Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Castle Balfour

The family of BALFOUR, which derived its name from its patrimony of Balor, or Balfour, in Fife, long enjoyed the hereditary office of Sheriff of that county, in which there were more freeholders of the name than of any other, even so late as the reign of CHARLES II.

Besides many illustrious descendants in the female line, it has been ennobled by two peerages, viz. Balfour of Burleigh, in Scotland, and Balfour of Glenawley, in Ulster.

SIR JAMES BALFOUR, Lord Pittendreich (c1525-83), a distinguished protagonist in the turbulent times of the unhappy MARY, Queen of Scots, and her son, JAMES V, King of Scotland, married Margaret, daughter and heiress of Michael Balfour, of Burleigh, and had, with three daughters, six sons,
JAMES, of whom we treat;
Alexander, of Balgarvie;
Henry (Sir), a general in the army of the States of Holland;
Sir James's second son,

SIR JAMES BALFOUR, Knight (c1567-1634), having risen high in favour with JAMES I, was created by that monarch, in 1619, BARON BALFOUR OF GLENAWLEY, County Fermanagh.

His lordship married firstly, his cousin, Grizel, daughter of Patrick Balfour, and had issue,
JAMES, his successor;
ALEXANDER, succeeded his brother as 3rd Baron;
Pearce, died young;
Anna, m Archibald, son of Most Rev Malcolm Hamilton, Archbishop of Cashel.
He wedded secondly, after 1599, the Lady Margaret Leslie, daughter of George, 7th Earl of Erroll; and thirdly, Anne, eldest daughter of Edward, 1st Baron Blayney.

He died in London and was buried at St Ann Blackfriars.

His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

JAMES, 2nd Baron, who married Anne Warren, though dsp in 1635, when the family honours devolved upon his brother,

ALEXANDER, 3rd Baron, who dsp 1636, when the title expired.

His lordship's nephew,

GENERAL SIR WILLIAM BALFOUR (c1578-1660), of Pitcullo, Fife, Governor of the Tower of London under CHARLES I, subsequently settled in Ulster on the purchase of an estate in County Fermanagh from his uncle, the 1st Baron.

He married firstly, Helen, daughter of Archibald, Lord Napier, and had issue,
Emilia; Isabella; Susanna.
General Balfour was succeeded by his youngest son,

CHARLES BALFOUR, of Castle Balfour, Lisnaskea, County Fermanagh, who wedded, in 1665, Cicely, daughter and heir of Sir Robert Byron, of Colwick, Nottinghamshire, and had issue,
WILLIAM, his heir;
LUCY, succeeded her brother;
Another daughter.
Mr Balfour died in 1713, and was succeeded by his only son,

WILLIAM BALFOUR, of Castle Balfour, attainted by JAMES II, 1689; who died unmarried, 1738, when the estates devolved upon his sister,

LUCY BALFOUR, who espoused firstly, in 1684, Hugh McGill, of Kirkistown, County Down; and secondly, in 1692, Blayney Townley, of Piedmont, County Louth, and by him had, with other issue,
HARRY, succeeded his uncle;
HARRY TOWNLEY (1693-1741), of Piedmont, County Louth, nephew of the aforesaid William Balfour, assumed the name of BALFOUR under the will of his uncle, and succeeded to his estates in County Fermanagh (afterwards sold to Lord Erne).

LISNASKEA is County Fermanagh's second town and has a population of about 2,800.

Its long, main street has a market-place in the middle with an ancient, monastic high cross.

The old market-house, butter and corn markets were built in the early 19th century.

The former workhouse, a stone building of considerable size, is now derelict and in its garden there used to be a massive iron cauldron which could hold 300 gallons of gruel.

CASTLE BALFOUR formed the nucleus of the town.

It stands beside the parish church, in the graveyard.

The Castle was built with local stone ca 1618 by Sir James Balfour.

 Sandstone was used for the quoins and dressings.

The main block consists of a rectangular block, 78 feet by 24 feet, with a large wing projecting to the east and west, comprising two L-shaped units.

The northern block has three storeys with attics.

The kitchen is vaulted, with a fireplace and oven.

Corbelled turrets and gun-slits are a feature.

During the Irish Rebellion of 1641, Castle Balfour and the village were burnt but later reoccupied.

In 1689, the Castle was again badly damaged by the Jacobite armies but was repaired after the Williamite victory at Limerick.

About 1780, Castle Balfour was sold to the 1st Earl of Erne, and the Balfours subsequently left County Fermanagh.

The last person to inhabit the Castle was James Haire (1737-1833), of Nutfield, who leased the Castle from Lord Erne.

James Haire and his family ceased to occupy the castle after it was destroyed by an arson-based fire in 1803 (his mother, Phoebe, was killed in the rubble caused by the fire).

Thereafter the Castle remained ruinous, until it was placed in state care by the 6th Earl of Erne in 1960.

Major conservation work was carried out between 1966-68 and again during the late 1990s.

First published in July, 2017.  Balfour arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

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