Sunday 4 November 2018

(351) Balfour of Whittingehame, Earls of Balfour, and Balfour of Balgonie and Newton Don

Balfour of Whittingehame,
Earls of Balfour
John Ramsay Balfour (1739-1813) of Balbirnie (for whom see my earlier post on the Balfours of Balbirnie) had two sons: the elder, Maj-Gen. Robert Balfour (1772-1837), inherited Balbirnie, while the younger, James Balfour (c.1776-1845), was sent to study under William Swanson, 'Teacher of Writing and Accompts in Edinburgh'. Having completed his studies in accountancy, his father found a place for him with the East India Company, and he went out to India in 1795, where he held a succession of junior posts before being sent home in 1800 for taking bribes. It is not clear what, if any, further disciplinary action was taken against him, but in 1802 he was allowed to return to India as a merchant. He quickly built up a business supplying the Royal Navy while it was in Indian waters, and over the following ten years he amassed a fortune of £300,000. He returned to Scotland in 1812, leaving his business in India in the hands of managers, but unlike many who found that their expectations of future income were disappointed by managers who were lazy, incompetent or self-serving, James's fortune continued to grow for many years, and when he died in 1845 his estate was valued at over £1m, making him one of the richest commoners in the country. It is not clear when he severed his ties with the Indian business, but he never visited India again and had apparently sold his interests before his death. In 1815, he married a daughter of the Earl of Lauderdale, who lived at Dunbar House (East Lothian), and two years later he bought the nearby Whittingehame estate from the Hay family. He seems to have treated the estate as a blank canvas, and although he retained the 15th century tower house that came with the estate as a picturesque object in the grounds, he at once commissioned a new house from Sir Robert Smirke, and set about clearing and resiting the village and building a new parish church. James and his growing family moved into the completed house in 1819, but in 1822 there was a tragedy when his eldest son - then aged five - was killed in a fire started accidentally by the child's mother. At the end of the year James was still too distraught to consider standing for Parliament, but he was elected in 1826 on his father-in-law's interest and continued to serve until 1834. As the profits of his Indian business continued to roll in, James invested in further estates. In 1823-25 he bought Balgonie House in Fife and other property nearby, which stood on coal-bearing land close to his ancestral home at Balbirnie; and in 1839 he bought the massive 60,000 acre Strathconon estate in Ross-shire, where he probably built Dalbreac Lodge before his death in 1845.

James Balfour's great wealth enabled his surviving children to marry well. His two daughters each had dowries of £40,000, and married an Irish politician and the younger son of a duke, while his sons married the younger daughters of a marquess and a viscount. At James' death, the elder son, James Maitland Balfour (1820-56), inherited Whittingehame and Strathconon, while the younger son, Charles Balfour (1823-72) inherited Balgonie and a large cash sum, part of which was intended for the building of a new house at Balgonie, although this never happened, as Charles bought the Newton Don estate in Berwickshire in 1847 instead. 

To concentrate first on the senior branch of the family, James Maitland Balfour (1820-56) was a rather gawky schoolboy, but matured into 'a handsome, dashing and athletic young man' who was perhaps rather spoilt since '[his] charm... was liable to sudden dissipation by bad temper'. He appears to have inherited some of his father's business acumen and did well out of investment in the burgeoning railway network in the 1840s and 1850s, but he lacked his father's application. Having been elected as an MP while still a Cambridge undergraduate, he made little of the opportunities this afforded, and his Chairmanship of the North British Railway was ended by a boardroom coup. His family life was perhaps more successful. His wife, Lady Blanche Cecil (d. 1872), came from a gifted family and they had five sons and three daughters in ten years, all of whom survived to maturity. When he died of tuberculosis, aged just 36, Lady Blanche brought the family up at Whittingehame in a stimulating atmosphere of vigorous intellectual debate, in which the girls were treated equally with the boys, even if they did not have access to the same formal education. The result was that all eight children led remarkable lives: they included a Prime Minister; a cabinet minister; an architect; a Cambridge professor of animal morphology, an entomologist and a remarkable pioneer of higher education for women. Whilst there can be no doubt that their career paths were smoothed by the advantages of wealth, social position and influence, there can equally be no doubt of their intellectual ability. And although their career paths were so diverse, a strand which bound many of them together was a fascination with the unseen world, with psychic phenomena and communication with the dead, and the hope that they could bring scientific methods to bear on this field. Eleanor Balfour (1845-1936) was a founder member of the Society for Psychical Research and its secretary from 1907-32; she and two of her brothers also served as its President. One of them, Gerald Balfour (1853-1945), devoted much of the second half of his life to collating and interpreting examples of automatic writing, and may also have pursued his research in a more personal and empirical way (see below!).

The mid 19th century was the period of the Highland Clearances in the north of Scotland, when large numbers of the indigenous tenant population were more or less forcibly removed from the land and either resettled around the coast or sent abroad to new lives, chiefly in Canada. In some places there can be little doubt that the principal motivation was to enable a re-wilding of the landscape and its management for the shooting of game, especially deer, and that scant consideration was given to the dispossessed tenants and their shattered communities. Among landowners, there was also a genuine belief, however, that the highlands were overpopulated in relation to their economic capacity, and a particular concern about the existence of a substantial population of squatters, who paid no rent, had no occupation, and lived in squalor and idleness in hovels erected on waste land. At Strathconon, by the late 1840s clearances on surrounding estates had led to a rise in the number of squatters, and the small tenant farms were seen as uneconomic. James Maitland Balfour therefore began a process of clearance on his estate which reached a peak as existing leases fell in during 1849 and 1850. In contrast with the practice elsewhere, the process was conducted very largely by negotiation, and was eased by a substantial programme of assisted emigration. We know so much because it was documented in some detail in articles in the Inverness Courier, which sent a journalist to observe the final stages of the clearance. Even in the 1880s, when A.J. Balfour was Secretary of State for Scotland during the so-called 'Crofters War', he believed that the economic interests of the dispossessed had been served by the clearances, and there was no doubt some truth in that, although the social and emotional cost may have been another matter.

The heir to Whittingehame and Strathconon was Arthur James Balfour (1848-1930), who came of age in 1869, the year he completed his degree at Cambridge. His first inclination was towards philosophy, but in 1874 he entered Parliament as Conservative MP for Hatfield (Herts) at the instigation of his uncle, Lord Salisbury, who was the local landowner there. In 1885 Salisbury became Prime Minister for the first time and Balfour joined the Government as President of the Local Government Board. Since he was an able speaker and enjoyed the cut-and-thrust of parliamentary politics, his star soon rose, and he showed real ability and considerable personal and political courage in his time as Chief Secretary for Ireland, 1887-91 and Leader of the House of Commons, 1895-1902. In 1902 he was the obvious choice to succeed Salisbury as leader of the Conservatives and Prime Minister, and he held office for three years, in which time the great 1902 Education Act was passed. His government was increasingly split over tariff reform and international trade, however, and eventually collapsed. Despite a humiliating electoral defeat in 1906, when the Conservatives lost half of their seats, he remained as Leader of the Opposition until 1911. At the age of sixty-three his political career might then have been over, but in the changed circumstances of coalition during and after the First World War he returned to Government as First Lord of the Admiralty and later Foreign Secretary and Lord President of the Council, and he only finally left office in 1929, a year before his death. By then he had been raised to the peerage as Earl of Balfour, made a Knight of the Garter, and awarded the Order of Merit. It was as Foreign Secretary that he issued the 'Balfour Declaration' in 1917, giving official British support to the idea of creating a 'national home for the Jewish people' in Palestine, a well-intentioned move that has cast a long shadow.

If Lord Balfour had a long and impressive political career, his personal life was less fortunate. He had hoped to marry the Hon. May Lyttelton (1850-75) and her death from typhoid before they were officially engaged left him devastated. He was apparently faithful to her memory for the rest of his life and never married. When he came of age he inherited, as we have seen, vast estates: some 71,000 acres in Ross-shire and 15,000 acres in East Lothian and Berwickshire. He also inherited a substantial income from investments, and in his early years he was very comfortably off, but by the 1890s the agricultural depression had reduced his rent roll and inflation had increased his costs, and his sister was horrified to discover that his expenditure exceeded his income by more than £2,000 a year. In response he began making high risk investments, hoping to strike lucky and make a huge profit from industrial or mining shares; he may also have gambled in a more direct manner. The Strathconon estate was sold in about 1890 and must have eased his capital position for a time, but around the time he left office as Prime Minister he and his brother Gerald began investing huge sums in two companies making industrial fuel from peat, both of which ultimately collapsed. Lord Balfour was constantly in debt for the rest of his life and Gerald's finances teetered on a knife-edge of solvency.

