A History of the Seton's and the Barony and Lands of Barnes


On the farm of Barney Mains, there are extensive ruins known as the Vaults or 'Vouts'.  In the war-like 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 un-rippled 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 the Seton's of the Barnes. 

From the Notes and Queries, Published Jan 26, 1907, London:

BARNES : ORIGIN OF THE NAME (10 S. v. :308, 352, 472). The derivation of the place-name Bernieres cannot be given with certainty, but a consideration of analogous words may lead to a plausible explanation.
'The well-known Norman family of De Redvers or Rivers was called in official documents De Ripariis, and sometimes De Ripuariis or De Riveriis. According to Huet, ' Origines de la Ville de Caen,' which is quoted by De Magny in his ' Nobiliaire de Normandie,' this name is derived from a seigneury lying about four leagues from Caen called Reviers, or, in Latin, Ripuariae, an adjectival form which denotes its situation on the banks of several streams. The Counts de Reviers de Mauny still represent one of the principal families of Normandy.

As I showed at the last reference, the name of Berners was latinized as De Bernariis, and the seigeury of Bernieres would therefore be called Bernariae. This is probably derived from an adjectival form of berne,
an old Norman-French word of which the history is given by Prof. Skeat in his valuable work ' The Place-Names of Hertfordshire,' 1904, p. 60. The meaning of this word is " a brim, edge, bank, or slope," and it was
adapted from the Dutch berm, which is closely related to the English brim. The meaning of Bernariae or Bernieres would therefore be of a similar nature to Riparise or Reviers, and the word would be akin to the
English name Barnet. Another analogous name is Ferrers, in Latin De Ferrariis, which is now represented by Ferrieres, the name of a seigneury and village in Normandy.

The Seton's history with the estate of Barnes began with Sir Alexander Seton, who got from his royal uncle, King Robert Bruce in the 14th century, important grants of land for services rendered by his father, and also certain honorable and uncommon additions to his paternal coat of arms. A little later he received another grant — this time of the Barony of Barnes, including Easter and Wester Barnes in East Lothian, for his own services particularly in Ireland, whither he had accompanied the king's brother, Edward Bruce in his quest to claim that country's Crown.

The appeal of the Irish chieftains for deliverance from their English conquerors, the Scottish expedition to Ireland, the crowning of Edward Bruce as King of Ireland in 1316, his victorious march at the head of a small army of Scotchmen, with very little  native assistance, from Carrickfergus to Limerick, his unsuccessful siege of Dublin, his retreat northward, and his final defeat and death with nearly all of his followers at the battle of Dundalk, on October 5, 1318, is one of the most chivalrous episodes, as it was one of the most ill-advised measures, in the history of Scotland.  Sir Alexander Seton was one of the thirty-nine nobles and others who assembled in Parliament at the Abbey of Arbroath on April 6, 1320, and addressed that famous letter to Pope John XXII. at Avignon, which is one of the most spirited and patriotic documents in history. It induced the Holy See to recognize the independence of Scotland and the title of King Robert Bruce.

His descendant, Sir William Seton was the first created and made lord in the parliament, and he and his posterity to have a vote therein, and be called Lords.' In a manuscript of the British Museum, Sir William Seton is styled 'Wilhelmus primus Dns. Seton,' and several other documents confirm the title to him.  The 1st Lord Seton belonged to the third Order of Saint Francis, and dying in February, 1409, was buried in the Church of the Franciscan Friars in Haddington (the later burial place of the Seton's of Barnes), to whom he left by will six loads of coal weekly, out of his coal-pit of Tranent, and forty shillings annually to be charged to his estate of Barnes. His widow is described as a virtuous and energetic woman, who got husbands for four of her daughters, and built a chantry on the south side of the parish church of Seton, prepared a tomb for herself there, and made provision for a priest to say mass perpetually for the repose of her soul.

The lands of Barnes were then to remain with the Seton family for the next four centuries, primarily with the head of the Household, The Lord Seton, and later to granted to the 3rd son of the 7th Lord Seton, Sir John Seton, Lord Barnes, a diplomat in Spain who founded the branch of the Seton's of Barnes and who died in 1594, as his paternal estate.  Sir Richard Maitland of Lethington wrote in his 'History', that this Sir John Seton was a brave young man who after being sent to France and Rome for his education:

"...He went to Spain, to the court of King Phillip the Second, by whom he was made Knight of the Royal Order of St Jago, at that time, the order of knighthood in that kingdom of greatest esteem. In memory whereof, he and his heirs, has a sword in their coat of arms, being the Badge of that Order.

