Craigie (c.1824-1901), daughter of Capt. William Balfour (1781-1846) (q.v.) of Trenabie, Westray (Orkney) and had issue one son and three daughters; died at Greenwich (Kent), 3 May and was buried there, 7 May 1896;
(8) Catherine Australia Balfour (1824-78), born 2 June and baptised at Sydney, New South Wales (Australia), 27 August 1824; married, 5 March 1846 at Edinburgh, Rev. Donald Fergusson (1811-97), and had issue three sons and four daughters; died 13 April 1878 and was buried at Grange Cemetery, Edinburgh.
He died 11 February and was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery, 16 February 1838; his will was proved in the PCC, 31 July 1838. His wife died at Launceston, Tasmania (Australia), then known as Van Dieman's Land, 22 August 1825.

Balfour, John Osborn (1815-70). Second son of Lt-Col. William Balfour and his wife Charlotte, daughter of Capt. Christopher Clarke of Muckamore (Ireland), born in Ireland, 15 June 1815. Stockbroker and company director in London; admitted to the freedom of the City of London, 1853. He married 1st, Jane (d. 1855), younger daughter of Robert Fitzpatrick of Eden House (Midlothian) and widow of Arthur Powell, and 2nd, 6 October 1858 at Walcot, Bath (Somerset), his cousin, Jane Lees (c.1821-91), daughter of John Bacon Stanley of Airhill (Co. Dublin), and had issue:
(1.1) Jane Balfour (1849-1926), baptised at All Saints with St Margaret, Upper Norwood (Surrey), 7 November 1849; said to have died unmarried, 1926;
(1.2) Charlotte Isabella Balfour (1851-92), baptised at St James, Norlands, Kensington (Middx), 6 November 1851; married, 10 June 1872 at Monkstown (Co. Dublin), Charles Western Leatham (1845-1933), an officer in the Royal Irish Constabulary (who m2, 1894 in Belfast, Marion Shaw (d. 1937)), son of Rev. Moses Leatham, and had issue one son and six daughters; died 4 January 1892;
(1.3) John Balfour (1853-1934) (q.v.).
He died of bronchitis at Woolwich (Kent), 12 September 1870; his will was proved 15 November 1870 (estate under £4,000). His first wife died in 1855. His widow died at Blackheath (Kent), 11 January 1891.

Balfour, John (1853-1934). Only son of John Osborn Balfour (1815-70) and his first wife, Jane, daughter of Robert Fitzpatrick of Eden House (Midlothian) and widow of Arthur Powell, born 19 January and baptised at St Alphege, Greenwich (Kent), 11 March 1853. Educated in Aberdeen. He moved to London in 1874 and became a stockbroker with Quilter Balfour & Co. He was a keen sportsman and gardener, was Master of the Essex Staghounds, 1908-11; played for a cricket team which he supported at Moor Hall; and cultivated chrysanthemums. He was President of the Harlow War Memorial Institute and originator of the Harlow Men's Meeting. He succeeded his third cousin, Col. William Edward Ligonier Balfour, as heir male of the family, 22 April 1934. He married, 5 March 1878 at St Paul, Old Charlton (Kent), Ada Cecilia (k/a Lissie) (c.1859-1924), daughter of Maj. William Bampfield of 2nd Scottish Rifles, and had issue:
(1) John Hubert Bampfield Balfour (1879-1957) (q.v.);
(2) Ada Dora Bampfield Balfour (1881-1945), baptised at St Stephen, Paddington (Middx), 25 June 1881; lived latterly at Tain (Ross & Cromarty); died unmarried, 8 March 1945; will proved 20 July 1945 (estate £19,928);
(3) Alice Violet Bampfield Balfour (1884-1979), born 8 August and baptised at St Mary, Kilburn (Middx), 2 September 1884; married 1st, 19 July 1911 at Epping (Essex), Marcus Warner Ashby (1881-1948), barrister-at-law, son of John Ashby of Staines (Middx), banker, and had issue one son and two daughters; married 2nd, Jan-Mar 1956, Christopher Hyne Mugford (1890-1960), son of Frank William Mugford, collar manufacturer; died 12 January 1979; will proved 14 March 1979 (estate £72,650);
(4) John Balfour (1888-1968), born 24 August and baptised at St Mary, Kilburn, 25 October 1888; educated at Charterhouse and Trinity College, Cambridge; stockbroker; married 1st, 9 October 1919 at St John, Notting Hill (Middx), Dorothy Olivia (1886-1941), daughter of Ernest Moore, barrister, and widow of Lt. C.J. Greenwood, and had issue two daughters; married 2nd, 7 November 1942 at Kensington (Middx), Marie L. (1884-1967), widow of Maj. Harry D. Barclay (1861-1940); died in Chelsea (Middx), 4 April 1968; will proved 12 June 1968 (estate £4,868);
(5) William John Balfour (b. 1894), born 15 July and baptised at St Mary, Kilburn, 15 August 1894; educated at Charterhouse; an officer in 20th Hussars (2nd Lt., 1914) in First World War; married, 8 July 1922 (div. 1939), Leslie Violet Lucy Evelyn (1899-1987) (who m2, S/Ldr Harry Raymond Whately, son of Hubert George Whately), second daughter of Col. Evelyn Wood CB DSO OBE and niece of his eldest brother's wife, and had issue one son; living in 1952.
He purchased Moor Hall, Harlow (Essex) with 123 acres in 1898, and later acquired further portions of the estate; the property was sold after his death.
He died 12 July and was buried at Harlow, 16 July 1934; his will was proved 7 August 1934 (estate £237,307). His wife died at Eastbourne (Sussex), 28 December 1924; administration of her goods was granted to her husband, 17 February 1925 (estate £3,948).

Balfour, John Hubert Bampfield (1879-1957). Eldest son of John Balfour (1853-1934) and his wife Ada Lissie, daughter of Maj. William Bampfield of 2nd Scottish Rifles, born 2 May and baptised at St Stephen, Paddington (Middx), 7 June 1879. Educated at Winchester. Served as an officer in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve in the First World War. Partner in Balfour & Cox, stock jobbers, of London. He succeeded his father as heir male of the family, 12 July 1934, but resigned his claim to the estate which was vested in trustees. He married, 18 July 1907, Victoria Eugenia Mary (1881-1961), youngest daughter of Field-Marshal Sir Evelyn Wood VC GCB GCMG, and had issue:
(1) David Hubert Balfour (1908-61) (q.v.).
He lived at Mill House, Harlow (Essex). In 1934 he inherited the Balfour Castle estate from his third cousin, but he placed it in trust and allowed his cousin's daughter to occupy the house.
He died at Exmouth (Devon), 16 January 1957; his will was proved 21 February 1957 (estate £59,440). His widow died 27 February 1961; her will was proved 7 July 1961 (estate £35,099).

