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Seton Mains, fort

A Scheduled Monument in Preston, Seton and Gosford, East Lothian

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Latitude: 55.9679 / 55°58'4"N

Longitude: -2.9229 / 2°55'22"W

OS Eastings: 342491

OS Northings: 675368

OS Grid: NT424753

Mapcode National: GBR 2L.X38W

Mapcode Global: WH7TW.28F9

Entry Name: Seton Mains, fort

Scheduled Date: 10 March 1995

Last Amended: 22 November 2019

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM6191

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: fort (includes hill and promontory fort)

Location: Tranent

County: East Lothian

Electoral Ward: Preston, Seton and Gosford

Traditional County: East Lothian


The monument comprises an enclosed prehistoric settlement (a fort) visible as cropmarks recorded on aerial photographs to the west and above the Seton Dean burn. The fort is D-shaped on plan, defined by an outer enclosing ditch and two further inner palisades. At least four roundhouses have been identified within the interior. The fort occupies higher ground above the Seton Burn which would have originally formed the eastern boundary of the fort.

The fort measures around 100m in diameter within three concentric enclosures. The outermost comprises a ditch ending in curved terminals, the gap between which forms an entrance of 7.5m in width. The second enclosure comprises a narrower sub-circular ditch around 1m in width with slots cut for a timber palisade. There is a gap which forms an entrance which is offset to the north of the outer enclosure entrance. The innermost enclosure also comprises a sub-circular ditch around 1m in width with evidence for a timber palisade. Within the inner enclosure are the remains of a round house. The remains of two further round houses lie to the south and were built over the outermost of the palisades indicating that they are later in date than that feature.

The scheduled area is irregular. It includes the remains described above and an area around within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.  The scheduling specifically excludes the above ground elements of all the modern boundaries, the above and below ground elements of the Scottish Water pumping station 11m northeast of The Larches and the top 20cm of all roads and tracks to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The national importance of the monument is demonstrated in the following way(s) (see Designations Policy and Selection Guidance, Annex 1, para 17):

a.   The monument is of national importance because it makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the past as a fort dating to the middle Bronze Age to early Iron Age. It adds to our understanding of prehistoric society in eastern Scotland and the function, use and development of forts and other enclosed settlements at this time.

b.   The monument retains structural and other physical attributes which make a significant contribution to our understanding of the past. The plan of the monument is clear and understandable through the cropmark evidence and there is significant potential for the survival of buried archaeological deposits. The monument can significantly add to our understanding of domestic settlement, agriculture and economy during the Iron Age.

d.   The monument is a particularly good example of a D-shaped fort dating to the middle Bronze Age to early Iron Age with multiple enclosures and evidence of internal structures. It is therefore an important representative sample of this monument type.

e.   The monument has research potential which could significantly contribute to our understanding of the past. Its enclosure ditches and round house remains could provide material for carbon dating which when compared with similar monuments could contribute to a better understanding of the chronological development of settlement during this period of Scottish prehistory. Additionally, environmental material surviving within these buried features, particularly the ditches, could also provide information on diet, agricultural practice and local ecology.

Assessment of Cultural Significance

This statement of national importance has been informed by the following assessment of cultural significance:

Intrinsic characteristics (how the remains of a site or place contribute to our knowledge of the past)

The monument is a fort, an enclosed prehistoric settlement which is likely to date from mid Bronze Age to early Iron Age.   The monument is visible as cropmarks on oblique aerial photographs.  Excavations of similar monuments in East Lothian such as East Linton, fort, 800m SW of (scheduled monument SM4169) have shown prolonged periods of occupation or reoccupation of this type of monument with dates ranging from 1370-1050 BC to 390-200 BC. This range of dates span the mid Bronze Age to early Iron Age.

The plan of the monument is clear and understandable forming a D-shape. The fort comprises three concentric enclosure ditches bounded to the east by a steep drop to the Seton Burn. The central and inner ditches are likely to be the remains of slots for timber palisades, the entrances of which are offset to the north of the outer enclosure's entrance. At least four round houses, an L-shaped post setting and two thin ditches, are visible also. Two of the round houses overly the central enclosure's southern ditch. This arrangement of offset and overlying features indicates that this is a multi-phase settlement which retains structural and physical attributes that can significantly add to our understanding of domestic settlement, agriculture and economy during the Iron Age.

There is good potential for the survival of buried archaeological features and deposits, including occupation and abandonment debris, artefacts and environmental remains within the monument. Excavations at Whittinghame Tower, enclosure 250m SW of (scheduled monument SM6067) have provided evidence of crops such as hulled barley, oats and emmer wheat and artefacts such as a copper and blue enamel stud, stone tools, decorated stone, a saddle quern and pottery. This monument has the potential to add to our understanding of settlement, land-use and environment, diet, and social status of the occupants, as well as the structure of contemporary society and economy. Scientific study of this site would allow us to confirm the date range of the monument any possible development sequence through radiocarbon dating.

Contextual characteristics (how a site or place relates to its surroundings and/or to our existing knowledge of the past)

Forts and defended settlements are found throughout Scotland, however, this monument is a particularly good example of a D-shaped fort. Being bounded to the Seton Burn would have made the fort easily defendable form the east. It is part of a wider group of sixty such sites in East Lothian which make use of a drop to a gully, watercourse or escarpment to enclose one side of the settlement. The fort is sited in a flat area that rises gently from the coast line. This would have provided uninterrupted views of the surrounding landscape.

The fort may be related to other later prehistoric settlements in the area, such as Riggonhead (Canmore ID 54993) and Seton West Mains, enclosures 500 SW of, (scheduled monument SM5687). There is potential to study these sites together to better understand their functions within the local communities, settlement hierarchy and possible chronological development in the area. The monument has the potential to enhance and broaden our understanding of prehistoric society and community as well as social organisation, land division and land use.

Associative characteristics (how a site or place relates to people, events, and/or historic and social movements)

There are no known associative characteristics that contribute to this site's cultural significance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 54928 (accessed on 15/08/2019).

Local Authority HER/SMR Reference MEL505 (accessed on 15/08/19).

Haselgrove, C. and Hale D. 2009 The Evaluations at East Bearford, Foster Law and East Linton. In: Haselgrove, C. (ed.)The Traprain Law Environs Project Fieldwork and Excavations 2000-2004 Edinburgh, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 99-115.

ScARF 2012 Hunter, F. and Carruthers, M. (eds) Iron Age Scotland Scottish Archaeological Research Framework: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Available online at (accessed on 14/08/2019).

ScARF 2012 Downes J. (ed.) Chalcolithic and Bronze Age Scotland: ScARF Panel Report Scottish Archaeological Research Framework:Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Available online at (accessed on (15/08/2019).


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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