Wednesday 24 October 2018

(350) Balfour (later Townley Balfour) of Castle Balfour and Townley Hall

Townley Balfour of Townley Hall
In 1611, Sir Michael Balfour (d. 1619), 1st Lord Balfour of Burleigh, was appointed as one of the undertakers of the plantation of Ulster, and given a grant of 3,000 acres in County Fermanagh. Being preoccupied with affairs in England and Scotland, he seems to have made over some 2,000 acres of this grant to his younger brother, Sir James Balfour (d. 1634) (ennobled in 1619 as 1st Baron Balfour of Glenawley in the Irish peerage), and to have sold the remainder to Sir Stephen Butler. In about 1618 Sir James built Balfour Castle at Lisnaskea (Co. Fermanagh) in fulfilment of the requirement on the plantation undertakers to establish defensible homes on their estates, and in 1626 he had a further grant of lands in Fermanagh. At some point before 1634, however, he sold the Pitcullo estate in Fife and his property in northern Ireland to Sir William Balfour (c.1575-1660), a soldier who was in the service of the States of Holland until 1627 and thereafter in that of King Charles I. Sir William is sometimes described as Lord Balfour of Glenawley's cousin, but although the two men were evidently kin, any connection between them lay in the 15th century or earlier and is too distant to be traced. Sir William, who was Constable of the Tower of London 1630-41, can have had little time for his Irish property, but when it was threatened by the Irish rebellion of 1641, he dispatched his eldest son to Ireland as part of the Scots army sent to put down the rebellion, and he later obtained a commission to take a regiment to Ireland himself, although the start of the English civil war the following year prevented his going. Sir William's staunch Presbyterian and anti-Catholic views (it is said that in 1638 he beat up a priest who attempted to convert his wife to Catholicism) led to increasingly uncertainty about his loyalty to Charles I, and at the end of 1641 he seems to have been forced to resign the constableship of the Tower. When the English Civil War began the following summer he joined the Parliamentarian side, and he was active in the field in many of the major engagements until 1645, when his health seems to have broken down, and he gave up his commands. Parliament ordered the payment of all his arrears of pay (some £7,000), but shortly afterwards doubts arose about his loyalty which were made a convenient excuse to defer payment, and much of the amount was still outstanding in 1655. In his declining years, Sir William made his home in Westminster, where he died in 1660, having lived just long enough to see the restoration of the monarchy. His widow, Isabella, continued to live there until her death in 1674.

Sir William Balfour (d. 1660) married twice. By his first wife, he had two sons, Alexander and William, who were both soldiers like their father. The intention seems to have been for Alexander to inherit the Irish estates and for William to inherit Pitcullo, but in fact both men were killed during the Civil War, so that Sir William's property devolved on his only son by his second wife, Charles Balfour (c.1631-1713). It may be that Pitcullo formed part of the dowry of one of Sir William's three daughters, or it may have been sold, but at all events it seems to have left the family at this time, and Charles and his descendants only had significant property in Ireland. Balfour Castle seems to have survived the Civil Wars of the mid 17th century and to have been reinforced in 1652 by Edmund Ludlow as a Protestant stronghold. It was less fortunate in 1689, when it is said to have been 'dismantled', presumably by the army of King James II, in a conflict in which Charles's son, William Balfour (d. 1739) was active in the Williamite cause. Although the house was evidently repaired and continued in use down to 1803, it was probably no longer fit for gentry occupation, and the house belonging to William at Lisnaskea in 1730 (which was then said to be in poor condition and occupied as an alehouse) was probably a house in the town rather than the castle. William, who was the first of his family known to have served as an MP, probably lived mainly in Dublin. The estate was gradually fragmented by land sales in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and it was a greatly diminished property which passed at William's death in 1739 to his nephew, Henry (or Harry) Townley, who took the additional surname Balfour as a condition of his inheritance.

Henry Townley (1693-1741) was the son of Blayney Townley (1665-1722) of Piedmont Hall, Louth and his wife Lucy, the sister of William Balfour. Blayney Townley had been born at Athclare Castle near Dunleer (Co. Louth), but apparently went to live at Piedmont Hall on his marriage in 1692. It seems likely that this property had belonged to his family for some time, but the house there may have been built for him. It was already shown as ruined on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey of Ireland 6" map in the mid-19th century, but an account of 1924, when about half of the original house was still standing, described it as 'a long, two-storied slated house', very tall and narrow from front to back, with three high pitched gables facing the rear. Only a gable-end seems to survive today, and no illustration of the house has been found. At Piedmont House, Blayney and Lucy Townley raised a family of three sons and four daughters, and also Lucy's daughter by her first husband. Henry Townley (later Townley Balfour) was their eldest son, and inherited Piedmont Hall on his father's death as well as the Balfour Castle estate. He and his wife had only one son and one daughter, and the son, William Charles Townley Balfour (c.1730-59) died without issue, with the result that the estates passed to Henry's surviving younger brother, Blayney Townley Townley (1705-88) of Townley Hall (Co. Louth), which he had acquired through his marriage to his cousin Mary, daughter of Hamilton Townley of Townley Hall. Blayney Townley took the additional name Balfour on coming into his inheritance, and ever afterwards the heir in each generation had the names Blayney Townley Balfour. 