Balfour, David Hubert Anthony (1908-61). Only child of John Hubert Bampfield Balfour (1879-1957) and his wife Victoria Eugenia Mary, youngest daughter of Field-Marshal Sir Evelyn Wood VC GCB GCMG, born 17 or 18 July 1908. Educated at Haileybury College and the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. During the Second World War he was an officer in the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders (Capt.). After the war he is said to have joined the Old Vic Theatre company as an actor and producer, and he also performed in amateur theatre. He later described himself as 'publisher, reader and educational traveller', and seems to have been a charming if rather feckless 'man about town'. He obtained a private pilot's licence in 1937 and after moving to Orkney he bred horses, raced greyhounds and kept mink. He married 1st, 11 April 1934 at Brompton Oratory, London (div. 1936), Mary Wynne (1908-96) (who m2, Oct-Dec 1942, Francis Cecil Leonard Bell (1912-2012) and had issue one son and one daughter), only daughter of Lt-Col. Arthur Lawrence Baldwin Jacob of Royal Artillery; married 2nd, 18 July 1941 (div. 1946), Vera Assunta Olympia Angela (1912-63), only daughter of Emilio Recchioni of London, iodine manufacturer; and married 3rd, 28 November 1947 (div.), Joyce Elsie, only daughter of Frederick Hunter of Solihull (Warks), but had no issue*.
He occupied Balfour Castle estate from 1951 onwards, but it was sold after his death.
He died 20 December 1961; his will was proved 3 May 1962 (estate £55,071). His first wife died 28 January 1996. His second wife died 29 January 1963. His third wife's date of death is unknown.
* Some sources says he married 4th Margaret [surname unknown], but I have found no evidence of a fourth marriage.


Burke's Landed Gentry, 1952, pp. 96-97; J. Gifford, The buildings of Scotland: Highlands and Islands, 1992, pp. 358-62; W.B. Blaikie, The origins of the 'forty-five, 1916, p. 71; R.P. Fereday, 'Thomas Balfour of Elwick: an Orcadian improver', Jnl of the Scottish Society for Northern Studies, vol. 24, 1987, pp. 1-26; M. Zawadzki, The Balfours and Balfour Castle, n.d. [c.1995];

Location of archives

Balfour family of Balfour Castle: estate and family papers, 1547-1937 [Orkney Archives, D2]

Coat of arms

Argent, on a chevron sable, an otter's head, erased, of the first.

Notes about missing information and help wanted with this entry

  • I would like to find an illustration of the house built by William Balfour on Shapinsay, which he called Cliffdale, but which was almost entirely swallowed up when David Balfour created the present Balfour Castle in 1846-50.
  • I would also like to find an illustration of Achavarn, the house built by William Balfour in the 1790s on the Scotscalder estate in Caithness. I believe the house was enlarged in the late 19th century and still stands.
  • Can anyone provide additional genealogical or biographical information for the people mentioned above, and especially for children of John Balfour (d. 1741)?
  • Does anyone know more about Col. Thomas Balfour's illegitimate son, who was apparently raised at Cliffdale under the name Clifford?

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 30 September 2018 and updated 5 October 2018, 24 December 2021 and 15 March 2024.

Sunday 23 September 2018

(345) Balfour of Balbirnie

Balfour of Balbirnie
In about 1385 one Peter Balfour married Anna, daughter of Thomas Sibbald of Balgonie (Fife), with whom he acquired the lands of Dovan (Fife) as a marriage portion. His descendant, Thomas Balfour (d. 1522), who inherited Dovan from his nephew between 1499 and 1511, was murdered in 1522 by William Lindsay. He left two sons, the elder of whom, John Balfour, succeeded to Dovan while the younger, David Balfour, was given the Lawlethan (now Lalathan) estate in Kennoway (Fife), which the family had acquired at an unknown date, in 1499. The senior branch of the family remained at Dovan down to 1607, when John Balfour sold that estate to Sir George Boswell. The younger branch retained Lalathan almost without interruption down to 1925, but it ceased to be their principal seat in the mid 17th century. Martin Balfour (d. 1624), who inherited Lalathan in 1578, had three sons, of whom Thomas, the eldest, succeeded to the estate. The second son, George Balfour (d. 1665), with whom the genealogy below begins, became a clothier in London and Edinburgh, and made a sufficient fortune to purchase the Balbirnie estate at Markinch (Fife) in 1642. The third son, Andrew Balfour (d. 1665) became a physician, but succeeded his elder brother Thomas at Lalathan in his later years, and settled there.

George Balfour (d. 1665) also had three sons. The eldest, Robert Balfour (1641-1713) was heir to Balbirnie, but the second son, David Balfour - an Edinburgh burgess - and the youngest son, Alexander Balfour (d. 1692) succeeded in turn to the Lalathan estate after the death of their uncle, Andrew Balfour. On Alexander's death, however, his creditors gained possession of Lalathan, and it might easily have passed permanently out of the family. Robert Balfour's elder son, George Balfour (1664-1743) was able to buy it back in 1716, and it subsequently descended with the main Balbirnie estate. In 1730, George began exploiting the coal reserves which existed on the Balbirnie estate. By driving adits into the hillside he was able to reach the best coal seam in a cost-effective way, and to undercut the smaller artisan colliers who had worked in the area previously. His entrepreneurial spirit seems to be reflected in the careers of many of his descendants.

George Balfour (d. 1743) was succeeded at Balbirnie by his son Robert (1698-1766), who married Anne, the daughter of Sir Andrew Ramsay, 4th bt., of Whitehill (Midlothian). In 1744, Anne's brother, Sir John Ramsay, 5th bt., died without issue, and her husband inherited the Whitehill estate in her right and took the additional surname Ramsay to mark this significant increase in his fortune. Robert and Anne had six sons and two daughters who lived to maturity. The eldest son, John Ramsay Balfour (1738-1813), succeeded to Balbirnie, and the second son, George Balfour (1740-1806) inherited Whitehill. George, however, died unmarried and Whitehill passed to his next brother, Andrew Balfour (1741-1814), a lawyer and judge, who was also unmarried, and finally to a third brother, Gen. James Balfour (1743-1823). All three brothers took the additional name Ramsay and all three died without issue, so General Balfour left the estate to Robert, the eldest son of his sister Elizabeth (1745-1816) and her husband, Capt. William Wardlaw RN. Robert Wardlaw-Ramsay (as he became) rebuilt the house at Whitehill, and an account of that estate is reserved to a future post on the Ramsay and Wardlaw-Ramsay families. The deaths of so many members of this generation of the family without children and after prosperous careers, led to an accumulation of wealth by their surviving siblings. The end result was that in 1823 General Balfour left an estate valued at £265,925 and his sister Ann an even more impressive estate of £299,198 in 1826. The General's wealth passed chiefly to his heir at Whitehill, but Ann's estate benefited the children of her eldest brother, John.

