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.


  1. I can answer some of your questions as the present "Laird" of Balbirnie
    1. In 1972 Country Life did two articles on Balbirnie House and there was a plan showing the layout of the house in the 1770s and the additions after 1815
    2. I have photos /portraits of family members and more information
    3. My great grandfather Edward Balfour as the second son was sent by his father to America where he was engaged in business from 1873. His wife Isabella who was an only child as her father died in the Civil War, was only 20 when they married and her parents both came from very well-to-do Bostonian families.
    Hope this helps
    Robert Balfour

    1. Dear Mr Balfour,
      Thank you so much for getting in touch and for the information about Edward, which I will incorporate above. If you have images of any of the people whose names appear in bold type in the article that you would be willing to allow me to use, please contact me privately through the contact form in the right-hand side bar and I will send you an email address you can send photographs to.
      I will look again at the Country Life article (which I am sure I used although I see I did not list it in my sources), but my recollection is that it does not include an image of the original house, only a plan.
      Needless to say, if you have any corrections or additions to my text I would be very happy to receive and incorporate them.
      With best wishes,
      Nick Kingsley


Please leave a comment if you have any additional information or corrections to offer, or if you are able to help with additional images of the people or buildings in this post.