When Lord Balfour died without male issue in 1930 his title would in the ordinary way have become extinct, but a special remainder in the peerage patent allowed it to pass to male line descendants of his father. It was thus inherited by his younger brother Gerald Balfour (1853-1945), while the Whittingehame estate passed directly to Gerald's son and heir, Robert Arthur Lytton Balfour (1902-68), later the 3rd Earl of Balfour. By this stage there was little left for Robert to inherit apart from the estate, and he faced large death duties. Although he negotiated a period of ten years to pay what was due in tax, it soon became clear that he could not afford to live at Whittingehame, and in 1935 he moved out of the house, returning to a modest mid-to-late 19th century house called Redcliff on the estate where he had lived in his uncle's lifetime. The mansion found various temporary uses during the next twenty years, but in 1963 he sold the freehold to a private school from Lockerbie (Dumfries) and invested some of the capital in refurbishing and extending the old tower house at Whittingehame as a new centre for the estate. When he died in 1968 the estate passed to his only son, Gerald Arthur James Balfour (1925-2003), 4th Earl of Balfour, while his widow continued to live in the Tower until her death in 1981. When the 4th Earl died without issue in 2003, the special remainder in the peerage patent again came into operation and the earldom passed to Roderick Francis Arthur Balfour (b. 1948), 5th Earl of Balfour, who is a descendant of the 1st Earl's youngest brother, Col. Eustace Balfour (1854-1911). He did not, however, inherit the Whittingehame estate, which passed to the 4th Earl's nephew, Michael Brander (b. 1949), who remodelled and refurbished the tower in 2004-11. 

The younger branch of the family settled in the mid 19th century at Newton Don (Berwickshire). The house seems initially to have been occupied by James Balfour's widow, Lady Eleanor Balfour (d. 1869), while her second son, Charles Balfour (1823-72), divided his time between Berwickshire and his father-in-law's house as Deputy Ranger of Windsor Forest, Holly Grove (now Forest Lodge). When Charles died, just three years after his mother, he left a widow and two small children, and Newton Don was leased out for more than a decade. Charles Barrington Balfour (1862-1921) came of age in 1883 but not until his marriage in 1888 did he recover possession of Newton Don and redecorate the interior. The exploitation of coal on the Balgonie estate in Fife ensured that for this side of the family, lack of resources was not a major issue until well into the 20th century, and while the improvements were in hand at Newton Don, C.B. Balfour also bought the Balfour estate in Fife which he believed had belonged to his ancestors in the early medieval period and been alienated in 1370. He was succeeded in all his landed property by his eldest son, Charles James Balfour (1889-1939), who was a keen gardener and did much to enhance the gardens of Newton Don. He was married, but had no children, and he left his property to his widow (d. 1975) for life, with remainder to his nephew, Michael John Balfour (1925-2004), who farmed on the estate until he inherited. The derelict and largely ruined Balgonie Castle suffered from vandalism in the 1960s, and was sold in 1971 to a new owner who began the process of restoring it. The wider Balgonie estate and Newton Don remain the property of the family, which is now headed by William Arthur Balfour (b. 1955).

Whittingehame House, East Lothian

James Balfour bought the Whittingehame estate from the Hay family in 1817, and at once commissioned a new house from Sir Robert Smirke, who at the time had the largest architectural practice in London and a particular following among Tory politicians and landowners in Scotland. The new house was to be in the Greek Revival style, the 'primal simplicity' of which Smirke admired. In his view, all classicism since the Greeks had been degenerate and he wanted to strip away the adventitious ornament of modern classicism and return to an architecture based on geometrical units and layered, overlapping planes. At Whittingehame, he was given the chance to express his architectural theories in a house which is more subtle and sophisticated than might at first appear, even if it carries neo-classical reticence to dogmatic lengths. The house, which had been completed by 1819, is very decidedly in what Pugin derided as Smirke's 'new square style', and seems to be a development of a design he made a few years earlier for Kinfauns Castle which was rejected. It is fundamentally a rectangular block, but the two long elevations are very differently composed. 
Whittingehame House: design by Sir Robert Smirke, 1817, showing the entrance front as first built. Image: © RIBA Collections

Whittingehame House: design by Sir Robert Smirke, 1817, showing the garden front as first built. Image: © RIBA Collections

On the entrance side there is a three-storey centre of three widely-spaced bays, flanked by three-bay two-storey wings which project very slightly from the wall plane. A large Greek Doric portico stands in front of the central entrance doorway. On the garden front, however, the house is expressed as a nine-bay central block with lower single-bay wings which again project very slightly (a total of eleven bays as opposed to nine on the entrance side). The three-bay end elevation reveals the subtlety with which these two different facades are reconciled: on this flank, the ends of the garden and entrance fronts are both of two storeys, and a single-storey slightly projecting bay is set between them and given emphasis by a window aedicule set under a blank arch. One can sense the excitement Smirke felt in fitting the cubic forms of which the house is composed together in satisfying combinations, but the lack of external ornament seems awkward and rather bleak to many, despite the movement and diversity of form in the elevations. The client was evidently one of those not wholly satisfied, for almost before the paint was dry he asked William Burn, who had been in Smirke's office but was by then in independent practice, to make additions and alterations that are consistent in general style and stone colour, but which soften the original severity. These include adding the balustraded parapets around the house and the massive piers flanking the central bay of the garden front, enlarging the wing at the west end of the house, and redecorating the drawing room. In 1871 balustrades were added to the terrace below the garden front: Smirke would not have been amused as he considered balustrading 'a vulgar expedient', useful only to prowling cats. Later still, in 1899-1903, Eustace Balfour (1854-1911), the owner's brother, who was an architect and estate surveyor in London, altered the entrance portico and inserted a canted bay to its left.

Whittingehame House: the entrance front in recent years, showing the alterations carried out by Burn in 1827 and in 1871.

Whittingehame House: Smirke's plan of the principal floor, showing the original layout in 1817. Image: © RIBA Collections
Inside, Smirke's house employed a rigidly axial layout that still largely survives. The main hall is entered from the portico and has a black Doric chimneypiece. At its inner end a colonnade in antis divides the hall from a wide saucer-domed corridor which runs almost the whole length of the house and provides access to the main reception rooms along the garden front and to the dining room on the entrance side. To the left of the hall the corridor broadens to accommodate the principal staircase, which rises steeply against the wall. The rooms along the garden front are now the drawing room (formed by Burn from two smaller rooms), the saloon (originally conceived as oval but now rectangular with a canted bow) and the very large library, which seems to remain much as Smirke intended. Burn also created a new, secondary library beyond the dining room in his enlarged north-west wing. The dining room itself was refitted in 1899-1903, when it was given oak panelling and a richly moulded ceiling and cornice to the designs of Eustace Balfour.

Whittingehame House: the library

Whittingehame House: dining room as remodelled by Eustace Balfour in 1899-1903; the woodwork was originally unpainted and the present decorative scheme is modern.

On the death of Arthur Balfour, 1st Earl of Balfour, in 1930 the house passed to a nephew (who succeeded as 3rd Earl in 1945) but in 1935 he was obliged by death duties to move out of the house and put many of the contents up for sale.  From 1939-41 it was used as a refuge for Jewish refugee children, and it then became an approved school until 1953. It then lay empty for some years, apart from briefly housing Hungarian refugees at the time of the 1956 revolution, until 1963, when Lord Balfour sold the freehold to Holt Academy for Boys from Lockerbie. After this school closed in 1980, the house was left empty for several years while plans for conversion into a private hospital were considered. Eventually that scheme was abandoned and the house was sold to Charles Skilton, who converted it into apartments, while retaining almost the principal rooms for his own use. This main apartment has been sold twice since then.

Whittingehame House: the house and park as depicted on the first OS 6" map, 1853.

The grounds and parkland were laid out alongside the building of the house to the design of William Sawrey Gilpin (1762-1843), who was related to Smirke. Whittingehame was one of Gilpin's first commissions in Scotland and evidently impressed, as he received a number of other Scottish jobs later on. He laid out three long approach drives to the house from the north, east and south. Those from the north and south followed Whittingehame Water for much of their length. Whittingehame Tower was made a picturesque object in the landscape, and views to it were contrived from both the house and the approach drives. West of the Water there was a larged walled garden with greenhouses, a peachery and vineries. The stable block was built to Smirke's design in 1818 but was later extended on two occasions. The estate had four lodges: the East and West (or Garden) Lodges appear to have been designed by Smirke, but the Half Moon Lodge (demolished in 1964) and the North Lodge appear to be mid 19th century, and were perhaps erected in the 1850s, when the stables were enlarged.