In 1788, on the death of Blayney Townley Balfour (d. 1788), the Townley Hall, Piedmont Hall and Balfour Castle estates all descended to his grandson of the same name (1769-1856), who was travelling in Germany and Switzerland at the time. A cultured young man, he took a particular interest in architecture, and before leaving for further continental travels in 1791-92, he commissioned designs for a new house at Townley Hall from the young Irish architect, Francis Johnston (1760-1829). Johnston's design, for a tall pedimented block very much like his recently completed house at Rokeby Hall (Co. Louth) survives, but evidently did not satisfy his client. While in Rome, Townley Balfour commissioned alternative designs from the Scottish architect James Playfair which were delivered in 1793, after his return to Ireland. All Playfair's schemes proposed a neo-classical house with a sunk basement and detached kitchen wing, and these ideas provided the starting point for Balfour and his sister Anne, an accomplished amateur of architecture, to develop their own design. It was they who came up with the idea of planning the house around a circular staircase hall 30ft in diameter set in the centre of a house 90ft square. Having done so, they went back to Johnston, who developed the detailed proposals that allowed the house to actually be built and prepared an estimate for its construction in January 1794. In 1797, Balfour married Lady Florence Cole, a daughter of the Earl of Erne from Florence Court (Co. Fermanagh), who came to share the interest of her husband and sister-in-law in architecture. She perhaps introduced her husband to the sophisticated elegance of James Wyatt's work at Castle Coole, near her parents' home, echoes of which can be found in the detailing and interior decoration of Townley Hall. 

In 1821, B.T. Balfour sold what was left of the Balfour Castle estate to his father-in-law (then approaching the venerable age of ninety) and thereafter the interests of the family were concentrated in County Louth. The one exception to that seems to have been a property at Rostrevor (Co. Down), which seems to have become, in effect, the family's dower house. Balfour's sister Anne (d. 1820), who married the Rev. Thomas Vesey Dawson, rector of Loughgilly (Armagh), lived in her short widowhood at Rostrevor and the family may have owned a property there from that time onwards.
Fairy Hill, Rostrevor: the house in the late 19th century.
Image: detail from National Library of Ireland,
Lawrence Collection L_CAB_01087
At all events, when Balfour died in 1856 and his son, Blayney Townley Balfour (1799-1882) moved into Townley Hall, his widow and her unmarried daughters moved to Rostrevor, where they acquired an irregular picturesque villa with deep eaves, bay windows, bargeboards, and Tudor hoodmoulds over some of the windows. This house, known as Fairy Hill, stood close to the centre of the village, and seems to have been built in the 1830s or 1840s, perhaps for the previous owner, Pierse Marcus Barron, who was resident in 1851. The family seem to have sold it after the last of the Balfour sisters died in 1892.

Blayney Townley Balfour (1799-1882) seems to have spend a good deal of his time in England, where he lived in both London and Bristol at different times. He was a friend of Lord Goderich, who was briefly Prime Minister in the 1820s, and who seems to have secured his appointment as Lieutenant Governor of the Bahamas, 1833-35, an isolated public appointment in the career of an otherwise rather private man of antiquarian interests. He was succeeded by his elder son, Blayney Reynell Townley Balfour (1845-1928), a cultured man, also with antiquarian interests, who married late and had no children. In 1908 he became one of the first landowners in County Louth to take advantage of the Wyndham Act and sell his estate to his tenants. He retained only the demesne (still some 850 acres), and when he died, this and the house passed to his widow, Madeline Balfour (d. 1955). She bequeathed the estate to her cousin, David Crichton, who sold it two years later to Trinity College, Dublin. The house was restored and occupied by the college's School of Agriculture for some years, but in 1967 the University decided to sell the estate to the Land Commission and the Forestry Dept. Professor Frank Mitchell, one of the fellows of TCD, who was concerned about the fate of other houses which had passed into the hands of the agencies of the Irish state, stepped in to buy the house and immediate grounds to ensure their preservation. He and his wife turned the house into a study centre, and when they decided to retire, they found a charitable organisation, the School of Philosophy and Economic Science, who have on the whole been sympathetic owners and have carried out a fine restoration of the house.

Castle Balfour, Lisnaskea, Co. Fermanagh

Castle Balfour, Lisnaskea: the ruins of the tower seen from the adjoining churchyard

The ruins of a T-shaped tower house of distinctly Scottish character, built by Sir James Balfour in about 1618, set within a 70ft-square bawn. The building was refortified by Edmund Ludlow in 1652 but dismantled in the wars of 1689; it was restored for habitation and continued in use until it was burned out during an arson attack in 1803. The present entrance on the east side is through a late canted bay porch, and enters the house through the leg of the T, where the main hall of the castle lay on the first floor. The ground floor has the usual barrel-vaulted chambers and a big kitchen with a fireplace and a small brick-lined oven. A spiral staircase was corbelled out from the wall in the north-west angle between the head and leg of the T, and led to the bedrooms at the top of the castle. The ruins of the castle were conserved in the 1960s and again in the 1990s.

