Font Size

100% 150% 200%

Background Colour

Default Contrast
Close Reset

Winton House

Country House (17th Century)

Site Name Winton House

Classification Country House (17th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Winton Castle

Canmore ID 54717

Site Number NT46NW 25

NGR NT 43815 69495

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2024.

Toggle Aerial | View on large map

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council East Lothian
  • Parish Pencaitland
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District East Lothian
  • Former County East Lothian

Archaeology Notes

NT46NW 25.00 43815 69495

NT46NW 25.01 436 694 Garden

NT46NW 25.02 43862 69588 Walled Garden

NT46NW 25.03 43835 69463 Terraced Garden

NT46NW 25.04 44463 69073 South Lodge

NT46NW 25.05 43834 69662 Stables

NT46NW 54 43927 69643 Laundry

(NT 4361 6949) Winton House (NAT)

OS 6" map (1970)

Winton House: Until it was forfeited in 1715, Winton was the junior house of the Setons of Seton Place. They were given the Earldom of Winton in 1600 and about that time the first Earl repaired the house, which had been burnt by Hertford (1545). The second Earl employed the King's Master Mason, William Wallace to enlarge and embellish it in 1620-7. Although the exterior is partly obscured by John Paterson's additions of about 1805, this is still one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture in Scotland (C McWilliam 1978). What remains of the earliest masonry is a freestone rubble block, with a jamb at the E end of the N side and a stair-turret in the angle. Wallace added a square tower, projecting N, at the W end, and re-faced part of the earlier work in ashlar. Paterson made castellated additions to the entrance (N) front, and bays E and W. The main block is three storeys in height to the N, but is one storey higher to S, due to the fall of the ground.

N Tranter 1962; RCAHMS 1924

A large mansion, as described.

Visited by OS (BS) 21 October 1975.

Architecture Notes


Owner: Sir David Ogilvy

Architect: William Walace c.1620

John Paterson payment docket dated 14 Oct 1805 of addition also alts to staircase

John White, plasterer

Armstrong & Wyatt, London, woodwork, wainscot etc. estimate 1803


Scottish Record Office:

Timber for Winton House and Stables.

Memoranda concerning cargoes. Discharge includes furnishing of the timber.

1690 GD143/3/3/28X

Scottish Record Office:

[?Winton House] Account from George Clerk rendered to Sir John Ramsay of Whythill 'for my Lord Winton's works'. The iron was supplied to George Seatone in 1689. #1993.8.6.

1690 GD143/4/5/4

Scottish Record Office:

SC40/67/3 Haddington (improved Registers) Entailed Estates

Pages 220-243 General account of money expended by Colonal John Hamilton of Pentcaitland for building additions to and making sundry repairs upon the mansion house of Winton preceding Martinmans 1804. As attested by William Balsille Foreman of said mason work, also per acknowledgement of Robert Richardson, overseer.

Stone from Hailes Quarry for said addition 1803-1804. Total #3007 13 3 3/4.


Non-Guardianship Sites Plan Collection, DC28859- DC28861, 1954 - 1971.

Scottish Record Office: RH 15/119/48/2 John Paterson - plan of alts to staircase


Field Visit (1 September 1913)

This is the choicest example of Renaissance architecture in the county and one of the important buildings in that style in Scotland.

The site is on the high left bank of the river Tyne, less than half a mile north-west of Pencaitland, where stood an earlier building, along L-shaped structure of indeterminate extent raised by George, fourth Lord Seton, who died in 1508. This was ‘burnt by the Eng- lish’ and little of the building is now traceable. In 1620 George, tenth Lord Seton and third Earl of Winton, ‘ founded and built the great house from the foundation, with all the lairge stone dykes about the precinct, park, orchard and gardens thereof’ (1). In the 19th century the structure was extended by the addition of modern wings, which partially obscure the fine Renaissance work (fig. 124 [SC 1127335]).

What remains of the earliest masonry is of freestone rubble, while the Renaissance and modern additions are of ashlar. The main portion (fig. 126, plan) runs almost east and west and measures 77 feet by 28 ½ feet, while awing, which projects, in alinement with the east wall, northwards for a length of 23 feet has a breadth of 25 feet; in the west re-entering angle is a semi-octagonal tower housing a wheel-staircase, and at the northwest angle a square tower containing a second and more spacious turnpike stair, which ascends to the first floor and has bedrooms above. These are reached from a circled turret stair contained in the east re-entering angle. To the north the building is three storeys in height, but on the south advantage is taken of the falling site to obtain an additional storey beneath the main block; this basement is vaulted. The eastern tower is carried one storey higher than its surroundings; the western two storeys.

