Whithorn is the cradle of Christianity in Scotland
History & Archaeology
The Pend House is the former gatehouse to the mediaeval Priory of Whithorn. Whithorn was the site of the first Christian church in Scotland, founded by St. Ninian (or Nynia) over a century before St. Columba founded his famous church at Iona. The location of that original church from the 5th century AD is probably on the crest of the small hill just beyond the archway, now the site of Whitorn Priory, a Historic Scotland property in care.
By the Middle Ages, Whithorn had become a powerful and prosperous centre of pilgrimage, and the gatehouse belongs to this period. The coat of arms on the Pend House symbolises both the monastery’s wealth and its connections – it is the Royal Arms of the Stuart kings of Scotland, and demonstrated to those coming on pilgrimage that the Prior was under powerful patronage and that they were entering his domain. In fact, James IV was one Royal pilgrim who came on pilgrimage each year, probably in penance for his role in his father’s death, and the late mediaeval sculpture at the Pend belongs to his reign.
After the Reformation, it may be that the Pend House was substantially rebuilt, since reused stones inside the house belong to the Priory which was partly demolished. The gatehouse itself probably underwent many re-modellings, since it may at one point have been a tower-like structure, and archaeological analysis produced evidence for a former barrel-vault, which had subsequently collapsed.
After the abolition of pilgrimage, like many gatehouses which had always welcomed the pilgrim, the house may have become an inn. Certainly, in the 19th Century, it had become so, and remained The Commercial Inn until the 1930’s.
Former gatehouse to the mediaeval Priory of Whithorn
Pend House Restoration
In the 1980’s, the Pend House was purchased under the Little Houses Scheme of the National Trust for Scotland, & sold in 1997 to the present owners. A programme of archaeology was undertaken in 1998 by Headland Archaeology, in conjunction with Historic Scotland, to analyse the house and its structures, and the interiors were restored by the owners to reflect as much of the history of the house as possible.
A careful restoration and re-gilding of the coat of arms was undertaken by Stenhouse Conservation, the conservation wing of Historic Scotland. This marked the end of the 3 year restoration of this historic property.