Basic Biographical Details

Name: Colonel Eustace James Anthony Balfour
Designation: Architect
Born: 8 June 1854
Died: 15 February 1911
Bio Notes: Eustace James Anthony Balfour was born at Whittinghame on 8 June 1854, the youngest of the five six-foot tall sons of James Maitland Balfour of Whittinghame and his wife, Lady Blanche Geal, second daughter of the 2nd Marquess of Salisbury and sister of the 3rd Marquess and future Prime Minister. The Balfours were extremely well-off. James Maitland Balfour’s father, James Balfour, had amassed some £300,000 for victualling the navy in India and had returned to Scotland in 1812, buying the Whittinghame estate in 1817. The Indian business continued in the hands of managers and by mid-century the family fortune had grown to some £3m.

Balfour’s father died on tuberculosis in Madeira in February 1856 when Eustace was only nineteen months old. The family returned to Whittinghame and the children were brought up by their formidably intellectual mother until she too died in May 1872. Arthur James and Gerald William were sent to Eton and Francis Maitland and Eustace to Harrow, but all four went to Trinity College, Cambridge where Eustace graduated in 1877.

While at Trinity, Balfour acquired architectural and antiquarian interests, joining the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings of which he soon became Honorary Secretary. Thereafter he embarked on a two-year studentship rather than an articled pupillage with Basil Champneys, architect of Newnham College, Cambridge, of which Balfour’s philosopher brother-in-law Professor Henry Sidgwick was effectively the founder and his sister Eleanor Mildred was to be principal. Like the Balfours, Sidgwick and Champneys had been to Trinity and remained closely associated with it.

Early in 1879 Balfour set up house and office at 32 Addison Road, North Kensington, an 1840s house which was to remain his home for the rest of his life. Champneys remained a friend and probably provided help and advice for the first few years. In May of the same year, 1879, he married the artistic but somewhat mercurial Lady Francis Campbell, born 22 February 1858, fifth daughter of the 8th Duke of Argyll, whom, he had met at balls given by Lady Goschen and lady Salisbury in the previous year, at least partly as neither could dance. Although red-haired and extremely good-looking Lady Frances had a congenital dislocation of the hip which resulted in her right leg being shorted than her left, requiring a built-up shoe. At Addition Road they quickly built up an artistic circle of friends which included Burne-Jones and Sir Arthur Mitchell and their families, but whether it was with Champneys and Balfour that Sydney Mitchell gained London experience is still a matter of conjecture.

Balfour’s marriage brought about a direct connection with the royal family as Frances’s sister-in-law was HRH Princess Louise, Marchioness of Lorne. It also brought close family links with the Dukes of Sutherland, Northumberland and Westminster. In the first years the practice was all relatively small-scale work for family and friends, the completion of the restoration of Inveraray Castle for his father-in-law after the illness of Anthony Salvin junior forced the elder Salvin to close his practice, the Inveraray reading-room and coffee house built as a memorial to his mother-in-law, an addition at Strathconan Lodge for his brother, Arthur, and a chapel at Hatfield for his uncle, the Marquis of Salisbury. This relatively undemanding level of business enable the Balfours to visit Canada (where the Marquis of Lorne was Governor General) in January and February 1882 and to spend part of the winter of that year in Cannes. In the same year, 1882, Balfour joined the London Scottish Volunteers, and although not greatly interested in politics at home, began to take a keen interest in national defence and as an extension of that international affairs. But in 1885 the nature of his practice changed completely when the Paleys commissioned him to rebuild Ampton Hall in Suffolk, burnt down in that year. For this large and complex project in which the character of the previous Jacobean house was respected but not copied, Balfour formed a partnership with the slightly older Hugh Thackeray Turner, the SPAB’s part-time secretary from 1882. Born in 1852 and the son of a well-off vicar, Turner had been a pupil of Sir George Gilbert Scott and assistant first to John Oldrid Scott and then to George Gilbert Scott junior; and through first the SPAB and then from 1886 the Art Workers’ Guild, he and Balfour had become close to Philip Webb and William Richard Lethaby.