Descent: Col. William Hay of Duns Castle sold 1817 to James Balfour (d. 1845); to son, James Maitland Balfour (1820-56); to son, Arthur James Balfour (1848-1930), 1st Earl of Balfour; to nephew, Robert Arthur Lytton Balfour (1902-68), 3rd Earl of Balfour; who sold 1963 to Holt Academy; sold 1980 to Mohammed al-Abdaly; sold 1986 to Charles Skilton (d. c.1992), who converted it into apartments.

Whittingehame Tower, East Lothian

Whittingehame Tower: the house in the 1920s, when it was used as a museum by Alice Balfour.

A late 15th or early 16th century rectangular tower house built for the Douglas family, later Earls of Morton. The tower is of three storeys with a corbelled and crenellated parapet, within which stands a caphouse over the spiral staircase. The entrance door opens onto the staircase and has a shield on the lintel with the arms of the Douglases of Whittingehame.  The tower was the principal seat on the estate until 1817, and as a result was updated in the 17th and 18th centuries. Some of the windows were enlarged and sashed in the 18th century and inside, the hall on the first floor has 18th century panelling and a fine 17th century plaster ceiling with decorative moulded ribs. In the early 20th century Alice Balfour turned the tower into a museum for the local and natural history of the neighbourhood, and also created a walled garden with a pavilion designed by Eustace Balfour. The tower was returned to domestic use after the Balfours sold Whittingehame House, when an existing single-storey extension was converted into a library and a new two-storey harled extension was built to provide a modern kitchen and bedroom accommodation. Further modernisation was carried out in 2004-11 to designs by Ian Parsons, and included the addition of a modest single-storey glazed conservatory linking the two earlier wings together.

Descent: Col. William Hay sold 1817 to James Balfour (d. 1845); to son, James Maitland Balfour (1820-56); to son, Arthur James Balfour (1848-1930), 1st Earl of Balfour; to nephew, Robert Arthur Lytton Balfour (1902-68), 3rd Earl of Balfour; to son, Gerald Arthur James Balfour (1925-2003), 4th Earl of Balfour; to nephew, Andrew Michael Brander (b. 1949).

Balgonie Castle, Fife

A medieval baronial castle in a strategic position above the River Leven which was modernised and remained occupied until at least the late 18th century, but which then fell into ruin before being partially restored in the late 20th century. The story seems to begin in the early 15th century, when the Sibbald family constructed a stone-walled enclosure with a gatehouse at the southern end of the west wall, a tower-house in the north-west corner, and a well in the centre of the courtyard. In the late 15th century the house passed to the Lundy family, and Sir Andrew Lundy was employing masons in 1496, almost certainly to built a new north range running east from the tower, which had a grand hall on the first floor. In 1635 the estate was bought by the Covenanting general, Sir Alexander Leslie (later 1st Earl of Leven), who remodelled the old tower and north range and built a new block in the south-east corner of the courtyard, where two ceilings recorded in the 19th century had his initials. In 1666, the guardian of the infant Countess of Leven repaired the house and employed John Mylne junior to design a grand staircase linking the north range to the (formerly free-standing) north-west tower, and the final addition was the construction of an east range linking the south-east block to the eastern end of the north range, which was undertaken by Gilbert Smith, mason, for the 5th Earl of Leven in 1706. 

Balgonie Castle from the east, c.2010.

During the 1715 Jacobite rebellion Rob Roy MacGregor briefly garrisoned the castle, but if the buildings were damaged they had been repaired by 1721, when the house was fully furnished. In 1755, the 8th Earl painted the house and introduced sash windows as part of a modernisation scheme which probably more generally raised the house to 18th century standards of comfort, but thereafter the house seems to have slipped gradually into neglect. It was sold in 1823 to James Balfour of Whittinghame, whose schemes for repairing and remodelling the castle came to nothing, and by 1840 the house was said to be 'fast hastening to decay'. His will bequeathed his son Charles £20,000 specifically for the purpose of rebuilding and refurnishing the house at Balgonie, but in 1847 Charles bought Newton Don instead. It is said that Balgonie was eventually partially unroofed so that rates did not have to be paid on the property. After a spate of vandalism in the 1960s, the castle was sold in 1971 and restoration was begun under Cunningham, Jack, Fisher and Purdom with the repair of the north-west tower. Since the house was sold in 1985 restoration has continued slowly, largely as a DIY enterprise by the owner and his family, and the great hall, chapel and kitchen have now been completed. The house is open to the public as a living history museum and is also used as a wedding venue.

Descent: Sir Andrew Lundy (fl. 1496)... Robert Lundy; sold 1627 to [forename unknown] Boswell; sold 1635 to Sir Alexander Leslie (c.1580-1661), 1st Earl of Leven; to grandson, Alexander Leslie (c.1637-64), 2nd Earl of Leven; to daughter Margaret (d. 1674), Countess of Leven, wife of the Hon. Francis Montgomerie of Giffen (Ayrs.); to sister, Catherine (d. 1676), Countess of Leven; to David Melville (later Leslie) (1660-1728), 5th Earl of Leven & 2nd Earl of Melville; to grandson, David Leslie (1717-29), 6th Earl of Leven & 3rd Earl of Melville; to uncle, Alexander Leslie (c.1699-1754), 7th Earl of Leven and 4th Earl of Melville; to son, David Leslie (1722-1802), 8th Earl of Leven & 5th Earl of Melville; to son, Alexander Leslie (1749-1820), 9th Earl of Leven & 6th Earl of Melville; to son, David Leslie-Melville (1785-1860), 10th Earl of Leven and 7th Earl of Melville, who sold 1823 to James Balfour (c.1776-1845); to younger son, Charles Balfour (1823-72); to son, Charles Barrington Balfour (1862-1921); to son, Charles James Balfour (1889-1939); to widow, Hon. Aurea Vera Balfour (1891-1975); to nephew, Michael John Balfour (1925-2004), who sold 1971 to David Maxwell; sold 1985 to Raymond Morris (b. 1930).

Dalbreac Lodge, Strathconon, Ross & Cromarty

Dalbreac Lodge: the house in about 1880, when it was owned by Arthur Balfour.

James Balfour purchased the 60,000 acre Strathconon estate in 1839, and Dalbreac (or Dalbreck) Lodge was probably built in the early-mid 1840s more or less at the centre of the property. The original architect is not known, but there were alterations in 1848 and again in 1855 and on the latter occasion the architect was Alexander Messer (1810-57) of Dingwall. 

Dalbreac Lodge, Strathconan: the house as enlarged in 1891 and 1896-97.
Although farming continued in the Conon valley after the estate was 'cleared' in the 1840s and 1850s, much of the land became a typical highland estate, used a few weeks a year for recreational shooting, stalking and fishing. A.J. Balfour and his brother Gerald both enjoyed coming here for the Highland season, but in the 1880s it was leased and soon afterwards sold to Richard Henry Combe (1829-1900), who was a partner in a major London brewer (from 1898 part of Watney, Combe & Reid). He employed Ross & Macbeth, architects, to make additions and alterations to Dalbreac in 1891 and 1896-97. Dalbreac Lodge was sadly destroyed by fire in 1941 and was never rebuilt. The estate was later divided into two parts: Strathconon and Scardroy, and was let out and sold in 1991. Strathconon was acquired by the Macdonald-Buchanans of Cottesbrooke Hall (Northants), for whom a new neo-Georgian house was built in 1985-87 to the designs of the Yorkshire firm of Francis Johnson & Partners.

Descent:  sold 1839 to James Balfour (d. 1845); to son, James Maitland Balfour (1820-56); to son, Arthur James Balfour (1848-1930), 1st Earl of Balfour; sold before 1891 to Richard Henry Combe (1829-1900); to son, Capt. Christian Combe (1858-1940); to son, Henry Christian Seymour Combe (1890-1952) but burned down, 1941; the estate descended to Harvey Christian Rupert Peter Combe (1925-87) but was divided into two, let out and later sold.

Newton Don, Berwickshire

Newton Don: the south front in 2017. Image: © Christine Wallace.

An austere neo-classical house by Sir Robert Smirke, built in 1817-20 (i.e. at exactly the same time as Whittingehame) for Sir Alexander Don, who was another of Smirke's Scottish Tory politician clients. Here, however, Smirke was given a less free hand and the stark austerity of his 'New Square Style' is somewhat tempered by more conventional forms. The house is of two and three storeys above a sunk basement, and the main front faces (approximately) south over a bend in the Eden Water. On this side the house has a symmetrical elevation of nine bays, with a central three-storey block of three bays defined by wide flat pilasters and tripartite windows on the ground and first floors, flanked by lower two-storey wings, also of three bays, with shallow bow fronts. The east and west sides of the house are both of three wide bays, and in each case the centre bay is slightly recessed, but on the west, where a rather lumpen porte-cochère of 1862 by Brown & Wardrop is set into the middle bay, the recess is much shallower than on the east front. The north side of the house overlooks an irregular service court and has been much altered in the late 19th and 20th centuries.