King Phillip also preferred him to be gentleman of his chamber, and Cavalier de la Boca (which is Master-Household): he also carried the golden key at his side, in a blue ribbing : all which, were the greatest honours King Phillip of Spain could give to any of his subjects, except to be made a Grandee of Spain. He had a pension granted to him and his heirs of two thousand crowns yearly: when I, the writer hereof, was at the King of Spain his court, I was certainly informed of the truth of all this.

The said Sir John, in the heights of his favour with King Phillip of Spain, was commanded home by King James the Sixth, unwilling to want so gallant a subject out of his court and service. At his return home, he preferred him to be Treasurer of his House; was in great favour with his Majesty.  He was also created Lord Barnes (1587 to 1594) of the Lords of Session in Parliament as an Ordinary Lord, in the place of his younger brother Alexander promoted.  He was likewise created Master of the Kings Household, like that of his father, and Master of the Kings Horse.

It was not doubted, if he had lived some time after the King's coming to the crown of England, he would have highly advanced him in honour and fortune; but he died before King James went from Scotland. He made an great building at the Barnes, vault height, before his death intending that building round a court.  He married the eldest daughter to the Lord Forbes, by whom he had two sons and one daughter. His second son died a young man. He himself died in the strength of his age, a young man; and was buried in the College Kirk of Seton. "

His incomplete castle stands on a ridge in the Garleton Hills of East Lothian - Barnes Castle lies a half-mile (1 km) southwest of Athelstaneford and 2 miles (3 km) northeast of Haddington.  The extensive ruins, near the farm-house of Barney-mains, are a specimen of fortified granges. The buildings are situated on a bold promontory, stretching from the highlands of Garleton, and from the arched stone roofs of the under storey they are commonly called " the Vaults." These vaults surround 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 un-rippled in the adjoining catacombs; thus the castle is often referred to simply as 'The Vaults'.

The ruins of the 16th c residence are of unusual type - an example of axial planning. It is a rectangle 162'6" by 126'8" with the major axis NE-SW, the walls are of rubble masonry and average 0.8m in width.  Square towers project externally from the angles and between these are spaced intermediate towers - two on the NW, one on the SE, and one centrally on the SW. At the highest the walls are 14' but only the vaulted ground floor of the dwelling portion remains.  The walls are laid out in a highly formal symmetrical Spanish-style, which was very advanced for its time, defining a square, intended to enclose a courtyard, with well-defined corner towers.  The remains of Barnes Castle, generally as described above, are in relatively poor condition and used as a farm store.

The 2nd Sir John Seton of Barnes succeeded his father when he came of age, 3rd October 1615, and using the benefits of his estate and his father's pension's, was able to expand his fortunes and acquire the castle of Hailes, and briefly that of Crichton, as well as lands in Ireland from Gordon of Lochinvar, and hence the castle of Barnes was never completed.  His son, Sir George Seton of Barnes (and of Hailes or "Haillis"), leased the lands of Easter and Wester Barnes via sasine  in 1681, to George Cockburn of Piltoune of the Ormiston family.

Later, the Seton's of Barnes and the Seton's of Garleton had legal disputes of adjoining lands, and were long noted in court records in Edinburgh, before they were finally sold.  The last possesor of the family estate, George Seton of Barnes, succeeded and claimed the Lordship of Urquhart and the Honours of Dunfermline in 1694, including the Abbott's House at Elgin, and "Proclaimed" the Pretender at Kelso in 1715, but surrendered at Preston later that year.  He escaped insurrection after the rebellion and settled in Haddington (noted in 1732).  He sold the lands of Hailes to David Dalrymple in 1700, and the lands of Barnes to Colonel Charteris in 1715.  He was noted in a bond, dated 29th June, 1727, as "Lord Dunfermline", and was the male-representative of the Earls of Dunfermline.  At his death, he was buried in Seton Collegiate Church.