John Ramsay Balfour (1738-1813), who inherited and enlarged Balbirnie, was a member of the faculty of advocates, as well as a landowner and coalowner. He had two sons and two daughters. The eldest son, Maj-Gen. Robert Balfour (1772-1837), retired from the army on inheriting the estate and at once greatly enlarged the house and remodelled the grounds. His younger brother, James Balfour (c.1776-1845), who began as an accountant in Edinburgh and made a fortune of £300,000 in India as a victualling contractor for the Navy, retired to Scotland in 1812 and bought the Whittinghame estate in East Lothian, a shooting estate in Ross-shire, and the Balgonie estate and other property in Fife. An account of Whittinghame and his other properties is reserved for a forthcoming post on the Earls of Balfour. John's younger daughter, Ann Balfour (c.1775-1839) remained unmarried, and in 1803-04 she purchased and altered the attractive late 18th century Kingsdale House at Kennoway: when she died this passed first to her niece, the Countess of Leven & Melville, and then to her nephew, Col. John Balfour of Balbirnie.

Maj-Gen. Robert Balfour (1772-1837) had four sons and four daughters. Two of his daughters married into the Ellice family, and visited Canada in 1838 when Edward Ellice was Private Secretary to Lord Durham, the Governor General. They had an unexpectedly exciting time (being taken prisoner for several days by French Canadian insurgents) and Jane Ellice left a diary of her experiences which was published in 1975. Balbirnie passed to the eldest son, Col. John Balfour (1811-95), remembered as a patriarchal figure who played a full part in the public life of Fife but was impatient of the new democratic world into which he survived. His son and heir, Lt-Col. Robert Frederick Balfour (1846-82), an officer in the Grenadier Guards, died of wounds received in the Egyptian campaign in 1882, so Balbirnie passed on his death to his second son, Edward Balfour (1849-1927). He was cut of very different cloth to his father, and was far more at home discussing sheep breeding and his Clydesdale draught horses with his tenant farmers than he was performing his public role as a magistrate and Deputy Lieutenant. At the end of his life, he seems to have sold the Lalathan estate which had been in the family since at least 1499. He had three sons, two of whom were killed in the First World War. The survivor, and the heir to Balbirnie, was Brig. Edward William Sturgis Balfour (1884-1955). In 1927, he sold Kingsdale House at Kennoway, presumably to pay the death duties on his father's estate, and by the time he died the new town of Glenrothes, begun as housing for colliery workers and later designated a New Town, was lapping at the south and west sides of Balbirnie Park. He had two sons, the younger of whom had wide-ranging business interests, including being Chairman of Scottish & Newcastle Breweries and Vice-Chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland. The elder son and heir, Maj. John Edward Balfour (1919-2009) sold the house and park at Balbirnie in 1969 to the Glenrothes Development Corporation, which used the house as its own offices, and made the grounds into a public park and golf course. In 1989-90 the house became an hotel, and it still serves this purpose. Maj. Balfour, who had a full and impressive record of public service in the fields of youth justice and the National Health Service, retained the remainder of the Balbirnie estate, and may indeed have enlarged it later. In 1994 he handed over the 4,900 acre property to his son, Robert William Balfour (b. 1952), who became Lord Lieutenant of Fife in 2015. He ran the estate until the beginning of 2018 when he also handed it on his eldest son, John Alexander Balfour (b. 1979), a chartered accountant with a strong interest in sustainable farming.

Balbirnie House, Markinch, Fife

An irregular U-shaped 17th century house on this site was given a new front block in 1777-82, the design of which is attributed variously to John Baxter junior and George Paterson (who worked extensively in Fife and is known to have  submitted a scheme). The work was carried out at a cost of £2,563 by James Kay, mason, and David Wilkieson, wright, with a Mr Nisbet (probably James Nisbet of Edinburgh, who was also an architect) as the plasterer. Unfortunately, no visual record of the building as it existed at this time seems to survive.

Balbirnie House: an early photograph of the mansion as remodelled by Richard Crichton in 1815-21.

The late 18th century part of the house was incorporated into the present much larger neo-classical mansion, when it was built in 1815-21. The design for this scheme was created by Richard Crichton (c.1771-1817) for General Robert Balfour, who succeeded his father in 1813. Crichton died, however, while the house was under construction, and it was completed by his nephews and successors in practice, Richard and Robert Dickson; the clerk of works was James Barclay of Edinburgh. The 18th century block had had a seven bay west front with a projecting pedimented centre, which Crichton lengthened to the south by a further four bays, removing the pediment and making the projecting 18th century central bay one end of an elaborate new five-bay centrepiece with a giant Ionic order that mixes columns and pilasters in an inventively neo-classical way. 

Balbirnie House: the entrance front

Despite the grandeur of the resulting elevation, this became the garden front, and the main entrance was moved to the five-bay south front, where the central three bays are broken forward with a pedimented portico. The design seems to be inspired by the front of Sir William Chambers' Duddingston House, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, which was built in 1763 and employs a Corinthian order, but this is a Greek Revival version, with an Ionic order and heavier forms. Thanks to Napoleonic inflation, the remodelling cost a total of £16,387, and contemporaries thought the finished house 'a complete and elegant residence... surpassed by few houses North of the Tweed'.

Balbirnie House: the saloon, in hotel use.

Inside, the interiors belong very largely to the 1815-19 period. The entrance hall is flanked by the drawing room on the west and the dining room on the east, but they are entered not from the hall but from the long 'saloon', an exceptionally grand and wide corridor which runs north of the hall behind the drawing room, library and billiard room to the stairhall. The saloon is impressive, divided by piers into four bays, each with a pendentive dome. In the east wall, lunette windows are set high up; the other walls have roundels painted with cherubs in grisaille. The plasterwork here and elsewhere in the house, was by Anderson & Ramage of Edinburgh. In the stairhall, a very plain Imperial stair is overlooked from the first-floor landing through a broad Ionic screen. The library has a ceiling with very shallow pendentives supporting a flat circular centre, and console-style bookcases of 1815; the chimneypiece was supplied by David Ness & Co. The rather French style chimneypiece in the boudoir, west of the stairhall, is a replacement of 1843. The dining room was remodelled by Thomas Leadbetter in 1896. The original kitchen was a groin-vaulted room at the south-east corner of the basement. The low one- and two-storey office court at the rear of the house was rebuilt after 1854, probably by David Bryce, and has a scroll-sided pedimented bellcote over the entrance passage; the detached stable block (now a craft centre) is also mid 19th century. The house remained in private occupation until 1969, when it was sold to the Development Corporation building Glenrothes New Town nearby. The grounds became a public park and golf course, and the house was utilised as the Corporation's offices. When the Corporation was winding itself up, the house was sold and in 1989-90 was converted into an hotel, a purpose which is still serves.

