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In the village of Wreay, near Carlisle, stands the strangest and most magical church in Victorian England. This vivid, original book tells the story of its builder, Sarah Losh, strong-willed and passionate and unusual in every way. Born into an old Cumbrian family, heiress to an industrial fortune, Sarah combined a zest for progress with a love of the past. In the church, her masterpiece, she let her imagination flower – there are carvings of ammonites, scarabs and poppies; an arrow pierces the wall as if shot from a bow; a tortoise-gargoyle launches itself into the air. And everywhere there are pinecones, her signature in stone. The church is a dramatic rendering of the power of myth and the great natural cycles of life and death and rebirth.
Sarah’s story is also that of her radical family – friends of Wordsworth and Coleridge; of the love between sisters and the life of a village; of the struggle of the weavers, the coming of the railways, the findings of geology and the fate of a young northern soldier in the Afghan war. Above all, though, it is about the joy of making and the skill of local, unsung craftsmen.
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