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Balfour House

Country House (19th Century)

Site Name Balfour House

Classification Country House (19th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Balfour Castle

Canmore ID 31391

Site Number NO30SW 5

NGR NO 3240 0025

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Fife
  • Parish Markinch
  • Former Region Fife
  • Former District Kirkcaldy
  • Former County Fife

Archaeology Notes

NO30SW 5.00 3240 0025

NO30SW 5.01 32203 00286 Walled Garden with Garden House

(NO 3240 0025) Balfour (NR)

OS 6" map (1938)

Balfour - This mansion has been developed from a late 16th century house with an extension a century later. The latter lies to the south, the old house being the east end of the mansion. It is L-shaped on plan, the main block facing south and the wing projecting north in line with the old west gable.


The building is now a roofless ruin, rising in places to a height of approximately 10.0m. The late 16th century original structure is clearly visible, as delineated; it is of random rubble masonry.

Visited by OS (JFC) 4 October 1954

Parts of the walls of this ruin, have fallen and the whole building is becoming overgrown with vegetation.

Visited by OS Reviser (J Skinner) 4 December 1959

Architecture Notes

NO30SW 5.00 3240 0025


ARCHITECT: David Bryce, 1853 (additions).


Field Visit (7 June 1927)


The mansion of Balfour lies nearly two miles south-east of Markinch. It has been developed from a late 16th-century house with an extension of a century later. The latter lies to the south, the old house being the eastern end of the mansion. It is L-shaped on plan, the main block facing south and the wing projecting northward in alignment with the old west gable. The wing contains a newel stair serving all three floors. The lowest flight has been altered in the 17th century. The original entrance lay not in the re-entrant angle but in the west wall of the wing, and was built up when the newel stair, which now crosses it, was altered. The ground floor of the main block contains a single vaulted chamber, measuring 17 by 30 feet within walls 6 ½ and 5 ¾ feet thick. There is a large kitchen fireplace in the west gable. The floors above are modernised.

The 17th-century extension, which is of the same width as the original main block, has been built out on the west. Its ground floor is modernised. On the first floor is the dining room, a handsome chamber having a finely modelled plaster frieze and ceiling which includes in its detail casts representing Alexander and David. The walls are panelled in oak, eked out in pine in the 16th-century fashion, and the oak panels have obviously been removed from elsewhere, probably from the original hall which was once en suite with this chamber. The fireplace* in the west gable has shafted jambs, and on the lintel is a cartouche parted per pale: dexter, Quarterly, 1st and 4th a fess between three mascles; 2nd and 3rd, on a chevron a boar's head erased, for Bethune or Betoun of Balfour; and sinister, three men's heads (maybe 'blackamoors ') erased.

Behind the dining-room is a with drawing room, panelled with oak in the late 17th-century fashion. The fireplace has the bolection-moulding of the time, and the panelling above is arranged in a carved oak surround.

The upper floor of the extension has been modernised, but one bedroom above the dining room has a coved ceiling with moulded ribs, at the point of junction of which is a cast representing Alexander the Great and enclosed by fleurs-de-lis.

The outside of the house has been completely modernised, the windows having been enlarged and the rubble masonry harled. The southern turrets are probably contemporaneous with the 16th- and 17th-century buildings to which they are attached, but they have been extensively repaired.

HISTORICAL NOTE. - The estate of Balfour originally belonged to a family which took from it their surname. But about the last quarter of the 14th century it came by marriage to a Bethune or Betoun or Beaton. In 1507 the lands of Balfour with others were confirmed to "John Betoun of Balfoure" and erected into a barony (1). Archbishop James Beaton of St. Andrews, his nephew Cardinal David Beaton, and the Cardinal's nephew, James Beaton, Archbishop of Glasgow, were all of this family. The estate was sold by a Bethune to Charles B. Balfour of Balgonie in the late 19th century (2).

RCAHMS 1933, visited 7 June 1927.

(1) Reg. Mag. Sig., s.a., No. 3117. (2) Millar's Fife, ii, p. 71.

*From above this fireplace came the carved oak panels at present (1931) on loan in the Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh. It is not known from what part of the house the oak panel now preserved in Balgonie Castle came. All were originally in Arbroath Abbey.


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