Notes regarding the Seton Estate

By Douglas Seaton of North Berwick, Scotland

As the documentation states the only remains of Seton Palace are the garden walls of the present Seton House garden tower.  There are however some relics remaining in the form of carved fragments from the old Palace dating from about 1630 when the 3rd Earl of Winton enlarged the building.  The info board gives an artists impression of Seton Palace, unfortunately the text in the picture is not completely legible but it refers to the seven carved fragments and the position they may have occupied on the exterior of the old Palace, eg: Over the entrance door, forming decorative stonework around a window, etc.  They are carved in sandstone and therefore much of the detail is missing - the set of carvings gives a fair representation.

The Dutch bell (already featured on your website) depicts the Church Bell made in Holland in 1577, which hung in the Tower.  History suggests that Lady Janet Hepburn, following the damage in 1544, demolished the south chapel and added the south transept and the tower where the bell was situated.  (This information you will already have from the Official Guide purchased by your friend at Seton Church).   The exterior of the building has a number of interesting features including carved blocks in the stonework depicting the Seton coat of arms with the familiar Seton arks or crescents, various decorative motifs motif and amusing carved heads and faces (the heads are on their sides).  There are also a number of lead shot marks on the masonry fired by the Lothian militia in 1715, because the Setonıs were Jacobites.  The militia also dug up several graves looking for lead to make their shot pellets.  The interior and exterior of the Church was plastered, so what can be seen today is the raw stonework without the steeple.

The crescents or arks on the Seton coat of arms can also be seen in the carvings, but there are examples where the arks are intertwined - this is quite unusual.  These designs represent another line of the family and can also be seen at Winton House.   The stones jpeg was taken in a dark area of the chapel and has been adjusted so that the carved lettering is more legible - not very good but you will be able to see the inscription.   Adjacent to Seton Church are the ruins of the Priestıs house built by the 5th Lord Seton in 1508.  After the reformation part of this building became a brewery and mill.  When the Setonıs were removed from the property the Church was converted into a farm barn for storing grain etc.  The Seton House, where the Stevenson family now lives, is self explanatory and is situated next to Seton Church.

There is nothing to photograph relating to the Seton family at either Garleton or Kingston, the old maps detail Seton Hill ( the remains of a bronze-age settlement ) near the village of Athelstaneford and Seton Law west of Garleton.  Pinkie House in Musselburgh is now part of Lorreto School, where some buildings still remain.  These sites are all between 3 and 16 miles from North Berwick.  I found the visit to Seton Church very interesting - have not been there for years.  The Earl of Wemyss allows weddings to take place in the Church, as long as the couple are local, and I am told the old place comes alive again.  With genealogy the flavour of the month the custodian/ keeper, has welcomed a growing number of Setonıs from around the world - South America, Finland, New Zealand, etc.  It would be an idea to leave a web address or email address for the custodian to pass on to the visiting Setonıs.

I recognise some of the places you listed but some of the names will have changed although the buildings may still exist.  The oldest map of East Lothian is dated 1798, and is held in the department of local history, part of our library service in Haddington.  Although I suspect that the Stevenson Family has had enough of multi-remouve "Setons" showing up and asking the same... maybe not?   On the contrary, Seton Church attracts few visitors (around 12 per day in summer) and the only gate leading from the Church to Seton House has 'private property - no access' emblazoned on it.  So they are not inundated with visitors.  Prior to your visit I would write to them and ask to see round Seton House.

The massive square tower at Elphingstone said to have been built about the year 1300 with a modern house added to it in 1600, which is still inhabited and was formerly surrounded by very fine trees but they are now all cut down (1841).  I do not know if this property still exists, more research is required.  The farm-house of Bankton, (formerly Olivestob), a fine specimen of an old mansion-house was the property and residence of Colonel Gardiner, who was killed at the battle of Prestonpans in 1745 and buried in Tranent churchyard where no tombstone marks his resting place.  Bankton House was renovated in the 1990s as was Fawside (Falsyde Tower).

Several hamlets, built in places much exposed to the wind are named the Gowl, and sometimes Windy Gowl.  At East Garleton there remains an old baronial mansion (the name of the property is not given) of large extent formerly the residence of the Earls of Winton. Part of it is still inhabited, but the greater part is in ruins (1840).  It was built in the form of a square with an excellent garden and fine bowling green attached.  The house was defended by a strong wall, and on the north side by a deep moat.   George, Earl of Winton, in large gilt letters was legible forty years ago in the ceiling of the principal room (1890).  I do not know what remains of this house, but East Garleton farm is still in this area.

