Nunnery to church
Lincluden was founded as a Benedictine nunnery in the 1160s, probably by Uchtred, son of Fergus, Lord of Galloway.
A petition to the pope to have the nunnery replaced by a college in 1389 hints at moral and physical decay at the convent. Buildings had apparently fallen into disrepair, while the nuns are said to have used the nunnery’s revenues to dress their daughters “born in incest” in fine clothes.
That petition, by Archibald ‘the Grim’, Lord of Galloway, was successful. He expelled the nuns and replaced them with a provost, eight priests and 24 bedesmen. They were to pray for the souls of Archibald, his family and descendants.
The church was built for Archibald in around 1400 by the Frenchman John Morrow, one of the finest master masons in Scotland. The choir and part of the nave survives today. There is also a later domestic range to the north.
The choir, one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in Scotland, features:
- a stone pulpitum, or screen, separating the choir from nave. This is decorated with alternating angels and cherubs, and scenes from the life of Christ
- the sedilia, or seating for the priests officiating at mass
- a piscine, or stone basin for washing communion vessels, on the south wall
In the north wall is the monumental tomb for Archibald’s wife Princess Margaret, Lady of Galloway, who died in 1450.
Morrow hints at his involvement in Lincluden in an inscription at Melrose Abbey. This states he also ‘had in kepyng al mason werk … of Nyddysdayl and of Galway [Galloway]’.
After the Reformation
The church survived the Protestant Reformation of 1560, though the last mass was celebrated in the 1580s. The last provost left about 1590, when ownership passed to the Maxwells of Terregles. They converted the collegiate church’s domestic ranges into a mansion house, which was abandoned by the late 1600s.