The first property in Scotland of the pre-Reformation Order of St John, the Preceptory was established at Torphichen in West Lothian.
Acquired during the reign of David I, King of Scots (1124-1153), it became, and remained until the 16th century, the Order’s administrative centre in Scotland, although it was mostly dependent on the Order’s Priory in Clerkenwell in London.
It was also a hospital and a place of worship. It held the right of sanctuary, and the large stones marking the sanctuary boundary can still be seen today.
The crossing tower and transepts of the Preceptory building remain, and the property is currently under the stewardship of Historic Scotland. The parish church, built in 1756, occupies the site of the nave, and a choir of the same length would originally have extended eastwards beyond the crossing tower.
The domestic buildings, including a dormitory, dining hall, kitchen, and preceptor’s lodge were set around a cloistered court on the north side of the church, although only their foundations remain.
Work of the late 12th century church survives in the fine blocked archway between the crossing and the nave; this may originally have formed the chancel arch of a small church comprising a nave and a chapel.
In around 1200, it expanded as a cross-shaped church with transepts for side alters, a bell tower and an extended choir.
Towards the end of the 14th century, the transepts were almost entirely rebuilt, with new windows and vaulting; and a new stair-turret was provided to the tower. In the 15th century, upper storeys were built above the two transepts.
St John Scotland holds an annual service at the Preceptory and parish church on the last Sunday of August of every year.
With the help of volunteers organised by St John Scotland’s West Lothian team, the Preceptory is open to the public over weekends and bank holidays from Good Friday to September 30th, from 1pm until 5pm.