Sunday 7 October 2018

(347) Balfour of Dawyck

Balfour of Dawyck
This branch of the Balfour family began as farmers and church elders in Fife, where they can be traced back to 1649. In about 1785, Alexander Balfour (1765-1855), the second son of James Balfour of Kilmany, was apprenticed to a merchant in Dundee, and after completing his term he set up in business in partnership with his friend John Bell. The firm of Bell & Balfour prospered, and in due course both the partners served as Provost of Dundee. 

By 1817 Alexander Balfour was leasing (though he may have bought the freehold later) Airlie Lodge on the western side of Dundee, a simple mid 18th century villa consisting of a central block and recessed pavilion wings, which belonged to the town council. Alexander was married three times, but produced children only by his short-lived first wife. His only daughter married a surgeon in the East India Company and produced twelve children before he died in 1843, and then passed a long widowhood at Dundee. She or one of her sons built a new house in Broughty Ferry, which was confusingly also named Airlie Lodge, where she died in 1885. 
Airlie Lodge, Dundee: an early calotype photograph of c.1860.
Image: National Library of Scotland
 The original Airlie Lodge in Dundee was sold in about 1870 and demolished shortly afterwards. 

Alexander's only son, Henry Balfour (1796-1854), became a merchant, ironfounder and shipbuilder at Leven on the Fifeshire coast, and his firm there (the Durie Foundry) was continued by his two younger sons until their deaths in 1863 and 1891 respectively. Henry's eldest son, Alexander Balfour (1824-86) was sent to Dundee High School and St Andrews University before joining a merchant company in Liverpool. In 1851 he set up in business on his own account, in partnership with Stephen Williamson. Their firm, Balfour Williamson & Co., was a shipping company trading with South America and the west coast of the United States, and maintained offices in Valparaiso (Chile) and San Francisco (USA) which the partners visited regularly and sometimes for extended periods. The firm seems to have been highly profitable, and Alexander Balfour, who had strong religious and moral principles, devoted a substantial part of his wealth to charitable endeavours in Liverpool. He also purchased a house in the country called Mount Alyn, near Rossett (Denbighs.). His name first appears in relation to this property towards the end of 1869, and he was evidently resident by early in 1870. The architectural history of the building, which was demolished in 1974, is unusually obscure. Raymond Lowe's Lost houses in and around Wrexham (2002) states that it was in origin a 17th century semi-timbered house that was rebuilt for Mr. Jolliffe, a Liverpool ferry owner who purchased it from the Balfours around 1900, but the tiny vignette illustration he gives of the building shows neither a 17th century house nor the Victorian Tudor house that existed in the 20th century. According to the website of the Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Wales the house was rebuilt much earlier, about 1870, by Balfour, and the only photograph I have so far located shows a Victorian semi-timbered house much in the style of John Douglas of Chester which could equally well be of that date or c.1900.
Mount Alyn: it is not clear whether the Victorian semi-timbered
building was erected for Alexander Balfour or his successor.
Balfour is known to have employed Douglas to build two cottages and a coffee house on the estate in 1881 which were written up for the British Architect, but there is nothing to suggest that work was done on the house at that time. Photographs of the interior show Arts & Crafts decoration that seems more consistent with the suggestion of a rebuilding c.1900. The final piece of evidence is that the footprint of the house as shown on Ordnance Survey 6" maps is more or less the same in 1949 as it was in 1872, but that need not be conclusive: the semi-timbered exterior may be only a superficial remodelling of an earlier building.

Alexander Balfour married a woman twenty years his junior in 1864 and produced seven children over the following twenty years, but all of them were minors when he died of cancer in 1886. His widow promptly let Mount Alyn, and in about 1896 sold it and purchased the Dawyck estate in Peeblesshire in her native Scotland. At the time, the house at Dawyck was probably not much larger than Mount Alyn, although the estate was a great deal bigger. However, she at once engaged John A. Campbell to enlarge both the family accommodation and the service wing, and some further additions were made by Robert Lorimer in 1909.

