Richard Crichton, 1815 17, completed by R & R Dickson; incorporating earlier (1777 82) fabric probably by James Nisbet (see Notes) and possibly 17th century fabric 2 storey 11 bay classical house; altered 1843; courtyard extension 1860, probably by David Bryce. 1889 1914 alterations by James Gillespie and Scott, converted to hotel 1989. Plasterwork by Anderson and Ramage of Edinburgh. 2 storey with vaulted basement and attic, 11 bay (grouped 3 1 3 1 3), piended, Greek revival house with lower 2 storey courtyard to rear; Ashlar (droved and polished) with base course, string course and cavetto eaves cornice with deep, corniced blocking course; segmental and round headed openings, voussoirs, stop chamfered arrises to corbelled window, stone mullions.
SW (PRINCIPAL) ELEVATION: symmetrical with 5 bay centrepiece.
3 slightly recessed bays at centre with deep set segmental headed windows at basement level, windows at ground and 1st floor behind screen of free standing Ionic columns, further windows in attic; outer bays of centrepiece advanced and flanked by paired Ionic pilasters each with small window at basement level, flight of steps (flanked by narrow windows) oversailing basement leading to 2 leaf, part glazed timber door with 2 pane fanlight and flanking lights in segmental headed, tripartite doorway (altered) with voussoirs, and tripartite window at 1st floor; attic with voussoired, tripartite lunettes and flanking plain pilasters. 3 regular bays without attic to outer right and left, except right basement with steps down to 2 leaf, part glazed timber door at centre.
SE (ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: symmetrical: 2 storey with basement, 5 bay. Flight of 5 steps (across 3 slightly advanced centre bays) with flanking dwarf walls oversailing basement (now blocked with timber door to NE) and leading to tetrastyle, mutuled, pedimented Ionic portico. Deep set, 2 leaf, part glazed timber door with decorative astragalled fanlight at centre in architraved doorcase with attenuated scroll brackets and cornice, windows in flanking bays and regular fenestration at 1st floor, all flanked by Ionic pilasters. Outer bays with windows to basement (that to left blocked) and to ground and 1st floors.
NW ELEVATION: irregular bays with variety of elements including
3 blinded windows to right in slightly recessed bay, 4 windows to left, and basement.
NE ELEVATION: advanced bay to right with centre door to basement, window to centre and right at ground (latter blind), lower offices adjoining to left and 3 regular windows at 1st floor (that to right blind). Advanced bay to left with steps down to basement door to left and window to right, 2 windows to each floor above, lower offices adjoining to outer right; return to right with blinded window to left and bipartite window to right, all over lower offices concealing basement and ground floor to remainder of this elevation. 1st floor of recessed block at centre comprising 5 irregular bays with bipartite window to left, 3 windows beyond to right each over radial astragalled lunette, and tall, tripartite, round headed, radial astragalled stair window to outer right. Shouldered wallhead stack with small window and flanking coped pilasters over bay 3 and small 2 part dormer windows over bays 2, 4 and 5.
COURTYARD OFFICES: U plan, forming courtyard to rear of mansion, low
NE (ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: slightly advanced, wide, segmental headed, open pedimented pend entrance at centre with tripartite window and clock above, surmounted by corniced, stone bellcote with bell, ball finial and weathervane; 2 bays to left of centre with windows at ground and dormerheaded windows breaking eaves; bays to right with balustraded flat roofed porch (door to E, 2 small windows to N) in re entrant angle, scale and platt stair from right to smaller 1st floor porch (door to E, window to N) also in re entrant angle, dormerheaded window to left, advanced gables to outer right and left with window to both floors.
SW ELEVATION: (courtyard interior) open pedimented cart arch with bipartite window and clock, 3 windows to right at ground, small window at 1st floor; segmental headed window (altered) to left of centre, window to outer left and small window above. Variety of elements to remaining faces of courtyard interior with projecting 1st floor timber enclosed balcony on cast iron columns.
NW ELEVATION: variety of elements with corbelled, canted oriel breaking eaves in bay to right of centre (see Notes), bipartite window in gablehead breaking eaves to left of centre.
NE ELEVATION: 4 windows at ground, 3 above.
4, 8, 12 pane and plate glass glazing patterns in timber sash and case windows. Grey slates. Coped ashlar stacks with full complement of decorative polygonal cans; ashlar coped skews. Cast iron downpipes with decorative rainwater hoppers.