Newton Don: the east front. Image: © Christine Wallace.

The planning of the house appears to have been constrained by elements of the previous, 18th century house that were retained and incorporated into the new building, although they are now apparent only in the basement. As at Whittingehame, Smirke probably intended an axial corridor leading from the entrance in the west front behind the main rooms on the south front, but the client ran out of money (apparently through gambling) before the house was finished and the interior was still not complete when he died in 1826. Much of the farmland and the furnishings of the house were sold over the next few years to pay off the debts, and the heir was reduced to working as a peripatetic actor to earn a living. It seems likely, therefore, that the fitting up of the house was not completed until after the sale of the house to the Balfour family, and perhaps not even until c.1860, when Brown & Wardrop carried out some work on the interior. The entrance hall, which has a Doric frieze of the Smirke period and a neo-classical chimneypiece said to come from Ladykirk House (Berwicks), now leads up steps into the staircase hall with an inner hall beyond that. The main rooms along the south front are the dining room, billiard room (now Chinese Room) and drawing room, while a library and boudoir are in the north-east corner of the house. The Chinese room has a timber and gesso fireplace moved from Ednam House, Kelso. These rooms are now largely as redecorated in a spare Scottish Renaissance style in about 1889-92 by McArthy & Watson for Charles Barrington Balfour. The staircase hall and more particularly its first-floor landing, were treated more exuberantly, however, being panelled with the timber fronts of houses from Cairo and other Egyptian-style decoration of 1889-90. Sadly, this was all swept away when the staircase hall and inner hall were remodelled again in about 1950. The staircase now has a cast iron stair balustrade of that time which tries to conjure the Regency, but its wrought iron decorative panels are too simplified and too widely spaced for the effect to be convincing. In the late 20th century a new entrance hall was made on the north front, entered from the service courtyard, which is panelled with woodwork from the former business room.

Newton Don: a Victorian photograph of the stable block

The layout of the grounds seems to have been begun rather earlier than the rebuilding of the house, and probably in the late 18th century. In 1777 the buildings of Newton Don village still lined the approach to the house, but within a few years they had been swept away. New access drives were created and a minor burn was dammed to form three long, curving ponds. In 1800, a visitor to Newton Don described a 'remarkably pretty, cheerful place', with fine parkland trees, sloping lawns, a shrubbery and walks, but which was, alas, 'all unfinished', something he attributed to the owner having 'more taste, I fancy, than cash'. The principal survival from this period is the quadrangular stable block, which has a very elegant front with an octagonal cupola over the central archway and two-storey pavilions with low pyramidal roofs at either end. The east lodge, built c.1820, is related to a design by Smirke (now in the RIBA Drawings Collection), but does not, as he proposed, span the driveway. 

Newton Don: the estate as represented on the Ordnance Survey 6" plan surveyed in 1858-59.

The earliest Ordnance Survey plan showing the estate, surveyed in 1858-59, shows an extensive network of paths and drives - many of which survive today - and also a series of seats and waterfalls and an ice house. The sundial on the south lawn is a confection of c.1893, made up from a sculpture of a lion rampant commemorating a marriage of 1750 and a 17th century bronze dial found on the estate. During the First and Second World Wars, Newton Don was used as a convalescent home for wounded soldiers. With time, the elaborate Victorian beds were grassed over, and the water garden abandoned, but the essential parkland and woodland structure survives. In recent years, work has begun on restoring and resurfacing the network of woodland paths by the Eden Water.

Descent: sold 1648 to Sir Alexander Don (d. 1687), 1st bt.; to son, Sir James Don (d. c.1710), 2nd bt.; to son, Sir Alexander Don (d. 1749), 3rd bt.; to son, Sir Alexander Don (d. 1776), 4th bt.; to son, Sir Alexander Don (d. 1815), 5th bt.; to son, Sir Alexander Don (1779-1826), 6th bt.; to son, Sir William Henry Don (1825-62), 7th bt., actor; sold 1847 to Charles Balfour (1823-72); to son, Charles Barrington Balfour (1862-1921); to son, Charles James Balfour (1889-1939); to widow, Hon. Aurea Vera Balfour (1891-1975); to nephew, Michael John Balfour (1925-2004); to son, William Arthur Balfour (b. 1955).

Fishers Hill, Hook Heath, Woking, Surrey

A surprisingly little-known neo-Tudor house by Sir Edwin Lutyens, built in 1900-01 for the Rt. Hon. Gerald Balfour MP (later the 2nd Earl of Balfour), whose wife was Lutyens' sister-in-law. It is not, perhaps, one of Lutyens' best houses, but it has features in common with the near-contemporary Abbotswood (Glos), and its obscurity seems undeserved.  The house is one of a number of large houses built on land which was originally intended to be part of Brookwood Cemetery, but which was released for building in 1891, and is perhaps best defined as a house in the country rather than a country house in the strict sense.
Fishers Hill House: the entrance porch

Fishers Hill House: ground floor plan, as first built.

It is an L-shaped house built of brick and roughcast, with plain tiled hipped roofs and tall chimneys, set on a sloping site so that the house has two storeys at the east (service) end and three at the west end. On the south side there is a broad terrace which terminates in a pergola with views to the south and west over a romantic garden, originally designed and planted by Gertrude Jekyll, set into a dell. 

Fishers Hill House: the south-west angle of the house, showing the pergola and the three-storey part of the house.

The west end of the house projects beyond the pergola and has three storeys of shallow bay windows with minimal details, giving this part of the house an unfortunate resemblance to a block of mansion flats in the London suburbs. Lutyens' brother-in-law, Neville Lytton, wrote that 'the windows are rather too small, though they look all right from outside... I think the shape of the gable is quaint and amusing, but not ideal'. The gable referred to must be that above the dining room on the south side, which has twin chimneys running up it - something which the rarely censorious Laurence Weaver called 'not a very happy piece of design'. 

Fisher's Hill House: the charming gable-ends of what was formerly the service end of the house.

The most attractive part of the house is perhaps the east end, where two single-bay projections with swept roofs and tall gables originally contained the servants' hall and housekeeper's room. The house was converted into four dwellings in 1947, although the main western part of the house remains in one unit (now known as The Red House). The interiors were always plain, but retain a number of good chimneypieces of classical or sub-classical form, as well as original doors, staircase and ironwork.

Descent: built 1900-01 for Rt. Hon. Gerald Balfour (1853-1945), later 2nd Earl Balfour; sold after his death and divided into four dwellings.

Balfour family of Whittingehame, Earls of Balfour

James Balfour (c.1776-1845)
Balfour, James (c.1776-1845). Younger son of John Ramsay Balfour (1739-1813) of Balbirnie and his wife Mary (1743-1820), daughter of James Gordon of Ellon, born about 1776. He trained as an accountant with William Swanson in Edinburgh and in 1795 became an official of the East India Company, serving as a civil servant in several junior capacities until he was ordered home in 1800 for allegedly accepting bribes; he returned to India in 1802 as a merchant, and amassed a fortune of £300,000 as a contractor for victualling the navy in Indian waters before retiring to Scotland, 1812. On the interest of his father-in-law, he became MP for Anstruther Easter Burghs, 1826-31 and Haddingtonshire, 1831-34. He married at Dunbar (E. Lothian), 19 January 1815, Lady Eleanor (1790-1869), daughter of James Maitland, 8th Earl of Lauderdale, and had issue:
(1) Eleanor Balfour (b. 1816*), born 10 January and baptised at Dunbar House, 12 March 1816; certainly dead by 1845 and probably died young;
(2) Mary Balfour (1817-93), born 5 January and baptised at Whittingehame, 29 March 1817; regarded as the most gifted amateur artist in Ireland (The Times, 1861); travelled extensively in Europe before and after her marriage; married, with a dowry of £40,000, 25 September 1837 at Whittingehame, Rt. Hon. Henry Arthur Herbert MP (1815-66) of Muckross Abbey, Killarney (Kerry), Chief Secretary for Ireland, 1857-58, son of Charles John Herbert, and had issue two sons and two daughters; as a widow, moved in 1871 to Bellagio (Italy); died in London, 14 January 1893 and was buried at Killegy (Co. Kerry); her will was proved 18 February 1893 (effects £39,827);
(3) John Balfour (1818-22), born 22 September and baptised at Whittingehame, 7 November 1818; died young in a fire at Whittingehame, 20 November 1822;
(4) James Maitland Balfour (1820-56) (q.v.);
(5) Charlotte Julian Balfour (1821-32), born 13 September and baptised at Whittingehame, 16 November 1821; died young, 16 August 1832;
(6) Charles Balfour (1823-72) [for whom see Balfour of Balgonie & Newton Don below];
(7) Anna Balfour (1825-57), baptised at Whittingehame, 1 September 1825**; married, with a dowry of £40,000, 9 June 1847, Lord Augustus Charles Lennox Fitzroy (1821-1918), later 7th Duke of Grafton, second son of Henry Fitzroy, 5th Duke of Grafton, and had issue four sons and one daughter; died 23 December 1857 and was buried at Euston (Suffk).
He 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. His widow lived at Newton Don from 1847 until her death.
He died after a long and painful illness, 19 April 1845, and was buried at Whittingehame. His will was confirmed 5 September 1845 (effects under £80,000 in England and over £1,000,000 in Scotland). His widow died 23 May 1869; her will was confirmed 4 October 1869.
* The parish register entry actually says 1815, but the position of the entry makes it clear that 1816 must be correct.
** Her date of birth is variously stated as 15 June, 13 July or 30 July, the last being the date given in the Whittingehame parish register.