The external detail is very similar to that of Heriot's Hospital, Edinburgh. In Winton there are a similar employment of string courses and rich treatment of the voids. It is known that William Wallace (2), a King's Master Mason since 1617, was employed at Heriot's before his death in 1631, and that he had been doing work for the Earl of Wintoun is shown by an entry in the Register of Confirmed Testaments, 12th December I632: ‘Item: Thair was awin to the said umquhill William Wallace be George Earle of Wintoun, in acknowledgment of his panes in his Lordship's works, con forme to his Lordship's tiket, subscrivit with his hand, the sowme of 500 merkis’.

The pediments of the windows are of the Jacobean strapwork variety. The ornate gable crowsteps and the balustraded flat surmounting the west stair tower are noteworthy (fig. 124 [SC 1127335]); but the outstanding feature of Winton is its tall chimney stalks alternately wrought in convolutions and in flutes, the latter enriched with a Renaissance rendering of the Gothic crocket. This manner of decorating stalks, while familiar in the Jacobean architecture of England, is unknown elsewhere in Scotland. East of the mansion the terrace is bounded by a high revetment surmounted by a balustrade similar to that on the west tower; from the terrace a flight of steps leads to the lower ground. In the revetment wall two 17th century pediments enriched with vine scroll and other foliaceous carving are inserted. These flank a panel bearing a shield charged with the royal arms. The inscription on the label below the shield IACOBVS - - S (?) - - BRIT - -FRANCE - - ET HIBER shows it to have been of the date of the building of the house, 1620.

Winton contains three inter-communicating apartments on the first floor which are elaborately decorated in a florid 17th century manner. The largest of these, which occupies the western portion of the main block, measures 44 ¼ feet by 22 feet and has a height of 13 ½ feet. The north wall contains a fine Renaissance fireplace in freestone (see fig. 176 [SC 1128545]) which bears the Seton crescents and a star, the Seton dragon, and beneath an earl's coronet the initials G S for George Seton third Earl of Winton and A H for Anne Hay. Surmounting the fireplace is a band of arabesque plaster work very beautifully executed, and above this is a plaster frieze with heavily moulded enrichment, which returns round the chamber beneath a flowing slightly-membered plaster cornice. On the frieze, and centering with the fireplace, is an heraldic panel with bearings. supporters, crown and banner as above described; in this instance the shield is girt by the Garter only and the strapwork label below bears the motto VNIONV VNIO (By union a unity). The ceiling is very elaborately worked and is broken up into panels by moulded stiles, which are enriched on the soffits. The panels also are enriched by the application of ornamental and heraldic devices. The central panel has an ornate shield charged with the arms of Seton bearing the augmentation granted to Robert Earl of Winton in 1600-(azure) a blazing star of nine (properly ten) points within a double tressure flory-counterflory(or)-with supporters, dragon crest and motto above and below (cf. Art. No. 191). Other devices are, beneath a coronet a blazing star of ten points, three crescents intertwined, a garb surmounting a crescent and a repetition of the initials on the fireplace. The adjoining chamber on the east, known as King Charles' Room, has the Renaissance fireplace of unusual design shown on fig. 175 [SC 1127339] and a handsomely decorated plaster frieze and ceiling. The latter bears the initials C.R. for Carolus Rex being Charles I, who, on visiting Scotland in 1633, is said to have been received at Winton House for a night on his way to Edinburgh and for a week-end on returning (3); as well as devices similar to those already described. The heavy pendants formed at certain stile junctions are noteworthy and add greatly to the rich effect. The chamber in the wing also had an enriched ceiling of somewhat similar detail. The plaster work in these rooms is identical in detail with that at Pinkie House, Musselburgh, and Moray House, Edinburgh, and evidently was executed from the same moulds.

Winton is inhabited and is in an excellent state of preservation.

On the Seton Earls of Winton see [RCAHMS 1924] Introd. pp. xx-i.

RCAHMS 1924, visited 22 May 1920.

(1) History of the House of Seytoun (Maitland Club) p. 74; (2) The King's Master Masons;(3) House of Seytoun .p. 75.

Photographic Survey (November 1953 - 1954)

Photographic survey of Winton House, East Lothian, by the National Buildings Record Scottish Council in 1953-54.


MyCanmore Image Contributions

Contribute an Image

MyCanmore Text Contributions