Descent: Sir James Balfour (d. 1634), Baron Balfour of Glenawley; sold to nephew, Sir William Balfour (d. 1660); to son, Charles Balfour (d. 1713); to son, William Balfour (d. 1738); to nephew, Harry Townley (later Balfour) (1693-1741); to son, William Charles Townley Balfour (c.1730-59); to uncle, Blayney Townley Townley (later Balfour) (1705-88); to grandson, Blayney Townley Balfour (1769-1856), who leased it to James Haire and sold it in 1821 to John Creighton (1731-1828), 2nd Baron & 1st Earl Erne; to son, Abraham Crichton (1765-1842), 2nd Earl Erne; to nephew, John Crichton (1802-85), 3rd Earl Erne; to son, John Henry Crichton (1839-1914), 4th Earl Erne; to grandson, John Henry George Crichton (1907-40), 5th Earl Erne; to son, Henry George Victor John Crichton (1937-2015), 6th Earl Erne, who placed it in guardianship.

Townley Hall, Co. Louth

One of the greatest neo-classical houses of Ireland, built in 1794-98 for Blayney Townley Balfour (1769-1856) and his wife Lady Florence Cole from Florence Court (Co. Fermanagh) to designs by Francis Johnston, but evidently with considerable input from Balfour himself and his sister Anne, who emerges as an accomplished amateur architect. 

Townley Hall: entrance front.

The square house of grey limestone sits on the crown of a shallow hill and has three seven-bay fronts 'of singular and impressive austerity' of two storeys above a sunk basement; the kitchen offices (which became derelict and roofless in the 20th century but have been recently returned to use for new purposes) are below ground level and open onto a broad yard at the back of the house which is almost entirely concealed from view.
Townley Hall: the Greek Doric portico on the entrance front.
Image: Nick Kingsley. Some rights reserved.
The main facades are identical except for the single-storey Greek Doric portico on the entrance front, and devoid of all ornament except for a stringcourse and a bold cornice supporting a parapet that conceals the low-pitched roof. The facades derive their beauty from perfect proportions and the precision and accomplishment of the detail.

Inside, the entrance hall has a Portland stone floor, coffered ceiling, arched recesses on the walls and a pair of finely carved Doric chimneypieces. It leads through to a central top-lit circular rotunda with a glazed dome, which houses the wonderfully graceful staircase curving gently around the wall of the room. The floor has a complex radiating pattern of angular lozenges. On the first floor the wall is articulated as a succession of eight shallow arches, tied by enlarged keystones to a frieze of ox skulls set between swathes of fringed drapery. The soffit of the dome is panelled in light diagonal coffers in a pattern based on the popular model of the apses of the Temple of Venus in Rome, but subtly adapted by Johnston to be lighter and more elegant. In designing the room, Johnston has also avoided a heavy division between the ground and first floors, or between the first floor and the dome, so that the whole cylindical space of the rotunda flows upwards in an unbroken movement.

Townley Hall: staircase hall in 1996. Image: Nick Kingsley. Some rights reserved.

Townley Hall: dome above the staircase hall.  Image: Elena Tatiana Chis. Some rights reserved.
Townley Hall: the remarkably intricate pattern of the stone floor of the central rotunda. Image: © Conor Kenny 

The rest of the interior consists of a series of generously large, airy rooms with simple decoration of refreshing clarity, arranged around the staircase hall and given sophistication by the quality of their joinery and plasterwork, which is evidently influenced (in both details such as the central circular panels of the drawing room doors and the drawing room ceiling) by a knowledge of what was being done at Castlecoole (Co. Fermanagh) under the direction of James Wyatt. The drawing room and dining room in particular are beautifully proportioned rooms, 18 ft high, 24 ft wide and 36 ft long. The rightness of these ratios is felt within each room and is enhanced by the clean lines of the cornices and the shallow mouldings on ceilings, doors, architraves and shutters.

Townley Hall: drawing room ceiling. Image: © The Irish Aesthete

Townley Hall: the support pillar for the floor of the rotunda in the basement. Image: © Conor Kenny
In the basement below the staircase hall, the great weight of the Portland stone pavement above required support. The first idea was to build a circular load-bearing wall in the centre of the room, but in the end this was replaced by a more elegant quatrefoil Gothick shaft, which is plumbed to carry water to four stone basins at the base of the shaft. It is the one departure from the classical in the house, and seems to be inspired by a famous local antiquity, the lavabo at Mellifont Abbey, some three miles away. The execution of the Gothic mouldings, carved by a mason called Glover, is as precise as the classical detail elsewhere.