James Maitland Balfour
by George Richmond

Balfour, James Maitland (1820-56). Elder son of James Balfour (c.1776-1845) and his wife Lady Eleanor, daughter of James Maitland, 8th Earl of Lauderdale, born 5 January and baptised at Whittingehame, 10 March 1820. Educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge (matriculated 1838). While still an undergraduate at Cambridge he was elected MP for Haddington burghs, 1841-47, though he seems to not to have made the most of this opportunity. He was a DL for East Lothian from 1846 and officer commanding the East Lothian Yeomanry Cavalry (Capt., 1846; Maj., 1848). He was also a Director of the North British Railway from 1847 (Chairman, 1852-55), from which he derived a significant addition to his fortune. He was described as "a handsome, dashing and athletic young man whose charm... was liable to sudden dissipation by bad temper". He married, 15 August 1843 in the chapel of Hatfield House (Herts), Lady Blanche Mary Harriet (d. 1872), the vigorously intellectual second daughter of James Brownlow William Cecil (later Gascoigne-Cecil) KG, 2nd Marquess of Salisbury, and had issue:
(1) Eleanor Mildred Balfour (1845-1936), born 11 March and baptised at Whittingehame, 10 April 1845; educated at home and with Miss Clough at Newnham, Cambridge; mathematician; managed her brother's London household for some years before her marriage; spiritualist; founder member of Society for Psychical Research, 1882-1936 (editor of journal, 1888-97; secretary, 1907-32; president, 1908-09); Treasurer of Association for Promotion of Higher Education for Women (later Newnham College, Cambridge), 1878-1920 and Principal of Newnham College, 1892-1910; worked with her brother-in-law, Prof. Lord Rayleigh at the Cavendish Laboratory on standards of measurement; received honorary degrees from Manchester (LittD), Birmingham, St. Andrews and Edinburgh Univs. (LLD); married, 4 April 1876, Prof. Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900), Professor of Moral Philosophy at Cambridge, but had no issue; died 10 February 1936 and was buried at Terling (Essex); will proved 2 April 1936 (estate £15,363);
(2) Evelyn Georgiana Mary Balfour (1846-1934), born in London, 4 May 1846; married, 19 July 1871, Rt Hon. John William Strutt OM PC (1842-1919), 3rd Baron Rayleigh of Terling Place (Essex), scientist, and had issue four sons; died 7 April 1934 and was buried at Terling; will proved 25 May 1934 (estate £12,502);
(3) Arthur James Balfour (1848-1930), 1st Earl of Balfour (q.v.);
(4) Cecil Charles Balfour (1849-81), born 22 October 1849; educated at Magdalen College, Oxford (matriculated 1868; BA and MA 1878); an officer in the East Lothian Rifle Corps (Lt., 1869; resigned 1872); partner in MacTaggart, Tidman & Co., of London, merchants, based in New South Wales (Australia); died unmarried at Henriendi, New South Wales, following a fall from his horse, 3 April 1881; will proved in London, 25 June 1881 (effects £4,456);
(5) Alice Blanche Balfour (1850-1936), born 20 October 1850; a largely self-trained naturalist, entomologist and geneticist; Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, 1916; lived chiefly with her eldest brother at his house in London; author of 1200 miles in a waggon (1895); developed a museum of local and natural history in Whittingehame Tower after 1900; died unmarried, 12 June 1936;
(6) Francis Maitland Balfour (1851-82), born 10 November 1851; educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge (matriculated 1870; BA 1874; MA 1877); he began original scientific work on animal morphology while an undergraduate and rapidly developed a European reputation as a biologist; Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford, 1874-82; Fellow of the Royal Society, 1878 and Royal Medallist, 1881; Professor of Animal Morphology at Cambridge, 1882; awarded an honorary degree by Glasgow University (LLD, 1881); he was a member of the Alpine Club and died unmarried in an accident while attempting the ascent of Mont Blanc in the Alps, 19 July 1882; will proved 23 September 1882 (estate £30,025);
(7) Gerald William Balfour (1853-1945), 2nd Earl of Balfour (q.v.);
(8) Eustace James Anthony Balfour (1854-1911), born 8 June 1854; educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge (matriculated 1873; BA 1877; MA 1884); articled pupil of Basil Champneys, architect; commenced own practice, 1879; in partnership with Thackeray Turner from 1885 (FRIBA); surveyor of the Grosvenor Estate in London; Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and the Zoological Society of London; an officer in the London Scottish Rifle Volunteers (Lt-Col., 1894-1902); his outspokenness on military matters led to his appointment as ADC to King Edward VII and George V, 1903-11; married, 12 May 1879, Lady Frances (d. 1931), daughter of Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll, and had issue two sons (from whom the 5th Earl of Balfour is descended) and three daughters; died 14 February 1911; will proved 8 May 1911 (estate £4,346).
He inherited the Whittinghame House and Strathconan estates from his father in 1845, and was largely responsible for the clearance of the cottage population of Strathconan in 1849-50 (although the process had been begun before he inherited and continued after his death.
He died of tuberculosis, 23 February 1856 at Funchal, Madeira; his regiment erected the Balfour Monument on Traprain Law in his memory; his will was proved in London, 10 June 1856. His widow died 16 May 1872; her will was proved 5 July 1872 (effects under £25,000).