Work on Ampton continued until 1889, but it had led to no other major country house commissions. As Balfour had what Lady Frances described as only a ‘modest competence’ from the Balfour estate, he applied for the surveyorship of the Grosvenor London estates which had fallen vacant with the retirement of the younger Thomas Cundy in 1890. After he proved too reticent to reach the final three in the selection process, Lady Frances secured it for him with a direct approach to the Duke of Westminster. Although first his uncle the Marquess of Salisbury and then his brother Arthur were prime ministers for most of his time as surveyor, his relationship with the Duke was strictly formal, his sister-in-law Lady Elizabeth Balfour (née Lytton) observing that when he called on the Duke as architect or surveyor he was ‘never offered a chair and never expected one’. The surveyorship brought many important domestic commissions, principally in Mayfair, and one important but short-lived church, St Anselm’s. Although mainly the work of Turner, he took a close interest in it and its non-period but Italian Renaissance-inspired interior reflected his extreme dislike of conventional Gothic revivalism. In their domestic work on the estate Balfour and Turner variously adopted a Basil Champneys-type Queen Anne, neo-Tudor or a refined classicism as best suited the location, much of the stone-carving and plasterwork being undertaken by Turner’s brother Laurence. To ensure that any new buildings or refacements by the other architects allowed to work on the estate met the standards of design and material expected by the first Duke, Balfour exercised a strict quality control, sometimes wholly or partially redesigning what was proposed. The influence of Balfour and Turner thus went beyond the buildings for which they themselves were architects, but after the Second Duke succeeded in 1899, Lutyens and others successfully petitioned for a less restrictive regime and their influence gradually diminished. Outwith London Balfour and Turner had only limited success as country house architects, designing Goodwin’s place, Dorking, and Charlewood, East Grinstead: the commission for his brother Gerald’s Fisher’s hill, Woking, went to Gerald’s brother-in-law Lutyens.

Balfour was admitted FRIBA in January 1892, his proposers being John McVicar Anderson, Arthur Cates and Lieutenant-Colonel Robert William Edis, a fellow volunteer officer then reconstructing Sandringham for Balfour’s brother-in-law, The Price of Wales. Balfour himself was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel of the London Scottish Volunteers in the following year and wrote and travelled extensively in Europe on national defence issues. The volunteer movement was, however, only one of a wide range of interests. These included the St James Electric Light Company, of which he was chairman, and no fewer than four London clubs, the Savile, St Stephen’s , the Caledonian and the Burlington Fine Arts. As an extension of his interest in SPAB, he was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and like his brother, Professor Maitland Balfour (died 1882), he was interested in zoology, becoming a Fellow of the Zoological Society. He was musical, remembered for his habit of playing the piano if kept waiting for a visitor, or deep in though; and he golfed and shot, spending much time at Whittinghame and Strathconan from July onwards.

While meticulous in handling the business of the Grosvenor estate where most of the day-to-day administration was dealt with by George A Codd (based in the state office and himself surveyor from 1933) the time devoted to these activities meant that he had little time for his practice. This resulted in a heavy workload for Turner, himself over-committed as secretary of the SPAB. They also strained Balfour’s marriage, as Lady Frances and the children too often remained at home.

Sometime around 1906 Balfour began a serious drink problem. The reasons are not altogether clear, but impatience in the lack of preparation for war with Germany caused him to be seen as ‘grouser’ and an embarrassment to his prime minister uncle: and he had probably lost face when the death of the first Duke of Westminster and the necessity of meeting the second Duke with whom he did not have such good relations forced him to withdraw from embarking for South Africa with his regiment in 1899. He resigned his command in 1902. Edward VII appointed him ADC in 1903, at least partly as a mark of royal agreement with his views on Germany, but he missed command and the regular contact with his brother officers. There was also problems at home. Physical pain and phlebitis had made Lady Frances quick-tempered and she did not get on with the youngest Balfour sister Alice who had remained unmarried and ran the household at Whittinghame, making the long stays there and at Strathconan uncomfortable at times: and although Lady Frances had considerable standing within the Church of Scotland and had brought the important commssion for London’s Crown Court Church, her high profile advocacy of emancipation, enfranchisement, education and career opportunities for women did not please everyone in Balfour’s circle. But perhaps most seriously as the only on of the three surviving brothers to make money rather than spend it, and the only one to maintain a modest household, Balfour began to be seriously concerned at the erosion of the family fortune by Arthur and Gerald’s activities, not so much in politics as their determination to develop an economic method of processing peat as a green alternative to coal-mining. Although the full extent of their losses was not apparent in Eustace’s lifetime, some £250,000 was lost in tow related companies, Wet Carbonising and Peco, and attempts to recoup on the London and New York stock markets only made their situation significantly worse.