Balbirnie House: landscaping plan by Robert Robinson, 1779. Image: National Records of Scotland, RHP 24335.

A rather Rococo scheme for laying out the park was prepared by Robert Robinson for John Balfour in 1779, and his plan seems to have been at least partially executed, although it was altered later: the walled garden east of the house, built in 1784-86, survives more or less on the site he suggested. The rest of the parkland follows a later and more fluid design by Thomas White, of 1815-17. The South Lodge, from Markinch, is dated 1861 and was designed by David Bryce. The West Lodge, on the A92, was designed by R. & R. Dickson in 1823-24.

Balbirnie House: the park as landscaped by Thomas White in 1815-17, from the 1st edn Ordnance Survey 6" map of 1854.

Descent: sold 1642 to George Balfour (d. 1665); to son, Robert Balfour (1641-1713); to son, George Balfour (1664-1743); to son, Robert Balfour (1698-1767); to son, John Balfour (1738-1813); to son, Gen. Robert Balfour (1772-1837); to son, Col. John Balfour (1811-95); to son, Edward Balfour (1849-1927); to son, Brig. Edward William Sturgis Balfour (1884-1955); to son, Maj. John Charles Balfour (1919-2009), who sold 1969 to Glenrothes Development Corporation; sold 1989 for conversion into an hotel.

Kingsdale House, Kennoway, Fife

Kingsdale House, Kennoway: the garden front, as altered in Victorian and Edwardian times; photographed c.2000.

A modest two storey late 18th century ashlar-fronted house built for James Stark (d. 1803), and remodelled c.1804 after it was acquired by Ann Balfour. The entrance front has a two-bay pedimented centre with a circular window in the pediment, and a Victorian porch which was probably part of additions and alterations by James Gillespie & Scott in 1885-86. On the south-facing garden front there is a segmental bow flanked by pilaster strips, with two windows to either side. The house originally had single-storey hipped roofed pavilions to either side, but that on the east has been replaced by a low two-storey service wing (by Gillespie & Scott, 1904) while that on the west has given place to a bay window. Inside, the house has a circular hall, a cantilevered stone staircase, and library, drawing room and dining room with decorative plaster cornices.

Descent: built c.1780 for James Stark (d. 1803); sold after his death to Miss Ann Balfour (c.1775-1839); bequeathed to her niece, Elizabeth Anne (née Campbell), wife of David Leslie-Melville (1785-1860), 10th Earl of Leven & Melville, and then to her nephew, Col. John Balfour (1811-95); to son, Edward Balfour (1849-1927), who sold 1927 to Maj. George Russell... sold 2000... The house was let in the later 19th century to Thomas Bruce of Arnot (fl. 1858-85), John Cook (fl. 1889-91) and Charles Cook (fl. 1896-1921).

Balfour family of Balbirnie

Balfour, George (d. 1665). Third son of Martin Balfour (d. 1624) of Lalathan and his wife Janet, daughter of [forename unknown] Balfour of Ballo, born about 1600. Clothier in London and later in Edinburgh. He was appointed one of commissioners on the Committee of War for the Presbytery of Kirkcaldy, 1648. He married, 1629, Anne (d. 1670), daughter of Sir Michael Arnot, 1st bt., and had issue:
(1) Robert Balfour (1641-1713) (q.v.);
(2) David Balfour of Lalathan; admitted as a burgess of Edinburgh, 1671; succeeded his uncle at Lalathan, but had no issue;
(3) Alexander Balfour (d. 1692); succeeded his brother at Lalathan, but on his death the property was adjudged to his creditors, who retained it until 1716, when it was recovered by George Balfour (1664-1743) (q.v.of Balbirnie; died without issue, 1692.
He purchased the Balbirnie estate in 1642.
He was buried at Markinch, 14 February 1665. His widow died 10 January 1670.

Balfour, Robert (1641-1713). Eldest son of George Balfour (d. 1665) and his wife Anne, daughter of Sir Michael Arnot, 1st bt., born 1641. He matriculated his coat of arms at the office of Lord Lyon King of Arms, 1672-77. He married, before 1663, Elizabeth, sister of Sir John Preston of Airdrie, 2nd bt., and had a large family, including:
(1) George Balfour (1664-1743) (q.v.);
(2) James Balfour; apprenticed to Patrick Heron of Edinburgh, apothecary, 1687; married and had issue;
(3) Anna Balfour; married, by 1703, William Arnot (d. 1735) and had issue.
He inherited the Balbirnie estate from his father in 1665.
He died in 1713. His wife's date of death is unknown.

Balfour, George (1664-1743). Eldest son of Robert Balfour (1641-1713) and his wife Elizabeth, sister of Sir John Preston, kt., of Airdrie, born 1664. Landowner and coal owner; he first established coal mines on the Balbirnie estate in 1730. Ruling Elder of the Kirkcaldy Presbytery. He married, reputedly in December 1696, Agnes (b. 1672?), daughter of Robert Lumsdain of Strathvithy, and had issue:
(1) Robert Balfour (1698-1766) (q.v.);
(2) John Balfour (b. 1699), baptised at Markinch, 23 May 1699; perhaps died young;
(3) Christian Balfour (d. 1736); married, April 1728, James Graham (d. 1783) (who m2, April 1740, Bethia, daughter of James Deans of Woodhouslee (Midlothian), and had issue), but had no issue; buried at Greyfriars, Edinburgh, 18 April 1736.
He inherited the Balbirnie estate from his father in 1713, and purchased Lalathan in 1716 from his uncle's creditors.
He died in 1743. His wife's date of death is unknown.