After their marriage in 1796, Lady Florence Balfour came to share the architectural interests of her husband and sister-in-law, and it was certainly she and her husband who designed the main entrance gates, erected in 1810, and probably the gate lodge, built in 1819 as a primitive temple, perhaps to prepare the visitor for the radical austerity of the house. Built in an unorthodox Tuscan order, its portico has baseless columns with smooth shafts, primitive blockish capitals, and a deeply overhanging eaves cornice supported on elongated mutules - a miniature and neo-classical reworking of Inigo Jones' design for St. Paul, Covent Garden.

Townley Hall: the gate lodge designed in 1819 by Blayney and Lady Florence Balfour. Image: Patrick Comerford

Since 2012 the house has been undergoing a programme of gentle repair and refreshment under the experienced guidance of MVK Architects. A major element of the scheme has been the return of the former kitchen wing to habitable use as bedroom and bathroom accommodation for the residential study centre which now occupies the house, and this is very welcome in principle. Unfortunately, to provide the accommodation required a second floor and lift tower has been added to the kitchen wing, and the decision has been made to execute this in a minimalist modern style in the apparent belief that this will somehow echo the austerity of Johnston's original design. This is misguided on at least two levels. In the first place, there is a world of difference between the precise and refined restraint of the original design, which is practised within the fundamental constraints imposed by the classical language,  and the interstellar-void-bleakness of modernist austerity. Secondly, the elevation of the wing to the sunk rear courtyard was the one part of the original design that broke with the severity of the main block, having an elegant arcade of three tall arched windows (lighting the kitchen) set between a pair of unusual features in which a low segmental arch is cut by a beam, at the level of the impost of the kitchen arcade, and supported by a pair of baseless, unfluted columns.  The alien new extension squats on top of this highly modelled facade with all the charm and responsiveness of a shoe box. Moreover, whereas the original design carefully sunk the kitchen wing into the ground, so that from three sides the house appeared unencumbered by any service additions, the addition of a second floor means it is now visible in all views of the house from the north, south and west. One hopes that this uncharacteristic lapse of judgement will soon be corrected, and the addition either removed or remodelled in a more acceptable form.

Descent: Hamilton Townley (b. 1673); to daughter Mary, wife of Blayney Townley Balfour (1705-88); to grandson, Blayney Townley Balfour (1769-1856); to son, Blayney Townley Balfour (1799-1882); to son, Blayney Reynell Townley Balfour (1845-1928); to widow, Madeline Elizabeth Balfour (d. 1955); to cousin, David Crichton; sold 1956 to Trinity College, Dublin for use by its School of Agriculture; sold 1967 to Professor Frank Mitchell; sold to School of Philosophy and Economic Science, a charity, for use as a residential study centre.

Balfour family of Castle Balfour and Townley Hall

Sir William Balfour (d. 1660)
Image: NGS. Some rights reserved.
Balfour, Lt-Gen. Sir William (c.1575-1660). Elder son of Col. Henry Balfour (d. 1580), a mercenary in the service of William of Orange, and his wife Christian, sister of Capt. David Cant, perhaps born c.1575. Educated by Duncan Balfour of St. Andrews, who was appointed his tutor after his father's death. He served at intervals as an officer in the Scottish brigade in the Low Countries (Lt. by 1594; Sergeant-Major, 1610; Capt., 1615-24), but was also a member of the household of King James VI and I. In 1627 King Charles I secured his release from Dutch service and he became an officer in the Earl of Morton's regiment (Lt-Col.), and then in 1630 Governor of the Tower of London. He was knighted by King James I in about 1605 and made a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber in the late 1620s. He was employed on a variety of difficult and confidential missions by King Charles, and rewarded with a lucrative patent to mint gold and silver money at the Tower in 1633. He was appointed to the King's Council of War in June 1638 and continued in favour until 1641, but his strong Presbyterianism and strong anti-Catholicism seem gradually to have weakened his loyalty, and in December 1641 he either resigned or more probably was forced to resign, his Constableship of the Tower. In the spring of 1642 he was appointed to the command of a cavalry regiment destined for service in Ulster (where he no doubt hoped to protect his own property from the Catholic rebels), but before he could set off the English civil war had broken out and in August 1642 he joined the Parliamentarian side, being appointed a Lt-General of horse under the Earl of Bedford. He was active in the field until 1645 when he became too ill to continue fighting. As a Scot he was perhaps never wholly trusted by the English parliamentarians, and in 1650 when Cromwell proposed to invade Scotland he accepted a commission from the Scots parliament to command 'strangers and native volunteers', although he never seems to have taken up the command. In 1651 his wife was given four weeks to leave England, but later in the 1650s they lived quietly in Westminster. He married 1st, Helen (d. 1629), daughter of Sir Archibald Napier of Merchiston, and 2nd, Isabella (d. 1674)daughter of Evert Bosch van Weede and widow of Henry More, son of Sir Edward More, and had issue: 
(1.1) Lt-Col. Alexander Balfour (fl. 1619-45); an officer in the service of the Dutch; married Elizabeth Anne Brunch or Bueuch, but perhaps had no issue; killed in the Civil War in Ireland;
(1.2) Col. William Balfour (fl. 1619-44); had a grant of Pitcullo from his father, 24 August 1619; an officer in the Dutch army (Col.) and later in the service of Parliament as a cavalry commander during the Civil War, when he was active in Cornwall and Devon; married Christian Melville, but had no issue; killed in the Civil War in Somerset;
(2.1) Charles Balfour (c.1631-1713) (q.v.);
(2.2) Susanna Balfour (d. 1687); married 1st, c.1659, as his third wife, Hugh Hamilton (d. 1678), 1st Baron Hamilton of Glenawley, son of Malcolm Hamilton, Archbishop of Cashel, and had issue two sons and two daughters; married 2nd, Henry Mervyn MP (c.1628-1701) of Trillick (Tyrone); died in Dublin, 11 December, and was buried there 14 December 1687;
(2.3) Emilia Balfour (d. 1683); married, before 1657, Alexander Stewart (1634-1701), 5th Earl of Moray and had issue four sons and one daughter; died 16 January 1683;
(2.4) Isabella Balfour (fl. 1674); married, 1649, John Balfour (c.1620-97), 3rd Lord Balfour of Burleigh, and had issue three sons and six daughters.
He purchased the lands and castle of Pitcullo and Castle Balfour at Lisnaskea (Co. Fermanagh) from Sir James Balfour (d. 1634), 1st Baron Balfour of Glenawley between 1626 and 1629.
He was buried at Westminster (Middx), 28 July 1660. His first wife died in December 1629. His widow was buried at Westminster, 28 March 1674; her will was proved in the PCC, 1 April 1674.