Alexander Balfour had two sons who survived to maturity (a third, who had made a reputation as a sportsman at Oxford, died in his 20s). The younger, Archibald Roxburgh Balfour (1883-1958) seems to have inherited the family's business interests in South America, but the elder, Frederick Robert Stephen Balfour (1873-1945), after spending four years in America as a young man, forged a career in London's finance sector, and in 1923, on his mother's death, inherited Dawyck. Frederick's years in the Pacific North-West of America in 1900-04 had fired a passion for trees which was invaluable in the owner of the historic arboretum at Dawyck. During the First World War he was involved in the management of timber supplies for the war effort, and he applied his knowledge of commercial forestry on the estate in the 1920s and 1930s, while also extending the planting of exotic species from North and South America. He became a Fellow of the Linnean Society and in 1927 was awarded the prestigious Victoria Medal for Horticulture. When he died in 1945, Dawyck passed to his only son, Alexander Norman Balfour (1909-96), who married the BBC radio and television announcer, Elizabeth Cowell. They had no children, but adopted a son and daughter, who grew up at Dawyck. The unaffordable cost of restoring the woodland and gardens after damage from storms and frost in the 1960s and 1970s led the family to gift the policies of the house to the Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh in 1978, but the house remained in the occupation of the family until at least 1992, when it was offered for sale. The Balfour family retain ownership of the wider estate, which is now vested in Dawyck Estates Ltd.

Dawyck House, Peeblesshire

The tower house of Dawyck belonged from the 14th to the late 17th centuries to the Veitch family, who towards the end of their tenure began the tradition of planting exotic species in the policies of the house when they established groves of the newly-introduced horse chestnut. The tower was sold in 1691 to Sir James Naesmyth (d. 1720), 1st bt., a prominent Edinburgh lawyer whose murky property deals earned him the nickname 'The De'il of Dawyck'. He is said to have remodelled or replaced the tower house with a new building, and to have begun the creation of a formal landscape setting around the house. 

Dawyck House: the policies represented on Roy's map of c.1750.  Image: British Library
His son, Sir James Naesmyth (1704-79), 2nd bt, studied under the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus and is credited with the overall plan of the current landscape. Indeed family tradition asserts that Linnaeus himself came to Dawyck and planted some of the trees. A formal landscape, of which elements still remain, was clearly in place by the time of Roy's map of c.1750.

According to some accounts, the Naesmyth house burned down in 1830, but I have found no contemporary confirmation of that, and it may be that Sir John Murray Naesmyth (1803-76), 4th bt., who had recently inherited the property, simply wanted a more up-to-date house. He commissioned the replacement from William Burn, then the leading country house architect in Scotland and with a growing reputation south of the border, and it was built in 1832-37. 

Dawyck House: an engraving of 1864 showing the entrance front of the Burn house before it was extended.

The planning is typical of Burn's smaller, 'cottage house' designs, providing a block of two public rooms on the garden front, vestibule and staircase hall, a small L-plan private wing at the west end, and a northern service wing. The garden front repeats the double crowstepped gable and central dormer which Burn had used at Tyninghame House a few years earlier, but shows his extending repertoire of traditional Scottish and neo-Tudor motifs, such as corbelling from the round to the square, turreted towers with candlesnuffer caps, wall-head dormers and canted and square bay windows. 

Dawyck House: garden front. The paler stonework distinguishes Burn's house of the 1830s from the later extension.