Balfour (later Ramsay), Robert (1698-1766). Elder son of George Balfour (1664-1743) and his wife Agnes, daughter of Robert Lumsdain of Strathvithy, born February 1698. Landowner and coal owner. He adopted the additional surname Ramsay in 1744 when he inherited the Whitehill estate in right of his wife from her brother, but his children continued to take the name Balfour unless they subsequently inherited Whitehill. MP for Midlothian, 1751-54. He married, 3 June 1736, Anne (1707-66), daughter and heir of Sir Andrew Ramsay, 4th bt., of Whitehill, and had issue:
(1) John Ramsay Balfour (1738-1813) (q.v.);
(2) George Balfour (later Ramsay) (1740-1806), baptised at Markinch, 4 June 1740; inherited the Whitehill estate from his father and took the name Ramsay in 1767; died unmarried, 5 November 1806 and was buried at Carrington (Midlothian);
(3) Andrew Balfour (later Ramsay) (1741-1814), born 25 May and baptised at Markinch, 26 May 1741; admitted advocate, 5 July 1763; Solicitor of Tiends, 1790; Judge in the commissary court, 1774-1800; Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Advocates; inherited the Whitehill estate from his elder brother and took the name Ramsay, 1806; died unmarried, 25 April 1814 and was buried at Carrington;
(4) Robert Balfour (1742-1807), of Balcurvie (Fife), born 25 September and was baptised at Markinch, 26 September 1742; apprenticed to William Hogg & Co., merchants, of Edinburgh, 1761; died unmarried, 16 November 1807 and was buried at Carrington;
(5) Gen. James Balfour (later Ramsay) (1743-1823), born 3 November and was baptised at Markinch, 4 November 1743; an officer in the army (Ensign, 1762; Lt., 1762; Capt., 1768; Maj., 1777; Lt-Col., 1780; Col., 1790; Maj-Gen., 1794; Lt-Gen., 1801; Gen., 1808; retired before 1813), serving at Gibraltar, in the West Indies and in India, where he was present at the siege of Seringapatam; Hon. Colonel of 83rd Regiment, 1795-1823; inherited the Whitehill estate from his brother Andrew and took the additional surname Ramsay, 1814, although he did not use it consistently; he bequeathed Whitehill at his death to his nephew, Robert Wardlaw-Ramsay of Tillicoultry (Clacks.); died 18 March 1823 and was buried at Carrington; his will was confirmed 27 February 1824 (estate £265,925);
(6) Elizabeth Balfour (1745-1816), born 4 October 1745; married Capt. William Wardlaw RN and had issue three sons and one daughter (of whom their second son inherited the Whitehill estate from his uncle Gen. James Balfour Ramsay); died 25 September 1816 and was buried at Carrington;
(7) Thomas Balfour (b. & d. 1748), born 14 July 1748; died in infancy, September 1748;
(8) Alexander Balfour (1751-53), born 12 July 1751; died in infancy, January 1753;
(9) Agnes Balfour (1752-64), born 24 July 1752; died young, 20 August 1764 and was buried at Carrington, 22 August 1764;
(10) William Balfour (1755-93), born 9 August 1755; an officer in the East India Company's service; a member of the Board of Revenue at Madras, 1791-93; died in London, 7 February 1793 and was buried at Carrington; his will was proved in the PCC, 19 June 1793;
(11) Ann Balfour (1758-1826), born 13 January 1758; lived in St John Street, Canongate, Edinburgh; died unmarried, 15 January, and was buried at Carrington, 20 January 1826; she left an estate valued at £299,198.
He inherited the Balbirnie and Lalathan estates from his father in 1743. In 1744 he also inherited the Whitehill (Midlothian) estate in right of his wife.
He died 26 January and was buried at Carrington, 31 January 1766; his will was confirmed 12 August 1768. His wife died in February 1766.

Balfour, John Ramsay (1739-1813). Eldest son of Robert Balfour (later Ramsay) (1698-1766) and his wife Anne, daughter and eventual heir of Sir Andrew Ramsay, 4th bt., of Whitehill, born 24 January 1738/9 and baptised the following day. Advocate (admitted 1761), landowner and coal owner. He married, 23 July 1771 at Markinch, Mary (1743-1820), daughter of James Gordon of Ellon, and had issue:
(1) Maj-Gen. Robert Balfour (1772-1837) (q.v.);
(2) Elizabeth Balfour (c.1773-1844); married, 8 August 1794, Sir Archibald Campbell (1769-1846), 2nd bt., of Succoth and Garscube House (Dumbartons.), a Senator of the College of Justice as Lord Succoth, and had issue five sons and three daughters (one of whom married the 10th Earl of Leven & Melville and inherited a life interest in Kingsdale House from her aunt Anne Balfour); died 6 June 1844;
(3) Anne Balfour (c.1775-1839); purchased and altered Kingsdale House, Kennoway; died unmarried at Melville House (Fife), 23 April and was buried at Markinch, 2 May 1839; her will was proved in the PCC, 19 July 1839
(4) James Balfour (c.1776-1845); trained as an accountant in Edinburgh and became an official of the East India Company and a merchant in India, 1795-1812, where he amassed a fortune of £300,000 as a contractor for victualling the navy; retired to Scotland, 1812; purchased the 10,000 acre Whittinghame estate in East Lothian, 1817, and built a new house there to the designs of Robert Smirke; he also purchased a Highland shooting estate at Strathconan (Ross & Cromarty) and the Balgonie estate and other Fife property, 1824-25; MP for Anstruther Easter Burghs, 1826-31 and Haddingtonshire, 1831-34; married, 19 January 1815, Lady Eleanor, daughter of James Maitland, 8th Earl of Lauderdale, and had issue two sons and three daughters; died 19 April 1845, leaving an estate valued at over £1,000,000 [he was ancestor of the Balfours of Whittinghame and Newton Don, and will be treated at greater length a future post on that family].
He inherited the Balbirnie and Lalathan estates from his father in 1767 and enlarged and remodelled the house in 1777-82.
He died 15 December 1813 and was buried at Markinch. His widow died at her house in Edinburgh, 11 March, and was buried at Markinch, 17 March 1820.