Balfour, Charles (c.1631-1713). Only son of Sir William Balfour (d. 1660) and his second wife Isabella, daughter of Evert Bosch van Weede and widow of Henry Moore, born about 1631. He married, 1665, Cicely (c.1644-88), daughter and heir of Sir Robert Byron of Colwick (Notts) and had issue:
(1) William Balfour (d. 1739) (q.v.);
(2) Lucy Balfour (d. 1713) (q.v.);
(3) A daughter.
He inherited Castle Balfour from his father in 1660.
He died in May 1713. His wife died in about 1688.

Balfour, William (d. 1739). Only son of Charles Balfour (d. 1713) and his wife Cicely, daughter and heir of Sir Robert Byron of Colwick (Notts). He was an officer in the army of the Prince of Orange in Ireland (Capt., 1688; retired on half-pay by 1713) and was attainted by King James II and the Irish Parliament in 1689. Despite this, he was initially a Tory in politics, but by 1713 had joined the Whigs; he was MP for Carlingford, 1705-13, and for Augher, 1713-14, 1715-39. He was awarded an honorary degree by Trinity College, Dublin, 1718 (LLD). High Sheriff of Co. Fermanagh, 1734. He was unmarried and without issue.
He inherited Castle Balfour from his father in 1713, but by 1730 his house at Lisnaskea was being used as an alehouse and was in poor repair. At his death the estate passed to his nephew, Henry Townley (later Balfour) (1693-1741). He probably lived mainly in Dublin.
He died 19 April 1739; his will was proved in Dublin the same year.

Balfour, Lucy (d. 1713). Elder daughter of Charles Balfour (d. 1713) and his wife Cicely, daughter and heir of Sir Robert Byron of Colwick (Notts). She married 1st, 1684, Hugh McGill (d. 1690) of Kirkestown (Co. Down) and 2nd, 14 November 1692, Blayney Townley (1665-1722) of Piedmont (Co. Louth) and Athclare Castle (Co. Louth), MP in Irish Parliament for Dunleer, 1692-93, 1695-99, 1703-14 and for Carlingford 1715-22, son of Henry Blayney (d. 1691) of Aclare (Louth), and had issue:
(1.1) Jane McGill (c.1690-c.1776); married Samuel Molyneux Madden (1686-1765), and had issue one son and one daughter;
(2.1) Henry Townley (later Balfour) (1693-1741) (q.v.);
(2.2) Elizabeth Townley (c.1694-1750); married, 1 October 1709, Rev. Hans Montgomerie (1668-1726), rector of Killinshee, vicar of Ballywalter and curate of Grey Abbey, and had issue four daughters; died 3 January 1750;
(2.3) Charles Townley;
(2.4) Mary Townley;
(2.5) Lucy Townley; married [forename unknown] Berry;
(2.6) Vincentia Townley (c.1704-63); married, 18 April 1730, Wallop Brabazon (1698-1767) of Rath (Louth), and had issue three sons and one daughter; died 1763.
(2.7) Blayney Townley (later Balfour) (1705-88) (q.v.).
She and her second husband settled at Piedmont (Co. Louth).
She died 14 June 1713 and was buried at Dunleer. Her first husband died between 1684 and 1692. Her second husband died at Piedmont, 22 August 1722, and was buried at Dunleer; his will was proved in Dublin, 1723.