1st Earl of Balfour
Balfour, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur James (1848-1930) KG OM, 1st Earl of Balfour. Eldest son of James Maitland Balfour (1820-56) and his wife Lady Blanche Mary Harriet, the vigorously intellectual second daughter of James Brownlow William Cecil (later Gascoigne-Cecil) KG, 2nd Marquess of Salisbury, born at Whittingehame, 25 July 1848. Educated at Hoddesdon Grange Prep School, Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge (admitted 1866; BA 1869; MA 1873). His schooling was handicapped by short-sightedness, and perhaps on this account he was regarded as indolent and not a great reader, but to have 'a wonderful capacity for picking the brains of other people'; only at Cambridge, where he began to wear glasses, did his performance improve. His family circle was always a centre of intellectual and philosophical debate, and as his sisters married the circle was enriched by the scientists Henry Sidgwick and Lord Rayleigh. He showed a strong predilection for philosophy and science, and became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1888: his distinctive contribution was his attempt to defend the intellectual respectability of theism in a scientific world, which was expressed in A defence of philosophic doubt (1879; 2nd edn., 1920), The Foundations of Belief (1895; 8th edn, 1901) and Theism and Humanism (1915). He was a leading member - arguably the central figure - in the artistic and political aristocratic coterie known as 'The Souls'. Although for a time he became a fairly close friend of William Gladstone, his entry into politics came at the instigation of his uncle Lord Salisbury, who exerted a strong influence in the Hertford constituency. With Salisbury's endorsement, he was elected unopposed as Conservative MP for Hertford, 1874-86, and went on to represent East Manchester, 1885-1906 and the City of London, 1906-22. He took some years to make an impression in the house, but he joined the government as President of the Local Government Board, 1885-86 and thereafter his rise was rapid. He was made a Privy Councillor in 1885 and appointed Secretary of State for Scotland, 1886-87; Chief Secretary for Ireland, 1887-91 (a role in which his resolute opposition to Home Rule was made more effective by leavening coercion with intelligent palliative measures); First Lord of the Treasury and Leader of the House of Commons, 1891-92, 1895-1902; and Prime Minster, 1902-05. Although the cut and thrust of party politics was stressful and often left him exhausted, it seldom affected his ability to inspire others: "there is a freshness, a serenity, almost a buoyancy about him which is as attractive as it is inspiring', one said. His greatest achievement as Prime Minister was probably the passing of the Education Act of 1902. However, his Cabinet was never harmonious and fell apart over the issue of tariff reform, and this was followed by a crushing electoral defeat for the Conservatives. He remained Leader of the Opposition, 1906-11, but was singularly ineffective in resisting Lloyd George's great reforming budgets or the removal of the House of Lords' ultimate power of veto, and he was eventually obliged to resign. His political career might then well have been over, but his expertise on defence matters ensured that he joined Asquith's war cabinet as First Lord of the Admiralty, 1915-16. He played a key role in resolving the crisis over the leadership of the government in 1916 and, for once prioritising the national over party interest, supported the succession of Lloyd George to the premiership. He was moved to the office of Foreign Secretary outside the war cabinet, and served there, 1916-19. It was in this role that he made what was arguably his most historically significant contribution to politics in the form of the 'Balfour Declaration' of 1917 that the British government favoured 'the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people' on the clear understanding that there should be no disadvantage to 'the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country'. In 1919 he exchanged offices with Lord Curzon, becoming Lord President of the Council, 1919-22, a role in which he chaired the British delegation to the League of Nations, and although after the collapse of Lloyd-George's coalition he was out office for some years, he served again as Lord President, 1925-29. By then, however, his health had failed, and he left office for the last time in May 1929. He was an Elder Brother of Trinity House; a strangely inactive President of the British Academy, 1921-27, and served as DL and JP for East Lothian. He became Rector of St. Andrews University, 1886 and Glasgow University, 1890; was Chancellor of Edinburgh University, 1891-1930 and Cambridge University, 1919-30, and had honorary doctorates from 18 British and foreign universities. He was awarded the Order of Merit, 1916, made a Knight of the Garter on his retirement from the House of Commons and raised to the peerage as Earl of Balfour and Viscount Traprain of Whittingehame, 5 May 1922, with special remainder to his younger brothers and their issue. Throughout his life he played tennis (real tennis at Cambridge and later lawn tennis) and golf (winning the Parliamentary Handicap in 1894, 1897 and 1910); he was Capt. of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, St. Andrews, in 1894. He also shared his younger brother's interest in psychical research, and was President of the Society for Psychical Resarch in 1894. His personal finances were initially very strong, but already by 1894 his expenditure was exceeding his income by £2,000 a year, and an unwise investment in two ventures to make industrial fuel from processed peat left him in debt for the rest of his life. As a young man, he hoped to marry the Hon. May Lyttelton (1850-75), and he was devastated by her death from typhoid, remaining unmarried and apparently celibate thereafter.
He inherited the Whittinghame House and Strathconan estates from his father in 1856 and came of age in 1869. In 1870 he bought a town house in Carlton Gardens, London. He let Strathconan in 1885 and sold it in c.1890.
He died at his brother's house, Fisher's Hill, on 19 March 1930, and was buried at Whittingehame; his will was confirmed 25 August 1930 (estate £76,433) and sealed in London, 11 September 1930.

Gerald Balfour, 2nd Earl of Balfour,
by G.F. Watts
Balfour, Rt. Hon. Gerald William (1853-1945), 2nd Earl of Balfour. Fourth son of James Maitland Balfour (1820-56) and his wife Lady Blanche Mary Harriet, second daughter of James Brownlow William Cecil (later Gascoigne-Cecil) KG, 2nd Marquess of Salisbury, born 9 April 1853. Educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge (matriculated 1871; MA), where his striking intelligence and personality secured his election to the Conversazione Society ('The Apostles'). Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge and lecturer in classics, 1878-81, but finding himself drawn to philosophy, he moved to the Villa Caponi, Florence (Italy), where he lived for several years working on a 'system of ultimate categories of thought' which he never brought to fruition. He was elected Conservative MP for Leeds Central, 1885-1906, and after serving as private secretary to his elder brother, 1885-86 and spending several years on the back benches, he was in government as Chief Secretary for Ireland, 1895-1900 (where he pursued progressive policies for land reform and economic development) and President of the Board of Trade, 1900-05; he was admitted to the Privy Council of Ireland, 1895 and of the UK, 1900. After leaving Parliament he served as Chairman of the Royal Commission on Lighthouse administration, 1906-08 and of the Cambridge Committee of the Royal Commission on Oxford and Cambridge Universities (for which he was awarded an honorary degree of LLD by the University). He succeeded his elder brother as 2nd Earl of Balfour by special remainder, 19 March 1930. After leaving parliament in 1906, however, he devoted much of his time and energy to psychical research, where his main contribution was the collation and interpretation of over 3,000 examples of 'automatic writing'; he had been member of the Society for Psychical Research since 1883 and was its President, 1906-07. On first acquaintance he could appear aloof and humourless, but he inspired devoted affection in those who knew him well. His tall spare frame and classic good looks persisted throughout his life, and he was a distinguished figure even in old age. Like his elder brother, he invested unwisely in a venture to make industrial fuel from peat before the First World War, and this left his finances in a precarious state for the rest of his life. He married, 21 December 1887, Lady Elizabeth Edith (k/a Betty) (1867-1942), eldest daughter of  Edward Robert Lytton (later Bulwer-Lytton), 2nd Baron & later 1st Earl of Lytton, and had issue:
(1) Lady Ruth Balfour (1889-1967), born 23 June 1889; educated at Newnham College, Cambridge and London School of Medicine for Women (MB, BS); physician (MRCS; LRCP); chairman of Scottish Women's Voluntary Service, 1939-46; appointed CBE, 1941; member of Scottish Savings Committee, 1939-67 and Glenrothes New Town Development Corporation, 1948-67; an amateur artist of considerable ability; married, 26 December 1914, her distant cousin Brig. Edward William Sturgis Balfour of Balbirnie (Fife), and had issue two sons and two daughters [for details of whom see Balfour of Balbirnie]; died 30 August 1967;
(2) Lady Eleanor Balfour (1890-1980), born 2 November 1890; married, 7 December 1917, Hon. Galbraith Lowry Egerton Cole (1881-1929) of Kekopey Ranch (Kenya), third son of Lowry Egerton Cole, 4th Earl of Enniskillen KP, and had issue two sons; author of Random Recollections of a Pioneer Kenyan Settler (1975); died in Kenya, 1980;
(3) Lady Mary Edith Balfour (1894-1980), born 21 January 1894; farmed at Haughley with her sister Eve in the 1920s and later at Mill House, Rotherfield (Sussex); retired to Whittingehame estate where she died unmarried, 1980;
(4) Lady Evelyn Barbara Balfour (1898-1990), born in Dublin, 16 July 1898; educated privately and at Reading University (admitted 1915; Cert. Ag., 1918); pioneer organic farmer at Haughley and Theberton (Suffk) from 1919-70; author of The Living Soil (1943; 2nd edn. 1975); co-founder and President of Soil Association, 1946-84; appointed OBE, 1989; in the 1920s she played saxophone in a dance band and wrote three detective novels (as Hearnden Balfour), and in 1931 she gained a private pilot's licence; she died unmarried, 14 January 1990; will proved 25 April 1990 (effects under £100,000);
(5) Robert Arthur Lytton Balfour (1902-68), 3rd Earl of Balfour (q.v.);
(6) Lady Kathleen Constance Blanche Balfour (1912-96), born 1912; educated at Newnham College, Cambridge (BA 1934; MA 1949); married, 23 August 1933, Prof. Richard Charles Oldfield (1909-72), son of Sir Francis Du Pré Oldfield, and had issue two daughters; died 20 August 1996.
He also seems to have had a long-term affair with Mrs. Winifred Coombe-Tennant (1874-1956), who was one of the mediums (known as 'Mrs Willett') with whom he worked in his psychical research. The affair, which was apparently accepted at some level by both their spouses, may have resulted in the conception of a child (Henry Coombe-Tennant (1913-98)), who they evidently believed would be engineered from beyond the grave to 'deliver humanity from chaos', but although he had a remarkable life, it fell rather short of this Messianic billing.
After 1901, he lived at Fisher's Hill House, Hook Heath, Woking (Surrey), a house which was built for him by Sir Edwin Lutyens. After his wife's death, however, he moved to a cottage on the Whittingehame estate.
He died aged 91, on 14 January 1945; his will was proved 22 May 1945 (estate £23,369). His wife died 28 March 1942; her will was proved 9 June 1942 (estate £4,899).