The chapel, south-west of the house, was built in 1837 by Burn on the site of the chapel belonging to the tower house. It is an L-shaped building in the Early English style, but the red tiled roof is an unfortunate alteration of 1898, replacing the original stone slabs. The gardens of Dawyck (as opposed to the wider landscape) were first given their present terraced structure in about 1820 by Italian landscape gardeners (who also worked at Chartwell in Kent for relations of the Naesmyths). Sir John Murray Naesmyth continued the family tradition of interest in the grounds, and supported plant-hunting expeditions which brought back many exotic species to Dawyck.
Dawyck House: entrance front after the additions by Campbell in 1898. 
In 1876 the estate descended to Sir James Naesmyth (1827-96), 5th bt., an Indian civil servant who spent little time at Dawyck, and when he died without issue it passed to his half-uncle, Sir Michael George Naesmyth (1828-1907), 6th bt., who sold the estate in 1897 to Mrs. Alexander Balfour (d. 1923), the widow of a Liverpool shipowner. She at once engaged John A. Campbell to double the size of the house with north and south additions in a style that closely matches Burn's original design. He extended the house to the north of the original entrance, concluding on the north side with a two-storey canted bay window in front of a three-storey crowstepped double gable, and on the garden side with a double gable and arcaded veranda, while to the south he enlarged the service accommodation. Campbell also designed the picturesque North Lodge, with a timber-gabled entrance porch supported by red sandstone columns. Inside, the house has oak panelling and discreet Gothic decoration. The best spaces are the wide oak-panelled circular stair, and the billiard room (in the Campbell extension), which has a Gothic lincrusta paper ceiling by Leonard Grandison. Upstairs some of the bedroom doors are finished with panels of yew, presented in 1934 to Col. F.R.S. Balfour (1873-1945) by the future King Edward VIII.

On Col. Balfour's death the estate passed to his son, Alexander Norman Balfour (1909-96), but in 1968 and again in 1973 the grounds of the house were badly damaged by storms. Given the national importance of the gardens and the tree collection, and the cost of restoration, an agreement was reached in 1978 by which the policies of the house were handed over to the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh, which opened them to the public in 1984 when restoration was largely complete. The house remained the property of the family until 1992, when it was offered for sale. It remains in private occupation and is not open to the public. The Balfour family retain ownership of the wider estate.

Descent: ...John Veitch (1557-1606); to son, William Veitch (c.1584-after 1654); to son, Sir John Veitch (1614-82); to son, John Veitch (c.1639-1702), who sold 1691 to his cousin, Sir James Naesmyth (d. 1720), 1st bt.; to son, Sir James Naesmyth (1704-79), 2nd bt.; to son, Sir James Naesmyth (d. 1828), 3rd bt.; to son, Sir John Murray Naesmyth (1803-76), 4th bt.; to son, Sir James Naesmyth (1827-96), 5th bt.; to half-uncle, Sir Michael George Naesmyth (1828-1907), 6th bt., who sold 1897 to Mrs. Alexander Balfour; to son, Lt-Col. Frederick Robert Stephen Balfour (1873-1945); to son, Alexander Norman Balfour (1909-96); sold 1992... Frank Nuygens (fl. 2014).

Balfour family of Dawyck House

Balfour, Alexander (1765-1855). Second son of James Balfour (1727-1805) of Kilmany (Fife), and his wife and first cousin, Margaret (c.1737-1824), daughter of Alexander Balfour of Brookley, born 30 November and baptised at Kilmany, 1 December 1765. Apprenticed to a merchant in Dundee and then set up his own business in partnership with Thomas Bell as Bell & Balfour; first Chairman of Dundee Chamber of Commerce. He was on several occasions a member and Bailie of the Town Council, and served as Provost of Dundee, 1830-31. JP and DL for Angus; Chairman of Dundee Lunatic Asylum committee. He married 1st, 26 June 1794 at Dundee, Anne Balfour (d. 1796); 2nd, 2 June 1818 at Scone (Perths.), Margaret Allison (d. 1823); and 3rd, 16 October 1826, Margaret Stewart (d. 1861), and had issue:
(1.1) Margaret Balfour (1795-1885), born 21 July and baptised at Dundee, 5 August 1795; married, 28 July 1817 at Airlie Lodge, William Gourlay (1776-1843), surgeon in the service of the East India Co, and had issue six sons and six daughters; died aged 89 at Airlie Lodge, Broughty Ferry, 10 April 1885; her will was confirmed 22 June 1885 (effects £262);
(1.2) Henry Balfour (1796-1854) (q.v.).
He settled in Dundee about 1785 and by 1821 was leasing Airlie Lodge, where he lived until his death.
He died aged 89, 8 November 1855. His first wife died 4 December 1796. His second wife died at Montreal Cottage near Perth, 7 July 1823. His widow died in Perth, 18 November 1861.

