Just over three miles west of Drogheda, set in sixty acres of green and unspoiled parkland, is Townley Hall. Built between 1794 and 1798, by renowned Irish architect Francis Johnston for the Townley Balfour family, this two-storey Georgian country house is highly regarded as a masterpiece of late 18th and early 19th century classical style architecture and craftsmanship.
The estate belonged to the Townley family since the time of Oliver Cromwell. In 1739, Blayney Townley inherited his nephew William Balfour’s fortune, and added the name Balfour to his. In 1794 his grandson, also named Blayney Townley Balfour, ordered the commission for Francis Johnston to build the house that stands today, replacing the previous building that stood some three hundred feet further north.
Over a century and a half later, ownership passed to a cousin of the family, David Crichton, who sold the house and 850 acres of land to Trinity College, Dublin, in 1957 for use as an agriculture school. Then, in the late sixties, five hundred acres were sold to the Land Commission, while a further 350 acres went to the Forestry Department.
While originally designed as a private home, Townley Hall was also meant to confer a sense of wealth and status. With Every inch to be the home of the successful lord of the land, master craftsmen were employed from all over the surrounding area to work on every minor detail of the house’s construction. Of particular note is the magnificent main spiral staircase that flows down from the domed rotunda, and has been deemed worthy of being written about in Country Life magazine.