Townley Hall

Francis Johnston’s Neo-Classical Masterpiece

Surprisingly little has been published about the sublime Irish country house that is Townley Hall in Co Louth, or on the Townley Balfour family who lived there for many generations, or its reknowned architect, Francis Johnston. The publication of this major monograph on the house and its architect is, therefore, long overdue. The 268-page, large-format hardback book, with over 500 illustrations is being published to celebrate over 50 years of the School of Philosophy & Economic Science in Ireland.

This austerely beautiful old house was set on a prominent site in parkland described in 1827 by Gardener’s Magazine as “one of the most magnificent demesnes in the kingdom”. The house itself is rightly of huge interest to anyone interested in the work of Francis Johnston or Irish architecture generally. But, as Robert Townley reminds us in his introduction, the house is also about the people who loved this place as their home from 1799 to 1954.

Townley Hall was built for Blayney Townley Balfour III in 1798. In his three-part illustrated essay, Robert O’Byrne recounts the family’s history in the area from the early 17th century onwards. He tells the story of how the house was passed down through many generations of the Balfour family, before being purchased by Trinity College Dublin in 1956, and subsequently by the School of Philosophy & Economic Science in the 1980s. Dr Michael Telford continues the story to the present day.

This monograph on Townley Hall, with its unparalleled coverage of the history of the house and the work of its architect, Francis Johnston, is destined to become a collector’s item.