Photographs kindly sent in by Bob Morgan; images downloaded by the author. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer or source, and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. Click on the images for larger pictures, to see the details discussed.]

Bewcastle Cross at Wreay The original cross

Left: Sarah Losh's version of the Bewcastle Cross. Right: The South and East Prospects of the famous Runic Obelisk at Bew-Castle in Cumberland, by C. Smith, 1741. Source: Cook 14.

Version of the Bewcastle Cross in St Mary's Churchyard, Wreay. Architect: Sarah Losh (1785-1853). Stone-carvers: Losh herself, and William Hindson. Started not long after the church was finished (see Uglow 248), so probably in 1843, the design of this cross is based on the 14' high, late seventh-/early eighth-century Celtic cross in the churchyard at St Cuthbert's, Bewcastle. Grade II listed, it is made of sandstone and carved with figures, Celtic patterns, texts and an inscription in Latin to John and Isabella Losh, the parents of Sarah and her sister Katherine. It is located between the mausoleum that Losh also designed, and the Losh family graves enclosure, in the churchyard of St Mary's Church, Wreay, Cumbria.

Carvings on the original cross Close-up (1), Bewcastle Cross at Wreay Close-up (2), Bewcastle Cross at Wreay Close-up (3), Bewcastle Cross at Wreay

Left to right: (a) A Curious OBELISK in Bewcastle Church Yard. Source: Cook 18. (b) and (c) Details of some of the carving on the east side, with animals and birds eating fruit on a vine. (d) Detail of the Celtic patterns on the north side.

This was an unusual and challenging project, especially for a woman of that — or indeed any — period. It carried through an idea that Losh and her sister had hit upon several years before as a memorial to their parents, and for which they had perhaps even made designs together (see Bullen 678). Whilst doing homage to the past in the antiquarian spirit of the times, its execution involved some adaptations, most notably the addition of the missing cross at the top, and the replacement of the original runes with Latin texts from the Psalms, and prayers for John and Isabella Losh's souls. The details shown above were probably carved by Hindson under Losh's supervision, leaving Losh herself to do the figure carvings on the west side. These depict a man with a hawk, and above him the figure of Jesus, and then at the top the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus. "The figures imitate the Bewcastle poses, but have an early Victorian flavour" (Hyde and Pevsner 707): that is, they are less wooden, more fluid. Moreover, the figure at the top, possibly John the Baptist holding a lamb on the original cross, is here very definitely the Virgin Mary holding and gazing at a real baby (see Smith 38 for a discussion of the original figure).

The middle two pictures above also show the chunky sandstone wall of the mausoleum. Simon Jenkins describes this rectangular structure as built of "stone laid casually in a 'cyclopean' style" (119). It has two small windows. Still, inside this vault-like space the white marble seated statue of Katherine, and the marble reliefs of the sisters' parents and one of their uncles, gleam eerily (see Uglow 252). There is not the same hope of change and renewal here that there is in the church, or indeed in the texts on the cross.

Related Material

Sources

Bullen, J. B. "Sara Losh: Architect, Romantic, Mythologist." The Burlington Magazine. Vol. 143, No. 1184 (November 2001): 676-684. Accessed via JStor. Web. 4 May 2014.

Cook, Albert Stanburrough, ed. Some Accounts of the Bewcastle Cross between the years 1607 and 1861. New York: Henry Holt, 1914. Internet Archive. Web. 4 May 2014.

"Cross in Wreay Churchyard, St Cuthbert Without." British Listed Buildings. Web. 4 May 2014.

Hyde, Matthew, and Nikolaus Pevsner. Cumbria: The Buildings of England (Pevsner Architectural Guides). New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010.

Jenkins, Simon. England's Thousand Best Churches. London: Penguin, 2009.

Uglow, Jenny. The Pinecone: The Story of Sarah Losh, Forgotten Romantic Heroine — Antiquarian, Architect and Visionary. London: Faber, 2012.


Last modified 10 October 2015