INTERIOR: vestibule screen to hall part glazed with door and flanking columns; hall with black slate? fireplace; panelled dog leg staircase with brass balusters and timber handrail over vestibule. Door to long gallery (68? long x 15? wide) with 4 shallow domes with narrow dividing coffers and bands of plaster guilloche, stucco roundels with putti, and plain pilasters; 3 lunettes with sunburst astragals, panelled timber doors with brass door furniture, grey marble fireplace. Stair hall (beyond gallery) with centre stone stair, plain brass balusters and timber handrail, cut stone bridge (flying stair/Imperial stair?) to platt where stair divides leading to colonnaded Ionic screen at 1st floor: decorative cast iron radiator at ground. Library (off gallery) with pendentive ceiling, trompe l?oeil door, corniced bookcases with paterae frieze, wrought iron lamp brackets and black marble fireplace; aediculed doorcases with 2 leaf folding doors and panelled soffits to dining room (former drawing room) with decorative ceiling rose, and carved fireplace, and drawing room (former billiard room) with black marble fireplace. Garden room (original entrance and later boudoir) to W with marble fireplace (see Notes) with decorative slips and closet housing height/signatures of family and famous visitors. East room with panelled dado, black marble fireplace and Greek key with egg and dart cornice. 1st floor and attic bedrooms with variety of timber and cast iron fireplaces with decorative tile slips. Original vaulted kitchen with cast iron range now Gamekeeper?s Inn.
Decorative plasterwork, architraved doorcases, dado panelling and rails, panelled shutters.
SUNDIAL: ashlar block sundial (re sited) with square plinth and polygonal shaft below chamfered dial (gnomon missing) and ball finial.
GARDEN SEAT: Italianate stone garden seat, U plan with scrolled arms and coped ashlar back, incorporated into wall (see below).
BOUNDARY WALL, GATEPIER AND GATE: coped ashlar boundary wall and gatepier with remains of decorative cast iron finial to NW of formal garden. Low, corniced ashlar wall with base course and dividing piers, extending to Italianate garden seat (see above) to SE of formal garden. Decorative, 2 leaf wrought iron gate.
Statement of Special Interest
The NSA describes Balbirnie as a "complete and elegant residence", with a park of over 200 acres, and built entirely from "materials...drawn from freestone quarries on the estate". George Balfour acquired Balbirnie in 1642, the present house was built for John Balfour (his successor), and his son General Robert Balfour (1762 1837), replacing
a 17th century house demolished for ?1 13s: but according to Cunningham "the older part dates back at least 300 years". The SW front is thought to be the work of James Nisbet, architect and plasterer from Kelso who had supervised work in Edinburgh for the Adams brothers, however, Gifford attributes it to John Baxter Junior. The new house had cost ?2,563 11s 8d by December 1782; with James Kay the mason and David Wilkieson the wright. The 1777 house consisted of the first
7 bays of SW elevation. Richard Crichton?s changes were begun in 1815 under Robert Balfour (his brother James owned Whittinghame in East Lothian and there is said to have been considerable rivalry in their rebuilding efforts) at a cost of more than ?16,000; James Barclay was the mason. Alterations included extending the SW front by 4 bays, adding the SE portico with flanking rooms, long gallery and rebuilding the staircase. In 1843 John Balfour and his wife Lady Georgina Campbell "installed a pretty Victorian fireplace in Lady Georgina?s boudoir, worked in pink and ochre marble with floral panels of foxgloves, roses and tulips" (Rowan). 1860 alterations to offices at the house may have been the work of David Bryce, extended courtyard and new smoking room with corbelled oriel window. Balbirnie remained in the Balfour family until 1969 when it was acquired by the Glenrothes Development Corporation and subsequently sold to the present owner for the sum of ?1,000. Converted to a 30 bedroom hotel with minimum alterations including new kitchen and internal stair to the Gamekeeper?s Inn, the hotel was opened in February 1990 by the Rt Hon Malcolm Rifkind.
In 1779 Robert Robertson provided landscape designs which were generally implemented but improved by Thomas White (1817 designs) a pupil of Capability Brown. The Italianate garden seat formerly overlooked a sunken garden and sundial, and in 1901 James Gillespie
and Scott altered the formal garden to include a parterre and quadrant walls.
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