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The Pinecone [Hardcover]

Jenny Uglow
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
RRP: 20.00
Price: 16.35 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

6 Sep 2012

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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Product details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (6 Sep 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571269508
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571269501
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 14 x 21.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 92,087 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'Absorbing, illuminating and brilliantly crafted.' --Salley Vickers, Observer Books of the Year
'Jenny Uglow's The Pinecone is about the language of carving, objects and containing ideas. It is the story of Sarah Losh, a north country heiress in the early 19th century, forceful, learned, independent, who built a church full of fascinating images. The tale is mysterious because Uglow worked with almost no manuscript remains and scrupulously invented nothing. She has turned this central silence into a kind of force by describing stones, glass, things constructed, so precisely that they become not exactly alive but strangely present on the page ... I don't know another book that feels quite like this one.' --A. S. Byatt, New Statesman Books of the Year
'Most lives reheat familiar cabbage. It is a brave biographer who resurrects an unknown or forgotten character. Jenny Uglow's The Pinecone is the fastidious but fascinating story of Sarah Losh, a Cumbrian heiress, spinster and visionary, who used her alkali fortune to build a stubbornly individual church at Wreay in 1842, which kicked off the Byzantine revival.' --Nicholas Shakespeare, Telegraph Books of the Year

Book Description

Jenny Uglow vividly brings to life the story of Sarah Losh - lost Romantic genius, antiquarian, architect and visionary.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a fine book on an unknown but remarkable person 24 Sep 2012
By Stephen
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It is good that the achievement of Sarah Losh, landowner near Carlisle and amateur architect, should at last have been recognised in this fine book. St Mary's, Wreay is one of the very few churches to have been designed by a woman. Not only that, but its form is very unusual in this country, a small Lombardic cell with a wonderful apse. And all over it there is nature carving, all designed by Miss Losh. It is a remarkable building to find on the village green of a quiet, inconspicuous Cumbrian village. The carving prefigures the Arts and Crafts movement by forty years.

An interesting monograph on the church was compiled a few years ago by Stephen Matthews, owner of the excellent Bookcase bookshop in Carlisle, but I know he was delighted that Jenny Uglow became interested in Miss Losh; Jenny Uglow has an impressive list of good publications to her credit, and this book is elegantly written and as thorough as the sources allow. This latter point is really the only caveat (apart from a few typos): Miss Losh destroyed almost all her papers and so the author has to infer what she was like from the accounts of others and from the physical evidence contained in the church. There is much material about the extended Losh family, some of whom made a lot of money (and some of whom didn't), and figures as diverse as Wordsworth, Humphry Davy, George Stephenson and Lord Grey flit through these pages. What a small world it was in the early 19c.

A fine achievement, but how fascinating it would have been to explore Miss Losh's own papers and fill out her story.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Unique Architect's Unique Work 16 Oct 2012
Here is an architect you have never heard of: Sarah Losh. One of the reasons you haven't heard of Losh is that she has one fine church to represent her oeuvre. One of the reasons is that this little structure was built in 1842, and it was built in an out-of-the-way village, Wreay, outside of Carlisle in northern England. Another reason is simply that she was a woman, so she really wasn't an architect because women were not allowed to be architects. She was, however, an extraordinary woman in many ways, and now she has as full a biography as can ever be written. Jenny Uglow, who has written several outstanding books about personalities of that age and locale, has an appreciation for Losh's life and her remarkable church in _The Pinecone: The Story of Sarah Losh, Forgotten Romantic Heroine - Antiquarian, Architect, and Visionary_ (Faber and Faber). The book has good pictures, and concentrates on St. Mary's Church in Wreay, partly out of necessity. Losh didn't leave much documentation of her life. She wrote poetry, but none of it remains, and she kept a journal which others read and treasured and kept passages from, but she burned her journals and other documents. If she ever fell in love, or wrote love letters, we have no evidence. What she did have, and what enables Uglow to tell her story in this fullness, is a bustling family with wealth coming in plentifully from the chemistry of the Industrial Age; a time of political upheaval and Losh's own radicalism; and the little church, which shows an energetic and independent mind.

Losh got much of her education courtesy of her Uncle James, who advocated various liberal policies including education for women.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Written in Stone 22 Sep 2012
By Gregory S. Buzwell TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The Pinecone tells the story of a church built during the early Victorian era in the village of Wreay, just outside Carlisle, and of the remarkable woman who designed it. In an age when Gothic architecture was all the rage the church was unusual for being built in a Romanesque style but, as Jenny Uglow's beautiful book reveals, the true uniqueness and brilliance of the building and the woman behind it goes much deeper than that.

Sarah Losh, intelligent, thoughtful, generous, was born into a respected and wealthy Cumbrian family. Much of her life only seems to be known to us at one remove. She is mentioned in the diaries and letters of her family, and the records and documents relating to the building of her church provide fascinating insights into the workings of her intellect and imagination and yet much about her remains tantalisingly opaque. In the diaries and letters we see her through the eyes of others but in her church we see her, perhaps, as she saw herself.

Sarah's family moved in exalted circles; Coleridge and Wordsworth were friends and they held influence with the great and the good of the North of England. They also followed the discoveries of their age. The early 1800s saw tremendous advances in science and industry with many of the innovations that reached fruition in the Victorian era - the extensive railways and the rise of the merchantile middle-classes for example - having their origins in the late-Georgian period. Behind the technological triumphs however there are fears and doubts. Lyle's work in the field of geology sows the first seeds of unease that will grow to fruition in the work of Charles Darwin. All of this fascinating intellectual and spiritual ferment somehow found expression in a small church in the north of England.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars It is a very interesting story but I found that ...
It is a very interesting story but I found that there was far too much trivial detail and the main part of the story about the design and building of the church didn't start until... Read more
Published 9 days ago by Squirrel
5.0 out of 5 stars The Pinecone
I am still reading this book. I am enjoying this book although I think this may in part be due to living in the area so I can relate to places it may be a little long winded for... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Cecilia
4.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting read
A really fascinating book, well researched. Revealing some interesting findings on the role of women artists and architects in the 19th century.
Published 5 months ago by Margaret Christopoulos
4.0 out of 5 stars Brings to life a great female nineteenth century female architect and...
Sarah Lush was an independent nineteenth century woman who used her inherited wealth the design and build in Cumbria. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Helen Hall
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but flawed
I've been a fan of Jenny Uglow's for some while, but this book was a little disappointing. Here are a few reasons:

The book has clearly been researched in depth, but it... Read more
Published 7 months ago by NickR
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent service
This book arrived so quickly and looks as though it is new. So I am very pleased with it and now look forward to reading it!
Published 9 months ago by Elizabeth Jane Panton
5.0 out of 5 stars Jenny Uglow at her very best
I loved this book. It tells the story of Sarah Losh who designed and had built St Mary's Church in Wreay, Cumbria in the 1840's. Read more
Published 9 months ago by The Cats' Mother
4.0 out of 5 stars WREAY CHURCH
Published 9 months ago by Mrs. K. L. Hall
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical biography
Jenny Uglow is always very readable and in this instance has picked a fairly unknown character of real interest and hisorical relevance to the North East.
Published 9 months ago by Penny Ann
3.0 out of 5 stars A Disappointing but Instructive Read
One is led to believe that this book is about the woman who designed this extraordinary church, and to an extent it is, but one has to wade through a great deal on her extended... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Mrs. Judith A H Keenlyside
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