3rd Earl of Balfour.
Image: Nat. Portrait Gallery
Balfour, Robert Arthur Lytton (1902-68), 3rd Earl of Balfour. Only son of  Gerald William Balfour (1853-1945), 2nd Earl of Balfour, and his wife Lady Elizabeth Edith, eldest daughter of Edward Robert Lytton (later Bulwer-Lytton), 2nd Baron & 1st Earl of Lytton, born 31 December 1902. Educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. He was profoundly dyslexic, and failed to be accepted for the Royal Navy because he misspelt his first name and surname on the application form. He was a keen yachtsman and served in the Second World War as an officer in Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (Lt.). He succeeded his father as 3rd Earl of Balfour, 14 January 1945. Chairman and Managing Director of Bruntons (Musselburgh) Ltd, 1957-68; director of National Coal Board (Scotland), 1946-63 (Chairman, 1946-51) and of Scottish Gas Board, 1958-65. Vice-Convenor of East Lothian County Council, 1937-38; Chairman of Scottish Special Housing Assoc., 1938-44; Grand Master Mason of Scotland, 1939-42; Chairman of Royal Commission on Scottish Affairs, 1946-51; Regional Controller (Scotland), Ministry of Fuel & Power, 1942-46; National Governor (Scotland) of BBC, 1956-60. He married, 12 February 1925, Jean Lily West Roundel (1900-81), fourth daughter of Canon John James Cooke-Yarborough, vicar of Christchurch (Hants), and had issue:
(1) Gerald Arthur James Balfour (1925-2003), 4th Earl of Balfour (q.v.);
(2) Lady Evelyn Jane Blanche Balfour (1929-2011) (q.v.);
(3) Lady Alison Emily Balfour (b. 1934) of Widworthy (Devon), born 16 November 1934; educated at Edinburgh University; married, 8 May 1963, Thomas Kremer (d. 2015), a Jewish survivor of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, son of Bernard Kremer of Clüj (Hungary), and had issue one son and two daughters;
(4) Andrew Maitland Balfour (1936-48), born 16 September 1936; died following a shooting accident while cleaning sporting guns, 27 April 1948.
He inherited the Whittinghame estate from his uncle, the 1st Earl, in 1930, but was obliged to move out of the house in 1935 and sell most of the contents to pay death duties. He moved to Redcliff on the Whittingehame estate, and then after he sold the main house in 1963 he restored Whittinghame Tower as the new centre of the estate.
He died 27 November 1968. His widow died in 1981.

Balfour, Gerald Arthur James (1925-2003), 4th Earl of Balfour. Only surviving son of Robert Arthur Lytton Balfour (1902-68), 3rd Earl of Balfour, and his wife Jean Lily West Roundel, fourth daughter of Canon John James Cooke-Yarborough, born 23 December 1925. Educated at Eton and HMS Conway. Like his father, he was profoundly dyslexic, and he became an able seaman in the merchant navy, 1944-54, eventually gaining his Master Mariner's certificate. He retired from the sea and took up farming at Whittinghame from 1959. He was a member of East Lothian County Council, 1960-74, JP for East Lothian from 1970, and a liveryman of the the Worshipful Company of Clothmakers. He succeeded his father as 4th Earl, 27 November 1968, and took his seat in the House of Lords, where he became the bane of parliamentary draughtsmen, since his dyslexia led him to scrutinise each Bill with great care and objectivity, detecting mistakes that skilled proofreaders had missed. He also devoted increasing time to public debate, both in the Lords and as an assiduous correspondent of the Daily Telegraph. He married, 14 December 1956, Natasha Georgina (c.1914-94), daughter of Capt. Georgiy Antonovsky of Archangel and formerly wife of John C. Lousada, but had no issue.
He inherited the Whittingehame estate (now 1,907 acres) from his father in 1968, and moved to Whittinghame Tower after the death of his mother in 1981.
He died 27 June, and was buried at Whittingehame, 2 July 2003. His wife died 22 September 1994.

Balfour, Lady Evelyn Jean Blanche (1929-2011). Elder daughter of Robert Arthur Lytton Balfour (1902-68), 3rd Earl of Balfour, and his wife Jean Lily West Roundel, fourth daughter of Canon John James Cooke-Yarborough, born 22 March 1929. She married, 11 December 1948 at Whittingehame, Michael William Brander (1924-2011), author, biographer and historian, second son of Francis Robert Brander of Edinburgh, secretary to an insurance company, and had issue: 
(1) (Andrew) Michael Brander (b. 1949) (q.v.);
(2) Kathleen Jean Brander (1950-2017), born 12 September 1950; married, 1976, Ian Harold Lockhart McCall (b. 1949), farmer at Henderston Farm, Newtyle (Angus), and had issue two sons; died 4 February 2017;
(3) (Evelyn) Ann Brander (b. 1952), born 9 June 1952.
She lived on the Whittingehame estate.
She died in Edinburgh, 14 January 2011. Her husband died 14 November 2011.

Brander, (Andrew) Michael (b. 1949). Only son of Michael William Brander (1924-2011) and his wife Lady Evelyn Jean Blanche, elder daughter of Robert Arthur Lytton Balfour, 3rd Earl of Balfour, born 27 June 1949. Educated at St. John's College, Cambridge. Landowner, solicitor and company director. He married, 1988, Donna Kaye Spielman (b. 1947), clinical animal behaviourist, but has no issue.
He inherited Whittingehame Tower and the Whittingehame estate from his uncle, the 4th Earl of Balfour, in 2003, and remodelled the Tower in 2004-11.
Now living.

Balfour family of Balgonie and Newton Don

Charles Balfour (1823-72)
Balfour, Charles (1823-72). Younger son of James Balfour (c.1776-1845) and his wife Lady Eleanor, daughter of James Maitland, 8th Earl of Lauderdale, born 27 August and baptised at Whittingehame, 11 December 1823. An officer in the army and later in the East Lothian Yeomanry Cavalry. He was a Conservative, but took no active part in parliamentary or local politics. DL and JP for Berwickshire. He was a keen sportsman, rode to hounds, shot, fished and was fond of curling, granting a site at Newton Don to the Kelso Curling Club for a curling pond. He was in poor health for several years before his death, and was obliged to live in the south of England for health reasons. He married 1st, 28 November 1860, Hon. Adelaide (1839-62),  fifth daughter of William Keppel Barrington, 6th Viscount Barrington, and 2nd, 13 July 1865, Minnie Georgiana (d. 1927), daughter of Col. the Hon. Augustus F. Liddell, Deputy Ranger of Windsor Forest, and had issue:
(1.1) Charles Barrington Balfour (1862-1921) (q.v.);
(2.1) Julian Eleanor Adelaide Balfour (c.1866-1946), born about 1866; JP and County Alderman for Wiltshire; she married, 20 January 1891, Jacob Pleydell-Bouverie (1868-1930), 6th Earl of Radnor, and had issue five sons and five daughters; died 5 January 1946.
He inherited Balgonie Castle from his father in 1845 and purchased Newton Don in about 1847.
He died at Holly Grove, Windsor (Berks), 5 July 1872, and was buried at Old Windsor; his will was confirmed 23 January 1873. His first wife died 23 February 1862. His widow died 23 November 1927; her will was proved 16 January 1928 (estate £14,004).