Balfour, Henry (1796-1854). Only son of Alexander Balfour (1765-1855) and his first wife, Anne Balfour, born at Scoonie (Fife), 30 September and baptised at Dundee, 12 October 1796. Merchant, iron-founder and shipbuilder at Durie Foundry, Leven (Fife). He married, 24 November 1823, Agnes (c.1804-81), daughter of Robert Bisset of Millfield, Leven, and had issue:
(1) Alexander Balfour (1824-86) (q.v.);
(2) Robert Balfour (1827-63), born at Scoonie (Fife), 9 January 1827; partner in the Durie Foundry; an officer in the Fifeshire Artillery Volunteers (Lt.); died unmarried of typhoid fever, 8 January 1863; his will was confirmed at Cupar (Fife), 16 March 1863;
(3) Henry Thomas Balfour (1828-91), born at Scoonie, 24 October 1828; partner in the Durie Foundry; married, 30 April 1861 at Wemyss (Fife), Isabella Anderson (1831-1907), daughter of Andrew Lawrie of Kirkland Hill, Leven and had issue two sons and one daughter; died 9 August 1891; his will was confirmed 31 October 1891 (effects £2,013).
He lived at Leven Bank (Fife).
He died 6 July and was buried at Scoonie, 11 July 1854. His widow died 30 March 1881 and was also buried at Scoonie; her will was confirmed 9 July 1881 (effects £788).

Alexander Balfour (1824-86)
Balfour, Alexander (1824-86). Eldest son of Henry Balfour (1796-1854) of Leven Bank (Fife) and his wife Agnes, daughter of Robert Bisset of Millfield, Leven, born 3 September 1824. Educated at Dundee High School and St. Andrews University. Merchant and shipowner. As a young man he joined a merchant house in Liverpool; and in about 1851 founded the Balfour Williamson shipping company in partnership with Stephen Williamson, developing an extensive trade with Valparaiso (Chile) and San Francisco (USA). He lived in Valparaiso for several years before his marriage. He was an active philanthropist in Liverpool, particularly noted for his support of the YMCA, of charities for seamen and their families, the Liverpool Town Mission, the temperance movement, and Edge Hill College. JP for Denbighshire. He was a Presbyterian in religion. He married, 23 March 1864, Janet (k/a Jessie) (1844-1923) , third daughter of Rev. John Roxburgh DD of Glasgow, and had issue:
(1) Agatha Henrietta Balfour (1866-1958), born 23 February 1886; married, 13 September 1898 at Dawyck, Diarmid Noel Paton MD FRS (1859-1928), physician and Regius Professor of Medicine at Glasgow University, 1906-28, eldest son of Sir Joseph Noel Paton, kt., artist, and had issue one son and one daughter; died aged 91, 21 January 1958; will confirmed in Scotland and sealed in London, 15 April 1958;
(2) Alexander (k/a Alastair) Balfour (1870-76), born 13 August 1870; died young, 16 June 1876;
(3) Lt-Col. Frederick Robert Stephen Balfour (1873-1945) (q.v.);
(4) Ernest Roxburgh Balfour (1874-97), born 11 September 1874; educated at Repton, Edinburgh Academy and University College, Oxford, where he was a rugby and rowing blue; a freemason from 1896; died unmarried at Ardoch (Perths.) from a chill caught while shooting with friends, 27 August 1897 and was buried at Stobo; he is commemorated by a monument erected by his friends in University College chapel;
(5) Vera Broke Balfour (1878-1965), born 22 December 1878; married, 19 December 1913 in Buenos Aires (Argentina), Angus Matheson Stewart MBE, civil engineer, son of Thomas P. Stewart of Ardpatrick (Argylls.), and had issue two sons and two daughters; died 23 March 1965; will proved 4 October 1965 (estate £1,257);
(6) Margaret Balfour (1881-1967), born 12 December 1881; married 1st, 18 June 1903, Thomas Arthur Nelson (1876-1917), publisher and rugby player, elder son of Thomas Nelson of St. Leonards, Edinburgh, and had issue two sons and four daughters; married 2nd, 1921* (div. 1949), Paul Lucien Maze (1887-1979), son of George Maze of Le Havre (France) and had further issue two daughters; after her remarriage she took the name Margaret Balfour Lucien Maze; died 28 June 1967; 
(7) Archibald Roxburgh Balfour (1883-1958), born 13 April 1883; educated at Edinburgh Academy and University College, Oxford (matriculated 1901; rowing blue); served as an officer in the Lothians & Border Horse (2nd Lt., 1914) in the First World War; awarded MC; lived for some years at Valparaiso (Chile); a keen sportsman, he played tennis as well as rowing at Oxford and polo while living in Chile; married 1st, 12 September 1908 (div. 1935), Pearl Isabel Alice (1882-1950), younger daughter of Arthur Henry Price of Valparaiso, and had issue one son and two daughters; married 2nd, 19 December 1935, Lilian Helen (d. 1989), daughter of Maxwell Dennison Cooper of Valparaiso, and had further issue three sons and one daughter; died 21 August 1958 and was buried at Taynuilt (Argylls.).
He lived at Mount Alyn (Denbighshire). His widow sold Mount Alyn and bought Dawyck House in 1897.
He died of cancer, 16 April 1886; his will was proved 6 January 1887 (effects £132,148). His widow matriculated her arms at the office of Lord Lyon in 1902 and died 22 February 1923; her will was proved 16 May 1923 (estate £23,083).
*Information from an unverified Internet source.

