East Lothian

Tythe Barn, Whitekirk
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Tythe Barn, Whitekirk

A small kirkton settlement in East Lothian, Whitekirk lies 2¼ miles (4 km) north of East Linton. In the 13th century the site was developed as a pilgrimage resort drawing on the curative powers of the Holy Well of Our Lady, situated 200m (220 yards) east of the parish church. Linked to Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh, the shrine is said to have attracted over 15,000 pilgrims in 1413. King James I placed the church under his personal protection and built hostels for the growing number of pilgrims. In 1338 the church was pillaged by King Edward III's troops during their invasion of the Lothians and, in 1356, Edward returned, landing his troops on the coast close to Whitekirk before marching on Haddington.

in 1453 the shrine was visited by Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, an Italian diplomat on a mission to Scotland who later became Pope Pius II. King James IV regularly made the journey to Whitekirk, but his son King James V gave the site to the Sinclair family who built a rare example in Scotland of a tithe barn with stone from the former pilgrims' hostel. In 1678 the covenanting preacher John Blackadder (1615-86) held his last coventicle on the hill behind Whitekirk Church. Following agricultural drainage in the 19th century the holy well dried up and in 1914 suffragettes set fire to the church which was subsequently restored by Sir Robert Lorimer (1864 - 1929).

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