Solway Plain - past and present by the Holme St Cuthbert History Group

The fortified church of St John the Evangelist at Newton Arlosh was not just a place of worship. It also acted as a safe refuge for local people during cross-border raids by the Scots. There is only one, very narrow doorway and all the windows are above head level. The building dates from the early 1300s but was extensively remodelled in the 1840s. It is a Grade I listed building.

Newton Arlosh Church

In April 1304, the Bishop of Carlisle granted permission for the Abbot of Holm Cultram to ‘build one chapel or church afresh in your land of Arlosk’.  It seems that it acted as a chapel for local people from around this time until the monastery’s dissolution in 1538.

After this, it was not used and quickly fell into disrepair. It was said that, by 1580, ‘the door stood open, sheep lay in it and the lead was taken away by some of the tenants and converted into salt pans.’

Lyson’s ‘Account of the County of Cumberland’, published in 1816, includes this engraving of the remains of the church as they appeared at that time. They were soon to be completely transformed.

 Newton Arlosh Church in 1816

Sarah Losh was a wealthy land owner who lived, a few miles south of Carlisle, at Wreay where she had built a completely new and architecturally unique church. After this was completed in 1842, she turned her attention to Newton Arlosh.

Portrait of Sarah Losh Sarah Losh (left) included many personal and unusual features in her buildings.

One example is this sculpture of an eagle on the east gable end of the church.

It is possible that Sarah carved it herself.
Eagle sculpture

She was convinced the village was her ancestral home and that the ‘Arlosh’ part of the name related to her family. All the Losh clan seem to have believed this. One of them a clergyman, James Losh, even officially changed his name to Arlosh in 1870. In fact, there is no trace of the Losh name in any of the early parish registers for the area or in the records of Holm Cultram Abbey where they claimed to have worked on one of the monastery’s farms.

Plan of Newton Arlosh Church

Plan adapted from “The Medieval Fortified Buildings of Cumbria” by Denis Perriam and John Robinson (1998)

Sarah Losh’s builders reconstructed the south wall and tower of the church. The upper section of the tower, with its battlements and turret, is a completely Victorian structure; the break from the old stonework is clearly visible. The northern wall of the old church’s nave was removed and an extension added which more than doubled the size of the church. At the east end of the new section an apse, with a scalloped stone roof was added which would originally have housed the alter.

Rear of Newton Arlosh Church

Sarah added a number of personal touches to the décor, just as she did in her more famous work at Wreay. There were changes to the structure and decoration again in the 1890s when Sarah’s original apse was converted into a vestry and the alignment of the interior changed so that the alter is now against the north wall. 

Newton Arlosh Church Interior


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  More about Sarah Losh and the church at Wreay.

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Newton Arlosh Church