Lt-Col. F.R.S. Balfour (1873-1945)
Balfour, Lt-Col. Frederick Robert Stephen (1873-1945). Eldest son of Alexander Balfour (1824-86) and his wife Janet (k/a Jessie), third daughter of Rev. John Roxburgh DD of Glasgow, born 11 March 1873. Educated at Loretto School and Trinity College, Oxford (BA 1896; MA). Landowner, arboriculturalist and businessman. He was in business in the north-western United States, 1900-04, before returning to England and working in the finance sector in London, where he became a Director of Guardian Assurance Association, British Bank of South America, Bank of Montreal, Cable & Wireless and other companies. He was a member of the Royal Company of Archers from 1900 and served in the First World War as a member of the Home-Grown Timber Committee, acting as liaison officer with the French government with the honorary rank of Lt-Col. JP and DL for Peeblesshire (Vice-Lieutenant, 1922-26); appointed CVO 1944. He was a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London and was awarded the Victoria Medal for Horticulture, 1927. He married, 3 August 1904 at Much Hadham (Herts), Gertrude (1877-1970), only daughter of Frederick Henry Norman DL of Moor Place, Much Hadham, barrister-at-law, and had issue:
(1) Jean (k/a Nemone) Penelope Balfour (1906-89), born 27 May 1906; lived in New York (USA); married 1st, 13 August 1937 (div. 1957), Arno David Gurewitsch MD (1902-74) of New York, and had issue one daughter; married 2nd, 30 December 1958, Seymour Palestin (1914-99) of New York (USA); died 11 September 1989;
(2) Alexander (k/a Alastair) Norman Balfour (1909-86) (q.v.).
He inherited Dawyck House from his mother in 1923.
He died in London, 2 February 1945. His widow died aged 92 at Kemsing (Kent), 4 March 1970; her will was proved 18 June 1970 (estate £48,514).