Townley (later Balfour), Henry (1693-1741). Elder son of Blayney Townley (1665-1722) and his wife Lucy, elder daughter of Charles Balfour of Castle Balfour (Co. Fermanagh) and widow of Hugh McGill of Kirkestown (Co. Down), born 19 December 1693. Sovereign (i.e. Mayor) of Carlingford, 1720, 1728; High Sheriff of Co. Louth, 1726. MP in the Irish Parliament for Carlingford, 1727-41. He took the additional surname Balfour in 1739 after inheriting the estates of his uncle, William Balfour, and was described by his obituarist as "a Gentleman of sweet Temper, great Honour and Hospitality, and every Virtue that could render a Man agreeable". He married, 1724, Anne (d. 1741), daughter of Col. Henry Percy of Seskin (Co. Wicklow), and had issue:
(1) William Charles Townley Balfour (c.1730-59) (q.v.);
(2) Emilia Balfour.
He inherited the Piedmont (Co. Louth) estate from his father in 1722 and Castle Balfour (Co. Fermanagh) from his maternal uncle in 1739.
He died in Dublin, 20 July 1741. His wife's will was proved in 1741.

Balfour, William Charles Townley (c.1730-59). Only son of Henry Townley (later Balfour) (1693-1741) and his wife Anne, daughter of Col. Henry Percy of Seskin (Co. Wexford), born about 1730. A member of the Royal Dublin Society, 1756-59. High Sheriff of Co. Fermanagh, 1757. MP in the Irish Parliament for Carlingford, 1757-59. He married, 1754, Mary (c.1733-89), daughter of Maj. Thomas Aston of Drogheda (Co. Louth), but had no issue.
He inherited the Castle Balfour and Piedmont estates from his father in 1741 and lived at Beamore (Co. Meath). On his death his estates passed to his uncle, Blayney Townley (later Balfour) (1705-88). His widow lived for some years at Chequers (Bucks).
He died 21 November 1759. His widow died in 1789.

Townley (later Balfour), Blayney Townley (1705-88). Youngest son of Blayney Townley (1666-1722) and his wife Lucy, elder daughter of Charles Balfour of Castle Balfour (Co. Fermanagh) and widow of Hugh McGill of Kirkestown (Co. Down), born 26 July 1705 and baptised, probably at Ballymascanlan. Educated at Carrickmacross Grammar School, Trinity College, Dublin (admitted 1723) and Middle Temple (admitted 1727; called to Irish bar. 1731). A Governor of the Dublin Workhouse, 1755-68 and of the Foundling Hospital and Workhouse, 1769-88; a member of the Royal Dublin Society, 1768-88. He took the additional surname Balfour on inheriting the estates of his nephew in 1759. MP in Irish Parliament for Carlingford, Jan-Oct 1760, 1761-76. He married, 30 November 1734, his first cousin Mary, daughter and heiress of Hamilton Townley of Townley Hall and widow of William Tenison of Thomastown (Co. Louth), and had issue:
(1) Hamilton Townley Balfour (1742-46), born 1742; died young, 1746;
(2) Blayney Townley Balfour (1744-71) (q.v.).
On his marriage, he settled at Townley Hall which his wife had inherited from her father. He inherited the Castle Balfour and Piedmont estates from his nephew in 1759. 
He died in 1788. His wife's date of death is unknown.

Townley Balfour, Blayney (1744-71). Only surviving son of Blayney Townley (later Balfour) (1705-88) and his wife Mary, daughter and heiress of Hamilton Townley of Townley Hall (Co. Louth) and widow of William Tenison of Thomastown (Co. Louth), born 1744. Educated at Brasenose College, Oxford (matriculated 1763). High Sheriff of Co. Louth, 1771. He married, 20 February 1768, Letitia (1746-1838), daughter of Francis Leigh, MP for Drogheda, and had issue:
(1) Blayney Townley Balfour (1769-1856) (q.v.);
(2) Anna Maria Townley Balfour (1770-1820); shared her brother's interest in architecture and was involved in the design of Townley Hall; married, 6 November 1793, Very Rev. Thomas Vesey Dawson (1768-1811), Dean of Clonmacnoise and rector of Loughgilly (Armagh), 1806-11, third son of Richard Dawson of Ardee, but had no issue; died at Rostrevor (Down), 19 May and was buried at Townley Hall, 23 May 1820;
(3) Mary Frances Townley Balfour (1772-1820), born 1772; died unmarried on the day of her sister's burial, 23 May 1820.
He died in the lifetime of his father, 8 December 1771. His widow died in Dublin aged 91, 10 April 1838, and her will was proved the same year.

