This parish is comprised within Cumberland ward; union, county court, and rural districts of Carlisle; and electoral division of St. Cuthbert's Without. It is in the petty sessional division of Cumberland ward.

It lies on the west side of the river Petteril, and is bounded on the north and west by St. Cuthbert's Without, and on the south by High Hesket. The civil and ecclesiastical parishes are not co-extensive, the former only having an area of 1,119 acres, while the latter covers a district of 4,000 acres. The soil is generally fertile, and consists of good meadow and arable land, resting on a clayey, or in some places a sandy sub-soil. Agriculture is the principal occupation of the inhabitants, who numbered at the last census 160. The ecclesiastical parish contains about 491 persons. The ratable value of the land is about 806, and of the buildings, etc., 1,554. The manorial rights and privileges are vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, who, with the Rev. James Arlosh, of Woodside, are the principal landowners.

The parish contains a village of its own name, and the hamlets of High Wreay and Foulbridge.

The village of Wreay is pleasantly situated, five miles S. by E. of Carlisle. A chapel stood here at an early period, erected doubtless on account of the great distance from the mother church of St. Mary, Carlisle. The earliest notice of Wrea Chapel is in 1319, when Bishop Halton approved of the appointment of a chaplain, provided that he constantly resided within the chapelry; from which it would appear that even in those days there were absentee clergymen. In 1739 the old chapel was consecrated by Bishop Fleming, and the curate's salary was made worth 20 a year, with a good house. The living has since been considerably augmented, and is now worth 300 per annum.

The old chapel dedicated to St. Mary, was replaced in 1843 by the present church, erected at a cost of 1,200, the whole of which, except a small donation from the patrons of the living, and the contributions of a few friends, was defrayed by the late Miss Losh, of Woodside. It is in the Norman style of architecture, consisting of nave, chancel, and turret, crowned by a Roman eagle. The same benevolent lady who provided the funds for its erection, also furnished the designs and the finished work now stands a lasting monument of her fertility of conception and delicacy of taste. It resembles in its general features the basilica churches of Italy, its semi-circular chancel being very beautiful, both in design and execution. The interior is richly embellished by well-executed carved work, full of symbolical meaning. The communion table is supported by two brazen eagles and another richly carved in wood serves for the lecturn, while a pelican supports a second lecturn. In the chancel are seven lamps, apparently lighted, intended to represent the seven spirits mentioned in the Book of Revelation. The oaken roof is beautifully carved, and was furnished from the well-wooded lawns of Woodside. The interior is illumined by several stained-glass windows, through which pours a flood of that "dim religious light " so conducive to prayer and meditation.

In the churchyard, adjoining the chapel, is a chaste piece of sculpture, from the chisel of Dunbar, in white polished marble - the figure of the late Miss Catherine Losh - for which a cell in the Druidical fashion has been built. A few yards from this cell stands a stone cross, eighteen feet high, with a Latin inscription to the memory of the late John Losh, Esq., and his wife, a copy of one in Bewcastle churchyard. Miss Losh, seeing the crowded state of the burial-ground at Carlisle, had a piece of ground dedicated as a public cemetery, the oratory in which is an exact model of Perranzabulo. She also erected a good house, and conveyed it to trustees for the use of the sexton.

The ecclesiastical parish was formed in 1869 by adding parts of Hesket-in-the-Forest and Upperby to the ancient chapelry, which was a township of St. Mary's, Carlisle. A rather curious custom is observed at this church, that of ringing a bell at the end as well as at the commencement of the service. The common belief is that it is meant as a warning to the housewives who are preparing dinner, but many ascribe it to a far different origin. In the good old days of yore it was the custom for a monk to walk from the Abbey in Carlisle, on Sundays and Holy-days to conduct divine service in the little cell on the banks of the Petteril, and it is supposed that the second bell was rung as a notice to the good people of the neighbourhood, when the monk intended to stay and give a second service on the same day.

A school was erected here about the year 1760, and endowed in 1763 by John Brown, Esq., of Woodside, with 200, part of which was laid out in the purchase of land. This was subsequently sold to W.S. Losh, Esq., and the proceeds invested in the consols, now producing 17 a year. The school is further endowed with land, the total income of which amounts to 40 annually; also with the interest of 200 given by W. Fletcher, Esq., the owner of Wreay Hall estate. In 1830 a new school was built near the site of the old one by Miss Losh, to which a library was added in 1874, by W.S. Losh, Esq., at a cost of 100, which now contains over 1,000 volumes.

CHARITIES. - There is a small sum (2 5s.), the interest of 50 left by Richard Lowthian in 1786, distributed at Candlemas among three or four poor persons who are not in receipt of parish relief.
William Fletcher, Esq., gave the sum of 100, the interest of which is divided among the poor of the parish by the " Twelve Men of Wreay."

A lime tree was planted on the Village green in commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The green was the scene of Shrove Tuesday festivities, for which Wreay was once famous. Up to 1790 cockfighting was the chief feature, and the successful competitor was made the holder, for a year, of a silver bell, engraved " Wreay Chappie 1655," the gift of Mr. Graham. A hunt of harriers was the next institution, the hunt being followed by a public dinner and election of a "Mayor" for the ensuing year. When the honour had been conferred, the happy recipient was carried along the green in a chair to the accompaniment of "See the Conquering Hero comes," being pelted with oranges the while. The bell was stolen in 1872 after 217 years usage, and in 1880, the hunt as well as the election of Mayor came to an end.

"The Twelve Men of Wreay" - The origin of this institution is uncertain. It consists of twelve men, as the name implies, to perform certain offices in the parish. They formed the village parliament over two hundred years ago, and are in existence still. A man, once appointed, filled the office for life, unless he resigned, and his services dispensed with by vote of his colleagues. They received the rental of certain lands, appointed the schoolmaster, and distributed certain endowed charities through the overseers, and formerly acted as guardians of the poor. The vicar is chairman, ex officio.



Bulmer's History & Directory Of Cumberland, 1901

19 June 2015

Steve Bulman