Balfour, Alexander (k/a Alastair) Norman (1909-96). Only son of Lt-Col. Frederick Robert Stephen Balfour (1873-1945) of Dawyck and his wife Gertrude, only daughter of Frederick Henry Norman of Moor Place, Much Hadham (Herts), born 20 March and baptised at St John, Paddington (Middx), 4 May 1909. Educated at Stowe School and Trinity College, Oxford. An officer in the Intelligence Corps (Special Operations Executive) in Second World War (Lt-Col.), serving in France, North Africa (mentioned in despatches) and at War Office. Member of Royal Company of Archers, 1930. He married, 4 February 1942, Elizabeth Eugenie (1911-97), BBC radio and television announcer, elder daughter of Horace William Cowell of Abington Park (Cambs). The couple had no issue, but adopted two children:
(A1) Robert Roxburgh Balfour (b. 1947) (q.v.).
(A2) Belinda Louise Balfour (b. 1953), born 15 February and baptised at Dawyck, 8 November 1953; lives on Dawyck estate, Peeblesshire; married, 26 April 1980 at Stobo (Peebles), Timothy John Stone (b. 1951).
He inherited Dawyck House from his father in 1945, but gave the grounds to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, in 1978 and sold the house in or after 1992. The wider estate was transferred to Dawyck Estates Ltd., through which the current generations of the family share ownership.
He died 17 October 1996. His widow died in 1997.

Balfour, Robert Roxburgh (b. 1947). Adopted son of Alexander Norman Balfour (1909-86) and his wife Elizabeth Eugenie, elder daughter of Horace William Cowell of Abington Park (Cambs), born 29 June 1947 and baptised at Dawyck, May 1948. Educated at Tabley House, Grenoble University (Dip.) and Madrid Univ. (Dip.). Member of the Royal Company of Archers, 1977. Managing Director of Bell Lawrie White Financial Services Ltd., 1984-93; Director of Bell Lawrie Wright & Co. 1987-2000; Chairman of Personal Equity Plan Managers Association, 1995-97?; Member of Red Deer Commission, 1984-92 and Firearms Consultative Committee, 1989-90. He married, 31 January 1973, (Camilla) Rose, daughter of Michael George Thomas Webster, and had issue:
(1) Rupert Alastair Balfour (b. 1976), born 23 April 1976; educated at Newcastle University (BA); risk manager with Morgan Stanley, Hong Kong since 2008; married, 2005, Genevieve Mary, daughter of James Russell of Brisbane (Australia), and had issue;
(2) Camilla Louise Balfour (b. 1979), born 11 May 1979; married, 24 July 2010, Jonathan David Brough, son of David Brough of Gunthorpe (Norfk);
(3) Lara Selina Balfour (b. 1983), born 1 June 1983; married, 2011, Charles Andrew, eldest son of Peter Pritchard of Reading (Berks).
Now living.


Burke's Landed Gentry - The Kingdom in Scotland, 2001, pp. 50-51; R. Lowe, Lost houses in and around Wrexham, 2002, pp. 70-71; K. Cruft, J. Dunbar & R. Fawcett, The buildings of Scotland: Borders, 2006, pp. 207-08.

Location of archives

No significant accumulation is known to survive but it is likely that some papers remain with the family.

Coat of arms

Arms matriculated by Jessie Roxburgh alias Balfour of Dawyck, 1902: Parted per pale argent and sable, on a chevron between three fleurs-de-lys all counterchanged, an otter's head erased proper.

Notes about missing information and help wanted with this entry

  • If anyone has more information about the dates of construction and alteration of Mount Alyn, or can offer further photographs of that house, I should be very pleased to hear from them.
  • I should also welcome information about the recent ownership of Dawyck House.
  • I should be pleased to hear from anyone who can supply additional photographs or portraits of the people who are named in bold above.
  • Corrections and relevant additions to the account of any kind are always welcome.

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 7 October 2018.

1 comment:

  1. Jewel of a Estate, that has a Merlin the wizzard twist, cast a impression spell on the younger years of Walter Scott, whom's father worked on the estate.


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.