Maj-Gen. Robert Balfour (1762-1837)
Balfour, Maj-Gen. Robert (1772-1837). Elder son of John Balfour alias Ramsay (1739-1813) and his wife Ellen, daughter of James Gordon of Ellon, born 3 May 1772. An officer in the Infantry and later 2nd Dragoon Guards (Ensign 1784; Lt., 1785; Capt., 1793; Lt-Col., 1798; Col., 1812; Maj-Gen., 1814); he was Hon. Col. of the Fife Light Horse, 1831-37. 'While serving as Lt-Col. of the 2nd Dragoons, he was, for the misconstruction of a regulation, subjected to a Court Martial, and sentenced to be cashiered; the Prince Regent confirmed the sentence, but immediately after restored him to the functions of his commission, as neither dishonorable or unworthy motives appeared in the charges against him'. He married, 8 August 1808 at Ayton (Berwicks), Eglantyne Katherine (c.1781-1852), daughter of John Fordyce of Ayton, and had issue:
(1) Mary Georgiana Balfour (1810-91), born 2 June and baptised at Putney (Surrey), 3 July 1810; died unmarried at Balbirnie, 14 February 1891;
(2) Col. John Balfour (1811-95) (q.v.);
(3) Katherine Jane Balfour (c.1812-64), born in 1812 or 1813; an accomplished artist, musician and linguist; she accompanied her husband to Canada, 1838, where he was private secretary to the Governor-General, Lord Durham, and kept a diary of her impressions of Canada which was published in 1975; while staying at an estate (Beauharnois near Montreal) owned by her father-in-law she was briefly taken prisoner by French Canadian insurgents, but released unharmed after about six days; she married, 15 July 1834 at St James Piccadilly, Westminster (Middx), as his first wife, Edward Ellice MP (1810-80) of Glenquoich (Inverness) (who m2, 24 September 1867 Eliza Stewart, the daughter of Thomas Campbell Hagart of Bantaskine (Stirlings) and widow of Alexander Spiers of Elderslie), only son of Edward 'Bear' Ellice (1783-1863) of Invergarry (Inverness), but had no issue; died 13 April 1864 and was buried at Invergarry;
(4) Capt. Charles James Balfour (1814-78), baptised at Putney, 21 July 1814; an officer in the Royal Navy from 1829 (Lt., 1838; Cmdr., 1846; retired as Capt., 1865); attached to HM Coastguard as Inspecting Commander in the Bridgwater (Somerset) and Lymington (Hants) districts, c.1846-62; married, 16 May 1850 at Old Windsor (Berks), Frances Harriet (1827-77), only daughter of Rear-Adm. James Erskine Wemyss of Wemyss Castle and Torrie House (Fife) and had issue one daughter (who married, 16 October 1886 at Market Lavington (Wilts), Rev. Edward Seymour Awdry (1850-1936)); died at Cannes (France), 3 February 1878;
(5) Maj. Robert William Balfour (1816-54), born at Balbirnie, 14 December 1816; an officer in 88th Regt. (Ensign, 1834; Lt., 1838; Capt., 1840; Maj. 1851); died unmarried at Balbirnie, 1 October and was buried at Markinch, 7 October 1854; will proved 30 November 1854;
(6) Eglantine Charlotte Louisa Balfour (1818-1907), born 31 July 1818; travelled to Canada with her sister Katherine in 1838; married, 1 March 1853 at St George, Hanover Square, London, Robert Ellice (1816-58), son of Lt-Gen. Robert Ellice, and had issue one son and two daughters; died aged 88, 18 April 1907; will proved 24 June 1907 (estate £5,794);
(7) Elizabeth Anne Balfour (1819-89), born 15 August 1819; married, 1 November 1842 at Whittinghame (East Lothian), the Hon. & Rt. Hon. Edward Pleydell-Bouverie (1818-89) of Market Lavington Manor (Wilts), second son of William Pleydell-Bouverie, 3rd Earl of Radnor, and had issue two sons and three daughters; died in London, 10 August 1889;
(8) George Gordon Balfour (1821-1901), born 24 May 1821; an officer in the East India Co. Civil Service; retired to Bath (Somerset); married, 31 July 1848 at Bhagulpore, Bengal (India), Juliana Georgina (c.1829-1922), daughter of John Lamb, and had issue one son and five daughters; died in Bath, 2 February 1901; will proved 29 March 1901 (estate £18,250).
He inherited the Balbirnie and Lalathan estates from his father in 1813, and he enlarged and remodelled the house and re-landscaped the grounds, 1815-22. In 1830 he expanded the estate by purchasing the adjoining Forthar estate from Dr. David Pitcairn. He also maintained a London residence at 14 Carlton House Terrace. His widow lived at 8 Grosvenor Crescent, London.
He died at Leamington Spa (Warks), 31 October 1837, and was buried at Markinch, 16 November 1837. His widow died at Pau (France), 9 January 1852, and was buried at Markinch; her will was confirmed at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, 25 May 1852.

Col. John Balfour (1811-95)
Balfour, Col. John (1811-95). Eldest son of Gen. Robert Balfour (1772-1837) and his wife Eglantyne Katherine, daughter of John Fordyce of Ayton, born 29 March 1811. An officer in Grenadier Guards (Ensign & Lt., 1828; Lt. & Capt., 1832; retired before 1840); Hon. Col. of Fife Artillery Militia (from c.1855). Chairman of the Edinburgh, Perth & Dundee Railway, c.1847-62. JP and DL (from 1841) for Fife. A Conservative in politics, he stood unsuccessfully for Parliament in the Fife constituency in 1847. He was Chairman of the Fife Commissioners of Supply and thereby an ex-officio member of Fife County Council, 1890. His obituarist recorded that 'his figure was slim and straight, his features distinct and classic, and his public manner somewhat austere, if not haughty'. He was an active sportsman, being Master of Fife Foxhounds and a member of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club at St. Andrews. He married, 23 June 1840, Lady Georgiana Isabella (1820-84), second daughter of John Frederick Campbell, 1st Earl Cawdor, and had issue:
(1) Emily Eglantine Balfour (1841-65), born 21 August and baptised at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster, 25 September 1841; married, 6 February 1861 at St Peter, Eaton Square, London, Rt. Hon. George Henry Finch (1835-1907) of Burley-on-the-Hill (Rutland), MP for Rutland 1867-1907 (who m2, Edith Montgomery and had further issue), son of George Finch of Burley-on-the-Hill, and had issue one son and two daughters; died 26 April 1865 and was buried at Burley-on-the-Hill, 3 May 1865;
(2) Georgina Elizabeth Balfour (1843-1919), born 26 January 1843; married, 26 July 1870, Arthur Hill (1844-74), 5th Marquess of Downshire of Easthampstead Park (Berks) and Hillsborough Castle (Co. Down), and had issue one son; died 12 January 1919; will proved 20 February 1919 (estate £15,968);
(3) twin, Lt-Col. Robert Frederick Balfour (1846-82), born 30 April 1846; an officer in the Grenadier Guards (2nd Lt., 1865; Capt., 1869; Lt-Col., 1876); died in London of blood poisoning resulting from wounds received at Tel-el-Kebir (Egypt), 23 October 1882 and was buried at Northhall Cemetery, Markinch, where he is commemorated by a monument designed by Sydney Mitchell and erected in 1884; will confirmed 23 December 1882 (effects £6,733);
(4) twin, Mary Louisa Balfour (1846-1939), born 30 April 1846; died unmarried aged 92, 15 January 1939;
(5) Edward Balfour (1849-1927) (q.v.);
(6) John William Balfour (1851-92), born 20 August 1851; apparently emigrated to America in 1872 but returned; he visited America again in 1875; died unmarried and without issue of pneumonia at Torquay (Devon), 30 May 1892;
(7) Harry Balfour (b. & d. 1852); died in infancy, 22 December 1852 and was buried at Markinch;
(8) Brig-Gen. Sir Alfred Granville Balfour (1858-1936), kt., born 25 March 1858; educated at Eton; an officer in the Fife Artillery Militia (Lt., 1875) and later Highland Light Infantry (2nd Lt., 1879; Lt., 1881; Capt., 1890; Maj., 1899; Lt-Col., 1905; Brig-Gen., 1915); appointed CB 1917 and KBE, 1919 and held several foreign orders; served as ADC to Viceroy of India, 1884-86; Commandant of Royal Military School of Music, 1905-10; during the First World War he was embarkation commandant of the port of Southampton, 1915-19; Vice-President of Royal Academy of Music; married, 1 September 1886, Frances Elizabeth (1862-1936), daughter of Surgeon-Gen. Sir Benjamin Simpson KCIE, and had issue three sons; died 14 March 1936; will proved 20 May 1936 (estate £10,576).
He inherited the Balbirnie estate from his father in 1837, and added Kingsdale House, Kennoway to it when he inherited it from his aunt.
He died 25 July 1895; his will was confirmed 29 October 1895 (effects £18,943). His wife died 3 December 1884.

