The Palace of Seton

The Design of the Wings and Courtyard at Seton Castle

East Wing in Detail
(Fig 1 below) The courtyard to the East (right) wing is marked "Stableyard". Working clockwise starting from the South East room (bottom right, just above the circular stamp of the Sir John Soane's Museum) the rooms are labelled :- Hen House 8 by 16, Calves 7 by 16, Cow House 20 by 16, Stable 16 by 15, Stable 16 by 24, Dairy 16 by 11'6 (This is the oval room), Pales (sic. pails ? the small circular room off this), Scullery (?) 8.6 by 11.6, Wash House & Laundry, Drying Yard.

The upper level of the East Wing seems to have been mainly hayloft, with rooms for farm hands, dairy maids and stable boy etc.

"U" shaped East Wing. Detail of Plan Fig 4 above. The courtyard on the East side is marked Stableyard. The plan shows a cowhouse on the South side, but Fig 4 shows large arched openings in this wall, as if to accommodate a cart, so presumably the cows were located elsewhere

East Wing. View from Roof of the House. This shows how the turrets that appear to stand four square from ground level are actually formed by wall projections.

East Wing. South Elevation. The view is looking North East. The bowed wall on the left is the South screen wall of the entrance courtyard.

East Wing. Courtyard. This view, taken looking South West Shows how the turrets are used at each of the corners to contain and frame the parts of the building


West Wing - in Detail
Starting from the South West (bottom left) room, the rooms are (working anti-clockwise) labelled (Fig 1 below):-Coachman 10.5 by 16, Slaughter House 18 by 16, Day & Week (?) Larder 15 by 11, Cooks Pantry 9 by 5, Scullery 16 by 8 1/2, Kitchen 16 by 20, Butler 11 1/2 by 8 1/2, Business Room 16 by 11, Sherry (?) room (circular room in corner turret), Dress(?) room 10 by 11, coachouse 10 1/2 by 16

The upper level of the West Wing seems to have been mainly servants quarters, other than the South part which, as can be seen in Fig. 6 below, appears to have been used for loft and storage spaces

"U" shaped West Wing. Detail of Fig 1 above. This clearly shows how the links between the wing and the house and between wings via the curved corridor and loggia worked. As well as kitchen and related accommodation, the plan also shows a slaughter house and two coach houses on this side. Presumably the horses, kept in the stables in the East wing, would have been walked around each time a carriage was required

Ariel view from roof of the House. This view shows the monopitch roof over the West Wing, and the East side fronting onto the entrance court.

West Wing South Side. A horizontal emphasis is set up by the string course but this is contained by the verticality of the turrets at corners.

West Wing Corner. There are turrets at each of the corners of the U shaped block, giving four down the West side which march off in martial fashion.

West Courtyard from the South West. This courtyard and the rooms around it would have been the centre of activity for the domestic staff.

West Courtyard South Side. There are a pair of Diocletian Windows in the upper storey. The right hand one is over the door to the coach house on this side.

West Block North Side. There is a blind arcade of three arched recesses on this elevation, in contrast to the single arched recess on the South side.


Entrance Courtyard

The entrance courtyard is perhaps one of the most interesting parts of the design for this building.

The house is screened from the South by the fortress-like side wings and the convex wall enclosing the courtyard between them with the arched gate placed centrally on the axis of the house. The South side of the house is only revealed once you are through the courtyard gate. What is most immediately striking is that the house looks like a castle keep, with massive square and circular turrets that form the outer walls. There is a great contrast between the massive scale of these elements and the delicacy of the front door screen and the miniature scale of the stone details in the courtyard

The front entrance screen is in three parts, with Corinthian pilasters separating the door from casement windows on either side. The pilasters support an entablature, over which is a lunette window within a flattened arch. The window has wonderfully delicate radiating glazing bars and tracery. The shallow arch, flattened as though by the weight of the building over, adds to the impression of the massiveness of the walls of the house.

On the South side of the courtyard, what on the outside formed the convex walls on either side of the gate are revealed to be open loggias embracing the space. These terminate in a miniature turret on either side of the entrance gate. There is an insistent symmetry to the composition which determines the plan form of the courtyard. The curve of the wall of the two parts of the loggia on either side of the gate to the courtyard are mirrored by the curved walls on the North side of the courtyard. While it is not immediately apparent what is behind this walls, they take the form of a blind arcades, the arches of which, while they contain windows, also mirror and correspond to the open arches of the loggia opposite. (These walls are actually the outer walls of the corridors on either side linking the service wings to the house).

The courtyard is contained to the East and West by the walls of the side wings. Centrally positioned in the West wall of the courtyard is a tripartite Venetian window opening to the kitchen. Opposite on the East wall of the courtyard are corresponding blank windows - the stables would not have merited a window.

Stone Details

At the corners of the curved arcaded corridor connecting the wings to the house are miniature bartizans. As well as being sculptural elements, their function is to terminate the arcades and the arcaded loggia opposite with a visual accent.

The bartizan was originally a defensive feature of medieval castles. They allowed defenders a better field of view for firing on an attacking force below, while keeping them protected. Clearly this bartizan, only about 4 feet high, has lost all practical purpose of this sort. It has become an expression of the architectural vocabulary of the Castle Style that Adam is using for this building. Used here it a piece of sculpture, but is not just decorative.

To the 18th Century mind these stone details, derived from the vocabulary of medieval castles, would have "meaning", resonating with 18th Centrury concepts of the romanic and picturesque. Beyond this there is also a subtle game being played to amuse us. Because the bartizans and machicolations (small arches under the string course) have been scaled down so dramatically from their "normal" proportions, the visitor is suddenly a giant in this Lilliputian courtyard. Miniature archers might be expected to fire at any minute from behind the miniature parapets in defense of the house.

The miniaturisation contrasts with and exaggerates the massive scale of the house itself with its huge turrets ascending above the miniature world.


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