The Palace of Seton

The General Design of Seton Castle

Seton Castle Plan. The plan consists of two U shaped side wings, symmetrical about a central North South axis. Each wing has a separate courtyard and an entrance courtyard to the house is formed between the wings. On the South side the screen wall to this is bowed and has a loggia fronted by an open arcade on the courtyard side, mirrored in form by curved corridors linking the service wings to the house.

Seton Castle South Side. The main approach to the castle brings you to an open area in front of the building. The left and right wings create a courtyard in front of the house, entered through the centre arched gate. The side pavilions are designed to look like fortresses. Their bulk and the South wall of the entrance courtyard give the impression that the house, which can be seen behind the arched gate, is much larger and grander than is the case.

Seton Castle North Side. The house stands forward of the wings and dominates on the North Elevation, the curved surfaces giving it a dynamic visual energy. The principal rooms and the garden are on the North side of the building and get little sun. This is perhaps made up for by the magnificent views over the Firth of Forth towards Fife.

The basic massing of the composition is simple, three blocks around a courtyard, but the use of symmetry, combined with a hierarchy of powerful geometric forms, creates a strong resonance between the parts.

At a practical level the house needed to operate partly as a farm. There was a requirement for a stableyard, cow and chicken house and a dairy. These are accommodated in the "U" shaped East wing built around three sides and forming the Stableyard. This block in its massing is treated as a self contained "fortress", and designed with Castle Style detailing. This "fortress" block is mirrored by the almost identical West wing, in which all of the domestic service accommodation, separated out from the main house, has been placed.

The space between the two "service" blocks forms the entrance courtyard, also designed with classical symmetry. This has a curved screen wall on the south side with an arched entrance gate centrally placed, giving access to the courtyard beyond.

Within the courtyard links are made between the East and West wings and between these and the main house, by single storey loggias and corridors. On the south side of the entrance courtyard is a curved loggia with an arcade of arches open to the courtyard. The loggia terminates on either side of the entrance gate with a turret in the castle style. Doors at the ends of these mirrored loggias give access into the side wings. The open curved loggias are mirrored at the North end of the courtyard by enclosed corridors linking the main house to each of the wings. A blind arcade of blank arches mirrors the open arcade of the loggias at the South end.

A short flight of steps leads up to the entrance to the house. The entrance screen is an exquisite arrangement the delicacy of which is enhanced by the contrast with the massive Castle Style detailing of the wings and the South facade of the House.

The side wings which are two stories high and the South wall to the entrance courtyard visually form a "defensive barrier" to the South, the side of the main approach. The bulk of these parts of the building composition give an impression of a very large house. In fact the house is relatively modest in size, with ten bedrooms over the three principal floors. The ground slopes away to the North and advantage was taken of this to create a basement level which is at the same level as the garden on the North side.

The House. Detail of Plan at Principal (Ground Floor) Level. On the South side is the entrance courtyard. A single storey corridor leads from both the East wing and West wing into the entrance hall of the main house. The corridors are curved to mirror the curved loggia on the South side of the Entrance Courtyard.

The South Approach. The side wings and the South wall to the entrance courtyard between them screen the main house behind, which is itself designed with the defensive features of a castle keep.

Entrance Court Gate
There are tantalising glimpses of the house as you approach. The climbing plants, which clearly like the South facing wall, currently hide the miniature square turrets that frame the gate on either side and have blank recessed dummy window openings.

Entrance Court Gate
The gate frames the view of the South side of the house, which, with its combination of Square and circular turrets could not be more heavily and dramatically modelled to achieve a depth of facade, that Adam defined as movement.

Upper S. Facade
The facade of the curved corridors that embrace and lead the eye to the entrance, have an arcade of arches that mirror the arched opening of the loggia on either side of the entrance gate, where this photograph was taken from.

Upper S. Facade
The House is designed to to look like a castle keep. The vertical turrets, like great trumpet blasts, give it a great mass and solidity and a vertical emphasis. The vertical elements are visually bound by the horizontal string courses and battlements, like metal bands around a casket.

Upper S. Facade
There is a great contrast between these massive upper works and the delicate stone detailing of the courtyard and the front door entrance screen. Adam was always striving to give visual variety to his facades. This is a supurb example what he defined as movement.

Front Door Fanlight and Entablature
The corinthian pilasters support a simple entablature above which is the fanlight, within a flattened arch spanning the tripartite screen below. The wall beyond the dressed stone voussoirs of the arch, is formed of coursed rubble. Much of the stone in this building is in need of repointing.

Front Door Fanlight
The corinthian pilasters support a simple entablature above which is the fanlight, within a flattened arch spanning the tripartite screen below. There is are double outer solid doors for security and a single inner glazed door, with lobby between below the vault of the fanlight.

Front Door Detail
The door has a casement window on either side. The tripartite arrangement is divided by Corinthian pilasters with a delicate Corinthian capital. The center stone of the entablature is beginning to lose its face as a result of uneven weathering.


Starting from the Entrance Hall (South courtyard side) and working clockwise, the rooms are labled (Fig 1 below) :-hall & stairs 20 Sq.,Drawing-room 20 by 30, Dining Room 20 by 28, ladies Dressing 8 by 11, Watercloset, Bedroom 16 Sq., Gentleman's Dress 11 by 6, Watercloset.

Connecting the wings to the main house and mirroring the curve of the entrance loggia are single storey corridors on the North side of the Courtyard, between which are the steps leading up to the entrance.

The separation of the domestic service accomodation from the main house seems to have been unusual in Adam's designs for the smaller country Houses. While for the owners there were advantages, this arrangement presumably brought with it some problems, such as the length of time it might have taken to get hot food from the kitchen to the dining room.

The design carefully contrives to deny a full view of the house from the approach on this South side. The side wings and entrance courtyard walls screen and shelter the house. The effect of this is enhanced by the use of the Castle Style, which give the impression of battlements and defenses around the house which is itself designed to look like a castle keep.

The woods to the East and West sides also help to provide a screen to the house.

By continually denying a view of the house the design skillfully sets up an almost theatrical sense of anticipation. The house is only gradually revealed as you approach and enter the entrance courtyard. Even after you enter the front door you are not given any real sense of the scale of the house, nor what the North side might look like.


Kings and Queens of the United Kingdom (from 1603)

Picture of Buckingham Palace

The Portrait Gallery
more >

The Memorabilia Gallery
more >
Historic Scotland
The National Trust for Scotland
National Museums of Scotland  
Text Only News Media Centre How Do I...? Freedom of Information Children Recruitment Francais Gàidhlig
Contact us Search Site map Links Subscribe Copyright About this site
     Seton Castle History
     Seton Castle Details
     Design Notes
     General Design
     Courtyard & Details
     More Stone Details
     Castle Commentary
     Sale of Seton Castle
     Restoration Details
     Castle Gallery
     Courtyard Gallery
     Old Interior Gallery
     Old Photo Gallery
     The Seton Estate Map
     Castle Floor Plans
Visitor information