As the builders of Winton, the Setons’ history can be traced back to 1050 and Robert FitzPicot de Say, Lord of Aunay (Normandy). His son, also called Robert, fought at the Battle of Hastings with William ‘the Conqueror’ in 1066.
Phillip de Sayton, his grandson, was granted the lands of Seton, Winton and Winchburgh around 1150 by David I of Scotland; he was consolidating his power around Edinburgh with Norman nobles.
There began almost six centuries of Setons at Winton.
Phillip’s grandson married the sister of King Robert ‘The Bruce’. The family were heavily involved in the Wars of Independence in the 14th century, including the Siege of Berwick and the Battle of Bannockburn.
Through marriage, the Seton name can be seen in the family trees of Hay, Gordon, Stewart, Campbell, Douglas and Montgomerie. Setons are linked to Dukes and Viscounts down to mere Earls, including the title bestowed upon Robert, 6th Lord Seton, 1st Earl of Winton.
They held notable positions such as Mary Seton, Lady-in-Waiting to Mary Queen of Scots, Robert, 4th Lord Seton, Lord of Session, and Alexander (brother of the 1st Earl) who became Earl of Dunfermline and Chancellor of Scotland.
Although the Seton seat was nearby at Seton Palace, Longniddry, George Ist Earl of Winton built a stone tower at Winton around 1480.
Henry VIII adopted an unusual style of courtship for his son Edward to woo Mary Queen of Scots. Under Henry’s orders, Winton was burnt by the English Army in 1544 around the time of the siege of Haddington.
The thick walls of the vaulted basement survived the fire, and this Vaulted Cellar is still used for entertaining today.
The 6th Lord Seton was made 1st Earl of Winton in 1600 and set about making a home out of the ruin. The work was continued by his nephew, the 3rd Earl, who engaged the services of William Wallace, the King’s Master Mason.
Wallace was responsible for many prodigious building projects and he turned Winton into one of the finest examples of Scottish Renaissance architecture.
Two generations on, support for the Royal Stuarts at the Jacobite uprising of 1715 saw the capture of George 5th Earl of Winton at the Battle of Preston. He was taken to the Tower of London; his land and titles were confiscated by the crown and the land was later leased to the York Buildings Company.
It was later requisitioned for use during the uprising of 1745 by Bonnie Prince Charlie, on behalf of the exiled 5th Earl. The rebel army camped on the Estate and were fed by the local tenantry.