Balfour’s health broke down irretrievably in 1909 and in the following year and he had to resign the surveyorship of the Grosvenor estate which went not to Turner but to Edward Wimperis. In December he asked to be taken to Whittinghame where he died on 14 February 1911. He was buried there with his parents and grandparents, the hearse being an estate farm cart. Although it has been stated that he was separated from Lady Frances by then, her account of these events in ‘Ne Obliviscaris’ does not bear that out: and while she was discreet about the cause of his death, we have not so far found primary evidence of any prolonged separation. According to ODNB she remained fiercely loyal and at her own wish she was buried with him when she died in 1931. They had a family of two sons, both of whom pursued military and diplomatic careers, and three daughters.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 332, Addison Road, London, EnglandPrivate1879 *1911 
Item 2 of 310, Buckingham Street, London, EnglandBusiness1891 *  
Item 3 of 320, Buckingham Street, London, EnglandBusiness1911 *  

* earliest date known from documented sources.


Employment and Training

Employers

The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 1Balfour & Turner18851911Partner 

RIBA

RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 3John Macvicar Anderson18 January 1892For Fellowship
Item 2 of 3Arthur Cates18 January 1892For Fellowship
Item 3 of 3(Sir) Robert William Edis18 January 1892For Fellowship

Buildings and Designs

This architect was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 91879Inveraray CastleInveraray ArgyllScotlandCompleted fit out and other improvements after retirement of Anthony Salvin (then 80) and his son Anthony, due to the latter's ill-health in 1879: this probably included some restoration work to the fire-damaged Morris, Adam and Mylne interiors.
Item 2 of 91879Public reading room and coffee houseInveraray ArgyllScotland 
Item 3 of 9c. 1880Strathconan LodgeStrathconan Ross and CromartyScotlandAddition
Item 4 of 91899Whittingehame HouseWhittingehame East LothianScotlandDining room remodelled with woodwork and plasterwork extecuted by Laurence Turner: the overmantel by Alexander Fisher, 1900, is now in the National Museums. Cost of works £1,171.
Item 5 of 91900Whittingehame HouseWhittingehame East LothianScotlandNew porch enclosing and extending existing portico - by Eustace in consultation with Sir Robert Lorimer
Item 6 of 9c. 1903Whittingehame HouseWhittingehame East LothianScotlandDrawing room, music room and study remoddelled mainly furnishing, William de Morgan tiles in study: new bathrooms, attic rooms for servants.
Item 7 of 91905Whittingehame HouseWhittingehame East LothianScotlandTemple in grounds
Item 8 of 91909Whittingehame HouseWhittingehame East LothianScotlandAlterations and improvements to terraces.
Item 9 of 91910Whittingehame HouseWhittingehame East LothianScotlandAlterations

References

Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
 Author(s)DateTitlePartPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 10Balfour, Frances1930Ne Obliviscaris: Dinna Forget   
Item 2 of 10Burke2001Burke's Landed Gentry of Great Britain: the Kingdom of Scotland19th edition  
Item 3 of 10DNB Dictionary of National Biography  Lady Frances Balfour
Item 4 of 10Gray, A Stuart1985Edwardian Architecture: A Biographical Dictionary   
Item 5 of 10Grove Dictionary of Art Grove Dictionary of Art   
Item 6 of 10Harris, Paul1989The Story of A J Balfour and Whittinghame House   
Item 7 of 10Stannard, Robin2012Artist in the Craft of Building: the Architectural Work of Hugh Thackeray Turner (1853-1937) Spire Books 
Item 8 of 10Survey of London Survey of London  Volume XXXIX and XL
Item 9 of 10Webster, Christopher (ed)2012The Practice of Architecture: eight architect 1830-1930 Reading: Spire Bookspp206-236
Item 10 of 10Who Was Who Who was Who   

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 4Builder17 February 1911   
Item 2 of 4RIBA Journal18 February 1911 London: Royal Institute of British Architects 
Item 3 of 4The Guardian15 February 1911  p4
Item 4 of 4The Times15 February 1911  p11