The mansion house at St Germains remains, but the existing building looks more like the 1790s rather than the period you are interested in. It lies one mile east of Seton Church.  Longniddry lies to the east (at one time part of the Seton estate), this village has grown rapidly over the past few years as a commuter area for Edinburgh 15 miles away.   I am not familiar with the name 'Kylesmure'.  The Cess-Book of 1667 lists Viscount Kingston among the proprietors in the Parish of Morham, but does not mention the name of the property.  The Parish of Morham contains 1458 acres, divided into nine farms and lies south of the Parish of Haddington.  Forrest's Map of 1798 should identify this property.

On the farm of Barney Mains, there are extensive ruins known as the Vaults or 'Vouts'.  In the warlike times of 1470 the nobles were in open rebellion and it was found necessary to fortify the convents and other religious establishments.  The 'Barney Vouts' were erected for this purpose by Sir John Seton of Barnes.  The buildings were situated on a bold promontory stretching from the highlands of Garleton; and from the arched stone roofs of the under story, were commonly called 'the Vaults'.  These vaults surrounded a spacious square where the beeves and other beasts of pasture belonging to the barony might repose in security, free from the knife of the marauder, while the nut-brown ale lay unrippled in the adjoining catacombs'.  Sir John Seton was proprietor of most of the land around Aimsfield.  He died in 1594 and was buried in the nave of the old church of Haddington where a grand carved monument can be seen in the Seton's of the Barnes' burying place.

The farm of Amisfield Mains, formerly called Harperdean Mains was originally two farms.  The west part of it was called The Barnes. Amisfield Mains formed part of the estate of Seton of the Barnes.   Early in the seventeenth century, Viscount Seton of Kingston married the daughter of Sir Archibald Douglas, who succeeded her father as heiress of Whittingham, by whom he had eleven children, six sons and five daughters.   Both Archibald, the second Viscount Kingston, and James, the third Viscount, having died without issue, the honours became extinct.  The Honourable Lady Elizabeth Seton, the youngest of the family, having survived all the rest, became heiress of Whittingham.  She was married to the Honourable William Hay of Drummelzier, second son of the first Earl of Tweedale in the year 1695 and by this marriage came into the possession of the estate of Whittingham and Stoneypath Tower.  The Hays of Drummelzier were long proprietors of Whittingham until the estate was sold in 1817 to James Balfour Esq.  The Parish of Whittingham is siutated S.E. of Haddington and E. of Morham, the mansion house still exists.

The village of Seton lay to the west of the Old Palace and at an early date the community of Seton formed themselves into a corporation, sanctioned by the lords of the barony of Tranent, Winton and Seton, the Earls of Winton.  The privileges and immunities conferred on them were a monopoly of the trade in the baronies; for no stranger was to be allowed to settle in the barony and follow out the calling of a weaver, tailor or shoemaker without fully satisfying the corporation; and no person in the barony was to be allowed to employ other than a member of the corporation under a severe penalty of £3 Scots.  Every member of the corporation found guilty of cursing and swearing at their calling, each of them for each oath was to pay 3 shillings.  These privileges continued in the time of the York Buildings Co.

In 1630, George third Earl of Winton built 12 salt-pans for the manufacture of salt.  This was carried out in pans 18 feet long by 10 feet broad and 2 feet deep.  The sea water was raised into the pans by buckets, swung on a suspended pole; and then heated by a coal fire until the water evaporated leaving the salt particles.  A man and a boy were employed in each of the salt-pans in operation; their wages being calculated according to the quality of salt produced.  The female members of the family also assisted in taking the salt out of the pans, and carrying it to the 'girnels' or stores.  A village grew up around the salt manufacturing named Salt-Preston, now called Prestonpans.

The Earls of Winton commenced coal mining in the Parish of Tranent, in the middle of the seventeenth century.  This land was mined by the monks of Newbattle in 1202.  The Earls of Winton were able to drain the mines for the first time, allowing deeper coal seams to be produced.  The discharge of water was such that several corn mills were driven by the water from the mines all year round.   In the Cess- Roll of the county of Haddington for the year 1653, the Earl of Winton's yearly land rent in the parish of Tranent was estimated at £11,591-13s-4d. while his casual rent which must have been derived in a great measure from coal is rated so high as £3333 -6s-8d.

Douglas Seaton,

North Berwick, August, 2001.

The Seton House Castle, East Lothian, Scotland, UK, c/o Gordon Lockhart, Telephone +44 795 832 2611.