St Mary

Sarah Losh (1785-1853), a local landowner, designed St Mary's in 1840, partly in memory of her sister and parents.

About this church

Influenced by the architecture seen on her Grand Tour of Europe, she created an original design that was very much at odds with the English Gothic style of the time. A truly unique architectural experience. All architectural decorative features are based on forms unfamiliar in traditional church architecture.

For at least 650 years there has been a church in Wreay, but in 1840 it was in a state of disrepair. The St Mary's that we see today is the very personal expression of Sarah Losh.
Sarah based the form of the church on a Roman basilica, a rectangular nave with a semicircular apse. This building type was used by early Christians, and Sarah would have seen examples in Italy, but it was at odds with the fashionable English Gothic style.

The church was built between 1840 and 1842 using local labour, including the stonemason William Hindson and his sons. St Mary’s is full of symbolic ornament and carvings which refer to death and rebirth, drawing upon Christian, pagan and personal references. The carvings are based on nature with images of animals, insects, flowers and fossils. You could call St Mary’s Church Sarah’s ‘Benedicte’ of ‘All ye works of the Lord, praise ye the Lord…'

St Mary’s church was not Sarah’s only creation. The Chapel of Rest, recently restored, now houses the Sarah Losh heritage centre. Built in 1835 as a trial run for St Mary’s, Sarah created an ‘exact copy’ of St Piran’s Oratory near Perranporth in Cornwall. Here you will learn much more about local history, the 12 Men of Wreay, Sarah Losh and her family, St Mary’s church and Sarah’s other creations.

Key Features

  • Captivating architecture
  • Spectacular stained glass
  • Magnificent memorials
  • Glorious furnishings
  • Enchanting atmosphere
  • Fascinating churchyard
  • Social heritage stories
  • National heritage here
  • Famous connections

Visitors information

  • Steps to enter the church or churchyard
  • Car park at church
  • On street parking at church
  • Accessible toilets nearby
  • Walkers & cyclists welcome
  • Space to secure your bike
  • Church shop or souvenirs

Other nearby churches

St Mary

Notched into the summit of the circular mound at the centre of the village of Cumwhitton, St Mary's is an ancient church dating from about 1160AD.

St Cuthbert with St Mary

A fine example of a Georgian church, complete with balcony as well as interesting stained glass windows depicting the life of St Cuthbert and a moving pulpit, the only one of its type in the country.


Carlisle Cathedral

Welcome to the world of Romans, Vikings, medieval monks and contemporary Christian community as you tour the grounds and see the surviving monastic buildings, the Georgian residences where the present Canons live, and the peaceful gardens.

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