Edward Balfour (1849-1927)
by H. van der Weyde.
Image: National Galleries of Scotland
Balfour, Edward (1849-1927). Second, but eldest surviving, son of Col. John Balfour (1811-95) and his wife Lady Georgiana Isbaella, second daughter of John Frederick Campbell, 1st Earl Cawdor, born 23 January 1849. Educated at Eton, Christ Church, Oxford (matriculated 1867) and Inner Temple (admitted 1871). In 1873 he was sent to America by his father to engage in a business career. He was JP and DL for Fife, but took little part in public affairs. He had a keen interest in agriculture, and at different times bred Clydesdale horses and Leicestershire sheep; he was President of the Windygates Agricultural Society. With his brother, he paid for the building of municipal offices in Markinch, 1897-99 and he also provided a site for the Markinch war memorial, built in 1920. He married, 16 October 1879 at Boston, Massachusetts (USA), Isabella Weyman (1859-1938), daughter of William Sturgis Hooper of Boston, and had issue:
(1) Alice Georgiana Balfour (1880-1979), born 19 August 1880; died unmarried aged 98, 11 March 1979;
(2) Capt. Robert Frederick Balfour (1883-1914), born 16 March 1883; educated at Eton and Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst; an officer in the Scots Guards (2nd Lt., 1903; Lt., 1904; Capt., 1913); died unmarried when he was killed in action at Gheluvelt near Ypres (Belgium), 28 October 1914; buried in Sanctuary Wood Cemetery, Ypres; commemorated by a monument at Markinch; will confirmed 2 March 1915 (estate £1,193);
(3) Brig. Edward William Sturgis Balfour (1884-1955) (q.v.);
(4) Eva Katherine Balfour (1888-1978), born 14 September 1888; married, 10 November 1931, as his second wife, Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton (1889-1945), 5th bt., but had no issue; died 2 June 1978 and was buried at Northhall Cemetery, Markinch (Fife);
(5) Capt. John Balfour (1895-1918), born 5 March 1895; an officer in the Scots Guards (Capt.); awarded MC; died unmarried when he was killed in action, 18 March 1918; buried in Faubourg-D'Amiens Cemetery, Arras (France); will confirmed 12 July 1918 (estate £5,444).
He inherited the Balbirnie estate from his father in 1895, but lived chiefly at 2 Grosvenor Crescent, London. He sold the Lalathan estate in 1925. 
He died at his house in London, 10 September 1927, and was buried at Markinch; his will was confirmed 20 February 1928 (estate £172,366). His widow died at Balbirnie, 16 March 1938.

Balfour, Brig. Edward William Sturgis (1884-1955). Second son of Edward Balfour (1849-1927) and his wife Isabella Weyman Hooper, born 6 December 1884. Educated at Eton and Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. An officer in the Royal Artillery, 1904-08, 5th Dragoon Guards, 1908-21 and Scots Guards, 1921-44 (2nd Lt., 1904; Lt., 1907; Capt., 1912; Maj., 1915; Lt-Col., 1927; Col, 1934; Brig., 1937; retired 1938, but returned to colours as Lt-Col. commanding the Scots Guards, 1939-44); he was mentioned in despatches in the First World War and was appointed DSO 1915; MC, 1918; OBE 1919; and CVO 1943; he served as commanding officer of the 3rd (London) Infantry Brigade of Territorial Army, 1937-38. JP and DL for Fife. Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 1946-55. He married, 26 December 1914 at Whittinghame (East Lothian), Lady Ruth CBE MB BS MRCS LRCP (1889-1967), surgeon, eldest daughter of Gerald William Balfour, 2nd Earl of Balfour, and had issue:
(1) Nora Elizabeth Balfour (1916-98), born 3 March 1916; married, 24 June 1936 (div. 1967), Lt-Col. Sir William McEwan Younger DSO (1905-92), 1st bt., Chairman of Scottish & Newcastle Breweries, 1960-69 and Chairman of Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party, 1971-74, second son of William Younger of Ravenswood, Melrose (Roxburghs.), and had issue one daughter; died 16 October 1998;
(2) Maj. John Charles Balfour (1919-2009) (q.v.);
(3) Maj. Peter Edward Gerald Balfour (1921-2013), born 8 July 1921; educated at Eton; an officer in the Scots Guards (Maj.; retired 1954), who served in Second World War and was mentioned in despatches and wounded; awarded Croix de Guerre (France); succeeded his brother-in-law as Chairman of Scottish & Newcastle Breweries, 1970-83; also Chairman of Selective Assets Trust, 1978-82; First Charlotte Assets Trust, 1981-92 and Charterhouse plc, 1985-90; director of Royal Bank of Scotland, 1971-90 (Vice-Chairman, 1985-90), Royal Bank of Scotland Group, 1978-91, British Assets Trust plc, 1962-92; member of Hansard Commission on Electoral Reform, 1975-76; President of Scottish Council for Development and Industry, 1986-91; lived at Gullane House (East Lothian) and later at Humbie (East Lothian); married 1st, 6 November 1948 (div. 1967), Lady Griselda Davina Roberta Ogilvy (1924-77), youngest daughter of David Lyulph Gore Wolseley Ogilvy, 7th Earl of Airlie KT GCVO MC, and had issue two sons and one daughter; he married 2nd, 2 March 1968, Diana Rosemary (b. 1936), daughter of Charles George Gordon Wainman, and had further issue one son and one daughter; died aged 92, 23 July 2013;
(4) Anne Balfour (later Balfour-Fraser) (1923-2016), born 10 August 1923; educated at St Leonard's School, St. Andrews and Royal Academy of Music; opera singer and film producer; after separating from her husband she moved to Milan, where she sang at La Scala; returned to Britain, c.1954 and established a successful independent film production company (Balfour Films); assumed the surname Balfour-Fraser by deed poll, 1956; lived latterly in Oxfordshire; married, 26 September 1947 (div. 1952), Maj. David William Fraser, only surviving son of Brig. the Hon. William Fraser DSO MC, and had issue one daughter; died aged 92, 28 July 2016; her will was proved 30 December 2016.
He inherited the Balbirnie estate from his father in 1927, but sold Kingsdale House, Kennoway (Fife) to Maj. George Russell in 1927.
He died 23 December 1955. His widow died 30 August 1967.