Townley Balfour, Blayney (1769-1856). Only son of Blayney Townley Balfour (1744-71) and his wife Letitia, daughter of Francis Leigh, MP for Drogheda, born 28 May 1769. Educated at Trinity College, Oxford (matriculated 1786), travelled in Switzerland and Germany, 1788, made a visit to Nice (France), 1791, with his mother and sisters, and then went on alone to Italy (visiting Genoa, Turin, Parma, Modena, Bologna, Florence and Rome, and returning by Venice) in 1791-92. During his travels, he became interested in architecture, and while in Rome he commissioned designs for a new house at Townley Hall from James Playfair, which were eventually superseded. He and his sister Anne seem both to have been competent amateur architects, and his wife came to share their interest. He had important input into the eventual design of the new house at Townley Hall, and he and his wife evidently designed the lodge and gatepiers. JP and DL for Co. Louth; High Sheriff of Louth, 1792. In politics he was strongly opposed to the Union with Great Britain, and secured a seat in the Irish Parliament as MP for Belturbet, Jan-August 1800 in order to vote against it. He married, 17 October 1797, Lady Florence (c.1779-1862), daughter of William Willoughby Cole, 1st Earl of Enniskillen, and had issue:
(1) Blayney Townley Balfour (1799-1882) (q.v.);
(2) Anne Maria Townley Balfour (1800-92), born 5 July 1800; lived at The Fairy Hill, Rostrevor (Co. Down); died unmarried aged 92, on 29 August 1892; will proved in Dublin, 14 February 1893 (effects £5,616);
(3) Rev. Willoughby William Townley Balfour (1801-88), born 10 October 1801; educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Dublin (matriculated 1819; BA 1823); ordained deacon, 1829 and priest, 1832; vicar of Askeaton (Co. Limerick), 1833-37; rector of Aston Flamville with Burbage (Leics), 1837-78; died unmarried at The Fairy Hill, Rostrevor, 29 June 1888; will proved 29 November 1888 (effects £3,276);
(4) Letitia Frances Townley Balfour (1803-85), born 7 November 1803; lived at The Fairy Hill, Rostrevor; died unmarried, 30 January 1885; will proved 24 March 1885 (effects £5,144);
(5) Francis Leigh Townley Balfour (1805-33), born 22 February and baptised at Clifton (Glos), 27 February 1805; died unmarried of "the Country Fever", 28 October 1833 and was buried in St John's Cathedral, Belize City, where he is commemorated by a mural tablet designed by Joseph Theakston and executed in 1844;
(6) Florence Henrietta Townley Balfour (1808-81), born 28 July 1808; died unmarried at The Fairy Hill, Rostrevor, 23 July 1881; will proved 25 November 1881 (effects £3,894);
(7) Maj. Arthur Lowry (Townley) Balfour (1809-50), born 3 December 1809; an officer in the army (Lt., 1833; Capt., 1839; Maj., 1849); ADC to Sir Charles Metcalfe as Governor General of Canada, 1843; died of smallpox at Govindhur (India), 13 July 1850; administration of his goods was granted to one of his creditors, 5 August 1858 (effects under £450);
(8) Elizabeth Sarah Townley Balfour (1813-38), born 21 August and baptised at Kingston (Surrey), 12 September 1813; died unmarried, 'after a few hours' illness' at Ryde (IoW), 19 November 1838;
(9) Lowry Vesey Townley Balfour (1819-78), born 30 March 1819; Secretary of the Order of St. Patrick and Gentleman-at-Large to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland; died unmarried in Dublin, 12 February 1878; will proved in Dublin, 6 June 1878 (estate in Ireland under £7,000 and in England under £1,500).
He inherited Townley Hall from his grandfather in 1788, and built a new house there in 1794-98 to the designs of Francis Johnston. He sold the remaining part of the Castle Balfour estate in 1821 to John Creighton (1731-1828), 1st Earl of Erne.
He died 22 December 1856. His widow died at Rostrevor (Co. Down), 1 March 1862; her will was proved 10 April 1862 (effects under £8,000).

Townley Balfour, Blayney (1799-1882). Eldest son of Blayney Townley Balfour (1769-1856) and his wife Lady Florence, daughter of William Willoughby Cole, 1st Earl of Enniskillen, born 2 July 1799. Educated at Christ Church, Oxford (matriculated 1818; BA 1822). Lieutenant-Governor of the Bahama Islands, 1833-35. JP for Co. Louth; High Sheriff of Co. Louth, 1841. While on honeymoon in Rome in 1843 he bought, with some other Jacobite relics, a volume of reflections and private devotions in the hand of King James II, printed for the Roxburghe Club in 1925; the original is now in the library of Trinity College, Dublin. He married, 12 January 1843 at Leamington Spa (Warks), Elizabeth Catherine (1820-1904), daughter and heiress of Richard Molesworth Reynell, of Reynells (Co. Westmeath), and had issue:
(1) Blayney Reynell Townley Balfour (1845-1928) (q.v.);
(2) Rt. Rev. Francis Richard Townley Balfour (1846-1924), born at Sorrento (Italy), 21 June 1846; educated at Harrow, Trinity College, Cambridge (MA 1872) and Cuddesdon Theological College; ordained deacon, 1872 and priest, 1874; undertook missionary work for the Society for the Propogration of the Gospel in Basutoland (now Lesotho) and South Africa from 1875, and became a fluent speaker of Sesotho, into which language he translated the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer; chaplain to Bishop of Bloemfontein, 1875-82; canon of Bloemfontein, 1884-1901; Archdeacon of Bloemfontein, 1901-06 and of Basutoland, 1908-22; he was consecrated an Assistant Bishop in the diocese of Bloemfontein in 1911 and was thus effectively the first Anglican bishop in Basutoland; died at Shankill (Co. Dublin), 3 February 1924 and was buried in the grounds of Mellifont Abbey (Co. Louth); will proved in Dublin (estate £10,499);
(3) Catherine Florence Agnes Balfour (1858-1912), born 17 January 1858; died unmarried at Shankill (Co. Dublin), 13 January 1912; will proved in Dublin, 29 February 1912 (estate £11,307);
(4) Mary Henrietta Balfour (1860-1937), born 23 October 1860; died in Shankill (Co. Dublin), 24 August 1937; her will was proved in London, 6 December 1937 (estate £13,298).
He inherited Townley Hall from his father in 1856, but seems to have spent much of his time in England, usually in London or Bristol.
He died 5 September 1882; his will was proved in Dublin, 20 December 1882 (effects in Ireland, £20,723) and in London, 15 January 1883 (effects in England £337). His widow died 9 January 1904; her will was proved in Dublin, 25 February 1904 (estate in Ireland, £9,641) and sealed in London, 5 March 1904 (estate in England, £7,322).

