Family and estate papers of Balfour of Fernie family

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 227 ms38262-38271/5
  • Dates of Creation
      1469-20th century
  • Name of Creator
  • Physical Description
      10 boxes + 4 boxes+2 large photographs The material can be used in accordance with its physical characteristics. The archive includes vellum and paper, plans, photographs and volumes.

Scope and Content

Personal, family and estate papers including correspondence, rentals, tacks, legal and financial material, photographs etc. They are chiefly of local and family interest and include papers relating to the claim to the Burleigh peerage in the mid 19th century. There are letters of Walter Bowman of Logie (d. 1782) during his continental travels as tutor to the 2nd Viscount Harcourt's eldest surviving son, Simon (later 1st Earl of Harcourt), ca. 1731-37, with detailed descriptions of the art, architecture and antiquities of the places they visited. Also of note is parchment bound book of division of the town and lands of Kinmounth, 1717. There are references to members of the family who served in the armed forces including Francis Balfour at Scutari, (1854), Major John Balfour, (1684), Captain (later Major) John Lindesay, 19th Native Infantry, India, (1795-1817).

Administrative / Biographical History

Fernie Castle is situated in the parish of Monimail near Letham. The estate is believed to have originally belonged to the Earls of Fife. Early in the fourteenth century the lands were divided into Easter and Wester Fernie and two branches of the Balfour family settled in the properties. The old tower of the castle was apparently built in the early sixteenth century. It seems that the offices of forester of Falkland and constable of Cupar were associated with the estate. The estate remained with the Fernie family until ca. 1605 when the lands were alienated. The new proprietor was a cadet family of Arnot of that Ilk who possessed Fernie until 1680 when it passed into the family of Balfour of Burleigh.

The estate remained with the Balfours of Burleigh during the seventeenth century and was conferred by John, third Lord Balfour of Burleigh on his second son, Lieut-Colonel John Balfour of Fernie. He was attainted in 1715 and the estate was forfeit to the Crown. His eldest son, Arthur had remained in the army of the Hanoverian king and the lands and barony of Western Fernie were granted by George I to Arthur and his siblings. He obtained a charter to the whole lands in his own right in 1738. Arthur died in 1746, leaving three sons who succeeded to the estate consecutively. John Balfour, second son, became heir-male of Lord Balfour of Burleigh in 1757, dying without issue at Fernie in 1795. He was succeeded by his only surviving brother, Francis Balfour of Fernie who died in 1818, leaving a son Francis Balfour. There was a dispute over the title of Lord Balfour of Burleigh which Major Francis Balfour of Fernie had disallowed by the House of Lords in 1869 when the attainder was reversed.


The collection is unlisted. The first ten boxes seem to be those referred to in the survey as: 'miscellaneous manuscripts, mainly 19th century, including legal accounts, factor's accounts, estate improvements and material relating to the Burleigh peerage claim. All the material is quite unarranged.' The last four boxes seem to contain the material surveyed in 1970. The manuscriupts were then found to be in complete confusion, and to facilitate location they were bundled in the course of the survey. The bundles were completely unarranged and contain material of all types and dates.

Access Information

By appointment with the Archivist. Access to unpublished records less than 30 years old and other records containing confidential information may be restricted.


Description compiled by Rachel Hart, Archives Hub Project Archivist with reference to AH Millar, Fife Pictorial and Historical, (Cupar 1895).

Other Finding Aids

The bulk of the collection is unlisted. The National Register of Archives (Scotland) survey list 0494 forms the hand list to the last four boxes.

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist. Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents.

Custodial History

Gifted to University in 1991 and 1994.

Related Material

GB 234 GB/NNAF/F7722 C14th-C17th records of Balfour of Burleigh, Brucefield, Clackmannanshire

Additional Information

This material is original.

Geographical Names