Maj. J.C. Balfour (1919-2009)
Balfour, Maj. John Charles (1919-2009). Elder son of Brig. Edward William Sturgis Balfour (1884-1955) and his wife Lady Ruth, eldest daughter of Gerald William Balfour, 2nd Earl of Balfour, born in Woking (Surrey), 28 July 1919. Educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge (matriculated 1938; BA 1947). An officer in the Royal Artillery during the Second World War, and of the Royal Company of Archers from 1949. Farmer and landowner. He was a board member of Youth Scotland, of the Alcohol Advisory Council, and of the Scottish Council on Crime, 1972-75. He served on Lord Kilbrandon's Inter-departmental Committee on Children and Young Persons, Scotland, 1961-64, which laid the foundations for a system of children's panels, allowing children's crimes to be taken out of the courts and dealt with in the context of their families through less adversarial hearings; he was then Chairman of the Fife Children's Panel, 1970-77 and Chairman of the Scottish Association of Youth Clubs, 1968-79. Chairman of Fife Area Health Board, 1983-87. JP (from 1957) and DL (from 1958 for Fife; Vice Lord-Lieutenant, 1988-96. He was awarded the MC, 1942 and appointed OBE for his work with children's causes, 1978. He married, 20 June 1950 in Dunkeld Cathedral (Perths.), Dr. (Elizabeth) Jean CBE JP BS FRSE (b. 1927), forester and conservationist; Chairman of the Countryside Commission for Scotland, 1972-82; Chairman of Seafish Industry Authority; Chairman of Loch Duart Ltd, 1999-2008, elder daughter of Maj-Gen. Sir James Syme Drew KBE CB DSO MC of Balavoulin, Glenfincastle, Pitlochry (Perths.), and had issue:
(1) Robert William Balfour (b. 1952) (q.v.);
(2) David James Balfour (b. 1954), born 20 January 1954; educated at Eton and Edinburgh University; inherited Balavoulin from his maternal grandfather but sold it in 2003; married, 14 October 1978, Jennifer Elizabeth Hamilton Riach, and had issue two sons and two daughters; now living;

(3) Alan John Balfour (b. 1957) of Carpow House, Newburgh (Fife), born 17 July 1957; educated at Eton and Newcastle University; company director; married, 14 April 1984, Susan Caroline Claire (b. 1961), daughter of Roger Errington of Loansdean (Northbld.), and had issue one son and two daughters; now living.
He inherited the Balbirnie estate from his father in 1955, but sold the house and park to Glenrothes Development Corporation in 1969. He lived subsequently at Kirkforthar House, Markinch (Fife).
He died at Kirkforthar House, 21 May 2009. His widow is now living.

Balfour, Robert William (b. 1952). Eldest son of Maj. John Charles Balfour (1919-2009) and his wife Dr. (Elizabeth) Jean, elder daughter of Maj-Gen. Sir James Syme Drew, born 25 March 1952. Educated at Eton and Edinburgh University (BSc 1974). Management trainee with Ocean Trading and Transport, Liverpool, 1974-78; Chartered Surveyor (FRICS, 1990) with Bell Ingram, 1978-88 and Bidwells, 1988-94; managing partner in Balbirnie Home Farms Ltd. and Balbirnie Estate Developments Ltd., 1994-2018; chairman of Kettle Growers Ltd., 2006-11. Convenor of Scottish Landowners Federation, 1999-2002; Chairman of the Association of Deer Management Groups, 2005-11; Director of Paths for All Partnership, 2004-13 and Fife Coast and Countryside Trust, 2003-15 (Chairman, 2007-15). DL for Fife (from 1992); Lord Lieutenant of Fife, 2015-date. A member of Royal Company of Archers since 1992. An elder of Markinch Church since 1982 and a General Trustee of the Church of Scotland. He married, 27 September 1975, Jessica (b. 1952), daughter of Alexander McCrindle, and had issue:
(1) John Alexander Balfour (b. 1979), born 8 March 1979; educated at Eton, Edinburgh University (BSc, 2002) and Charles Sturt University, Australia; assistant manager with Deloitte, 2004-07; chartered accountant, 2007; with Ernst & Young, Boston (USA), 2008-09; partner in Balbirnie Home Farms Ltd., 1988-date (managing partner from 2018); married, 2003, Tamsin Jane Lethbridge, investment director with Standard Life Investments, and had issue one son and two daughters;
(2) Patrick Thomas Balfour (b. 1981), born 9 April 1981; educated at Eton and Newcastle University (BSc); director of Ferguson Partners, Hong Kong, 2013-date;
(3) Edward James Balfour (1985-90), born 5 June 1985; died young, 3 August 1990;
(4) Charles Henry Balfour (b. 1988), born 12 May 1988; educated at Eton and Newcastle University (BA); travel consultant, Simpson Travel Ltd., 2014-16; personal wine advisor at Avery wine merchants, Bristol, 2017-date.
His father made over the 4,900-acre Balbirnie estate to him in 1994, and he in turn passed on the business to his eldest son in 2018.
Now living.


Burke's Landed Gentry, 1965, pp. 36-37; P.B. Dewar, Burke's Landed Gentry: the Kingdom in Scotland, 2001, pp. 48-50; A.A. Tait, The landscape garden in Scotland, 1735-1835, 1980, pp. 78-81; J. Gifford, The buildings of Scotland: Fife, 1988, pp. 235-36; Sir H.M. Colvin, A biographical dictionary of British architects, 1600-1840, 2008, pp. 95, 286-87, 312-13; G. MacGregor, The Red Book of Scotland, 2nd edn., 2018, vol. 1, pp. 338-349;

Location of archives

Balfour family of Balbirnie: estate papers, 1767-1949 [National Records of Scotland, GD288]

Coat of arms

Argent, on a chevron engrailed between three mullets sable, a seal's head erased of the first.

Notes about missing information and help wanted with this entry

  • Does anyone know of a drawing or other record of the house at Balbirnie prior to its remodelling by Richard Crichton in 1815-21?
  • If anyone is able to supply fuller genealogical information about the earlier years of this family, or additional portraits or photographs of members of the family whose names appear in bold above, I should be very pleased to hear from them.

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 23 September 2018 and was updated 12 December 2019. I am most grateful to Robert Balfour for additional information.