Balfour, Charles Barrington (1862-1921). Only son of Charles Balfour (1823-72) and his first wife, the Hon. Adelaide, fifth daughter of William Keppel Barrington, 6th Viscount Barrington, born 20 February 1862. Educated at Eton and Royal Military College, Sandhurst. An officer in Scots Guards, 1881-90 (Lt.) and Royal Guards Reserves, 1900-01 (Capt.), and in the Royal Company of Archers (Brig.); during the First World War he was Chairman of Berwickshire Territorial Forces Association, and he was appointed CB, 1919 for this serviceHe was a Director of Barclays Bank and Scottish Widows Life Fund Insurance Society.  After unsuccessfully contesting Roxburghshire, Berwickshire and Southport, he was eventually elected Conservative MP for Hornsey, 1900-07. JP and DL for Roxburghshire and Berwickshire; a member of Berwickshire County Council; Lord Lieutenant of Berwickshire, 1917-21As a young man he travelled extensively in Australia and New Zealand, and he was a keen sportsman, with hunting, deer stalking and salmon fishing among his favourite activities; he was also a keen curler, and maintained a curling pond at Newton Don. He married, 12 April 1888, Lady Helena (k/a Nina) JP (d. 1948), youngest daughter of Mark Kerr (later McDonnell), 5th Earl of Antrim, and had issue:
(1) Charles James Balfour (1889-1939) (q.v.);
(2) Duncan Balfour (1891-1952) (q.v.);
(3) Sir John Balfour (1894-1983), kt., born 26 May 1894; educated at Eton and New College, Oxford (BA 1919); entered the Diplomatic Service, 1919 (First Secretary, 1927; Counsellor, 1940-41; Minister to Portugal, 1941-43, USSR, 1943-45 and USA, 1945-48; Ambassador to Argentina, 1948-51 and Spain, 1951-54; appointed CMG, 1941 and KCMG, 1947; his memoir, Not Too Correct an Aureole: the Recollections of a Diplomat (1983), was published shortly after his death; married, 1 July 1933, Frances Hope Dorothy (1904-99), daughter of Alexander van Millingen DD, but had no issue; died 26 February 1983;
(4) Archibald Balfour (1896-1966), born 26 August 1896; educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford; Private Secretary to successive Ministers of Agriculture, 1915-23; a director of the London & Scottish Insurance Corporation; lived at Combe (Oxon); life partner of Ian Robertson of Worcester College, Oxford, Asst. Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum; died unmarried at Newton Don, 23 June 1966; will proved 5 October 1966 (estate £61,268).
He inherited the Balgonie and Newton Don estates from his father in 1872 and came of age in 1883. The house at Newton Don was let during his minority and until his marriage, and was remodelled afterwards. In 1893 he bought the ancestral Balfour estate (Fife) which was alienated from the family in 1370.
He died 31 August 1921 and was buried at Newton Don; his will was confirmed 26 January 1922 (estate £154,044). His widow died in Chelsea (Middx), 11 January 1948; her will was confirmed in Scotland and sealed in London, 4 May 1948 (estate £32,210).

Balfour, Charles James (1889-1939). Eldest son of Charles Barrington Balfour (1862-1921) and his wife Lady Helena (k/a Nina) JP, youngest daughter of Mark Kerr (later McDonnell), 5th Earl of Antrim, born 8 February and baptised at St Saviour, Chelsea, 22 March 1889. Educated at Eton and Royal Military College, Sandhurst. An officer in Scots Guards (2nd Lt., 1909; Lt., 1910; Capt., 1915; Maj., 1927; retired 1927); during his service in France and Belgium in the First World War he was wounded three times and awarded the French Croix de Guerre; adjutant of Cambridge University Officer Training Corps, 1920-27. Chairman of Balgonie Colliery Co. DL (from 1929), JP (from 1931) and County Councillor (from 1928) for Berwickshire; ARP Controller for Berwickshire, 1938-39; Chairman of Kelso Cottage Hospital, 1935-39. He did much to enhance the gardens and grounds of Newton Don and was a Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society. He married, 10 January 1917 at St Paul, Knightsbridge (Middx), Hon. Aurea Vera (1891-1975), second daughter of Francis Denzel Edward Baring, 5th Baron Ashburton, but had no issue.
He inherited the Balgonie and Newton Don estates from his father in 1921. At his death his estates passed to his widow for life and then to his nephew, Michael John Balfour (1925-2004) (q.v.). His widow sold Balgonie Castle in 1971.
He died of cancer, 18 August 1939; his will was confirmed in Scotland and sealed in London, 10 February 1940 (estate £163,006). His widow died 26 November 1975.

Balfour, Duncan (1891-1952). Second son of Charles Barrington Balfour (1862-1921) and his wife Lady Helena (Nina) JP, youngest daughter of Mark Kerr (later McDonnell), 5th Earl of Antrim, born 10 April and baptised at St Saviour, Chelsea, 8 May 1891. Educated at Eton and New College, Oxford. Served in First World War as an officer in Lothian & Borders Horse, 1914-15 (Lt.); ADC to Governors of Bengal, 1915-18; with Barclays Bank (local director, 1941-48; national director, 1948-52). He married, 1 November 1924, probably in France, Jeanne Picot (fl. 1955), and had issue:
(1) Michael John Balfour (1925-2004) (q.v.).
He lived at The Old House, Englefield Green (Surrey).
He died 28 September 1952; his will was confirmed in Scotland and sealed in London, 6 February 1953. His widow died after 1955.

Balfour, Michael John (1925-2004). Only son of Duncan Balfour (1891-1952) and his wife Jeanne Picot, born 17 October 1925. Landowner and farmer. He married, 1951, Mary Campbell (1928-2022), daughter of Major-General Sir William Ronald Campbell Penney, KBE, CB, DSO, MC (1896-1964), and had issue:
(1) James David Balfour (1952-74), born 20 June 1952; died 4 May 1974; administration of goods granted 26 June 1974 (estate £3,551);
(2) Emma Justina Balfour (b. 1953), born 5 October 1953; JP; married, Jul-Sep 1982, Dr. Andrew Douglas Garrad (b. 1953), engineer, co-founder of Garrad Hassan Ltd. of Bristol, son of John Douglas Garrad, and had issue one son and three daughters;
(3) William Arthur Balfour (b. 1955) (q.v.);
(4) Andrew Duncan Balfour (b. 1963).
He inherited the Balgonie and Newton Don estates on the death of his aunt in 1975.
He died 13 April 2004. His widow died 18 May 2022.

Balfour, William Arthur (b. 1955). Eldest surviving son of Michael John Balfour (1925-2004) and his wife Mary Campbell Penney, born June 1955. Director of Balgonie Estates Ltd. since 1988 and of Wilarc Ltd (a housing management company). He married, Apr-Jun 1979, Caroline Kirstie Carr (b. 1956) and had issue:
(1) Daniel James Balfour (b. 1985), born November 1985; educated at Rugby and Newcastle University (BA 2009); a director of Balgonie Estates Ltd. since 2004; married, 2012, Serena Rose Delap (b. 1986), daughter of Anthony Foyle of Earlston (Berwicks);
(2) Archibald John Balfour (b. 1987); educated at Rugby and Royal Military College, Sandhurst; an officer in the Royal Corps of Signals (2nd Lt., 2014).
He inherited the Balgonie and Newton Don estates from his father in 2004.
Now living. His wife is now living.


Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 2003, pp. 231-33; L. Weaver, Houses and Gardens by E.L. Lutyens, 1913, pp. 61-63; I. Nairn, Sir N. Pevsner & B. Cherry, The buildings of England: Surrey, 2nd edn., 1971, p. 534; C. McWilliam, The buildings of Scotland: Lothian, 1978, pp. 469-71; J. Gifford, The buildings of Scotland: Fife, 1988, pp. 88-91; P. Harris, Life in a Scottish country house: the story of A. J. Balfour and Whittinghame House, 1989; J.M. Crook, '"The new square style": Robert Smirke's Scottish houses', in I. Gow & A. Rowan, Scottish Country Houses 1600-1914, 1995, pp. 206-16; J. Brown, Lutyens and the Edwardians, 1996, p. 90; K. Cruft, J. Dunbar & R. Fawcett, The buildings of Scotland: Borders, 2006, pp. 593-94; North of Scotland Archaeological Society, reports of project to identify, survey and record archaeological remains in Strathconon, Ross-shire; ODNB articles on the 1st and 2nd Earls.

Location of archives

Balfour family of Balgonie and Newton Don: no significant archive is recorded, but papers are likely to remain with the family.
Balfour family of Whittingehame, Earls of Balfour: deeds and estate papers, 1577-20th cent. [National Records of Scotland, GD433]
Arthur James Balfour, 1st Earl of Balfour: correspondence and papers, 1872-1930 [British Library, Add. MS. 49683-49962; National Records of Scotland, GD433/2; Bodleian Library, Oxford, MSS. Eng. hist. a. 21, c. 713-73]; Foreign Office papers, 1916-22; Irish papers, 1887-91 [National Archives, FO800/199-217; PRO30/60/1-13]
Gerald William Balfour, 2nd Earl of Balfour: political papers, 1895-1906 [The National Archives, PRO30/60]
Brander, Michael William: literary correspondence and papers, 1953-2006 [National Library of Scotland, Acc. 13520]

Coat of arms

Argent, on a chevron engrailed sable, between three mullets sable, three otters' heads of the first.

Notes about missing information and help wanted with this entry

  • If anyone can supply portraits or photographs of people named in bold above for inclusion in this account, I should be very pleased to receive them.
  • Additions or corrections to the account given above will be gratefully received and incorporated.

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 4 November 2018 and was updated 22 December 2018, 31 October 2019, 20 March and 11 July 2020 and 17 July 2022. 


  1. Mary Campbell Penney, the wife of Michael John Balfour, did not die in October 2016. She is still living (Oct 2019)

  2. Mary Campbell Penny died 18 May 2022


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.