Townley Balfour, Blayney Reynell (1845-1928). Elder son of Blayney Townley Balfour (1799-1882) and his wife Elizabeth Catherine, daughter and heiress of Richard Mackworth Reynell, of Reynells (Co. Westmeath), born in Dublin, 15 April 1845. Educated at Harrow, Trinity College, Cambridge (matriculated 1866; BA 1871; MA 1874) and Middle Temple (admitted 1879). JP and DL for Co. Louth; High Sheriff of Co. Louth, 1885, 1908. "His manner was somewhat reserved and distant, but his disposition was thoroughly kind and charitable" and he was noted for his philanthropic activities, both in Co. Louth and for national and international causes. He was a Member of the Royal Irish Academy from 1890 and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, and wrote several works about the antiquities of Drogheda; he was also responsible for instigating the repair of the monument on the site of the Battle of the Boyne. He married, 24 January 1906 at St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, Madeline Elizabeth (1867-1955), elder daughter of John Kells Ingram LLD, Vice-Provost of Trinity College, Dublin, but had no issue.
He inherited the 3,173 acre Townley Hall estate from his father in 1882, but in 1908 he became one of the first landowners to sell the majority of the estate to his tenants under the Wyndham Act. He retained only the 856 acre demesne, which was sold to him under the Act, allowing him to claim a £14,000 advance of purchase money and a 12% bonus, and subsequently to make annual repayments; this device - allowed as an incentive to landowners - enabled him to invest in estate improvements. At his death the house and remaining estate passed to his widow, who left it to her cousin, David Crichton, who sold it 1957 to Trinity College, Dublin.
He died 21 October 1928; will proved in London, 11 March 1929 (effects in England £39,606), in Dublin, 5 April 1929 (effects in Ireland £39,282), in Belfast, 13 May 1929 (effects in Northern Ireland £890) and confirmed in Scotland, 31 May 1929 (effects in Scotland £1,278). His widow died 25 March 1955; her will was proved in Dublin, 3 August 1955 (estate £52,246).


Burke's Landed Gentry of Ireland, 1912, pp. 24-25; Anon., 'Two Residences of the Townley Family in Co. Louth', Journal of the County Louth Archaeological Society, 1924, pp. 267-269; A. Rowan, The buildings of Ireland: North-West Ulster, 1979, p. 359; M. Bence-Jones, A guide to Irish country houses, 2nd edn., 1990, pp. 275-76; C. Casey & A. Rowan, The buildings of Ireland: North Leinster, 1993, pp. 503-08; J. Ingamells, A dictionary of British and Irish travellers in Italy, 1701-1800, 1999, p. 44; E.M. Johnston-Liik, The History of the Irish Parliament, 1692-1800, vol. 3, pp. 130-31, vol. 6, pp. 425-28.

Location of archives

Balfour family of Balfour Castle (Fermanagh): deeds, estate and legal papers, 17th-19th cents. [Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, D1939]
Balfour family of Townley Hall (Louth): deeds, estate and family papers, 17th-20th cents. [National Library of Ireland, D971, D1902, D2624; T3763; MS3771]

Coat of arms

Townley Balfour of Townley Hall: Quarterly, 1st and 4th, argent, on a chevron sable, an otter's head erased, of the first; 2nd and 3rd, argent, a fesse sable, in chief three mullets of the second.

Notes about missing information and help wanted with this entry

  • If anyone can provide an image of Piedmont Hall (Co. Louth) when it was intact or substantially so, I would be very pleased to see it. I would also welcome any early photographs of Townley Hall, especially views of the interior showing it as it was furnished before it was sold in 1957.
  • If anyone can provide additional genealogical or biographical details about the people mentioned above, or further portraits or photographs of members of the family, I should be very pleased to incorporate them.

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 24 October 2018 and updated 8 November 2021 and 19 December 2022. I am grateful to Rory Cunningham for a correction and to Dart Montgomery for the link to the MVK website.


  1. Photos of the interior and the new addition to Townley Hall by MVK Architects can be found here:


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.