Towards the end of the thirteenth century there appeared for the first time on buildings in England a new shape of pointed arch, each side of which consists of two contrasting curves.  Its introduction led to a new, curvilinear style of architecture.


It is not easy to construct and is not very strong as a support, so it is mostly seen on ‘blind’ archways, tombs, wooden screens and small windows, or else as a decorative feature over an archway.  It seems that it was used mainly for ornamental rather than for structural reasons.

Nobody seems to have solved the mystery of where the idea of an ogee arch came from.  Examples elsewhere earlier than those found in East Anglia which could suggest a source of inspiration are hard to find.  However, there are a few early examples surviving in Russia (such as one near a place called Tzarkoe Selo) where they are seen alongside onion-shaped domes.  Many old churches there that have ogee-shaped features are built of timber, and it happens that the ogee arch has sometimes been called the keel arch because it resembles the section of a boat, including its keel and hull, but in reverse.  A possibility is that the idea for the ogee shape stems from a tradition in working with wood.


The above picture shows ogee arch decoration on the front of the Great Gate at Bury St. Edmunds, which was one of the entrances to the Benedictine Monastery there.   Although the ogee arch is purely decorative, the Gate itself was built for defence purposes, evidenced by the narrow slits behind some of the niches.  The Gate is now a scheduled Grade 1 monument. The lower part was finished in 1346.

This elaborate canopy with ogee arches on pendants can be seen in the church of St. Peter and St. Paul at East Harling in Norfolk.  The underside of the canopy has a vaulted ceiling, under which lies a monument to Sir William Chamberlain who died in 1462.

Below is a picture of a turret with a Russian-style cap at Beccles Church in Suffolk.

The picture above shows the elaborately carved ogee arch over the tomb in Wingfield Church in Suffolk of Sir John Wingfield who died in 1361.

Notice the cusps and subcusps under the arch.

Below shows an ogee arch over one of the doors at St. Peter Mancroft Church in Norwich.

Above, right: One of the doorways at St. Margaret’s Church at Cley-next-the Sea n north Norfolk.  It is shaped with an ogee arch and hood-mould and is cusped and subcusped in stone.


Below left: an ogee-shaped window on a house at Brockdish in Norfolk.

Below right: Ogee-shaped window on a building in Long Melford in Suffolk.

Below left is a good example of ogee shapes in ironwork.  The photo shows a close-up of the porch gates at Finningham Church in Suffolk. Below right and below centre are modern buildings with ogee-shaped roofs at Lowestoft.  The smaller building is a refreshment kiosk and the larger building is a glass pavilion.

The red walls of this house near Flixton in the Waveney Valley help to give emphasis to the white-painted ogee-shaped windows. (Below)  The colour of the walls has recently been changed.

This brick-built ogee-shaped porch, which dates from 1685, is at Letheringham Church in Suffolk

Wooden screen gate at Breckles Church in Norfolk with ogee-shaped top.

Wooden pulpit with ogee-shaped decoration in the church at Covehithe on the Suffolk coast.

This parclose screen, which divides off one of two chapels, is at St. Mary’s Church, Dennington, in Suffolk.  Dating from about 1450, it is complete and well-preserved with original lofts intact and colouring that was renewed in 1845.  The ogee shapes are very elaborately adorned with cusps and crocketing.

Other examples of ogee-shaped work in East Anglia, include:


Brasswork with ogee shapes incorporated in the design is what remains of a memorial to Sir John Howard and his wife Alice Tendring in Stoke-by-Nayland Church in Suffolk.  Alice was the daughter of Sir William Tendring who has a brass memorial in the same church depicting him in his full armour.  Sir John Howard was the ancestor of the Dukes of Norfolk.

There are ogee arch doorways at Caston, Dickleburgh, Elsing and Wheatacre churches in Norfolk.


The octagonal font at Walsham-le-Willows church in Suffolk has ogee-shaped arches with leaf crockets and a finial at the top which is flanked by foliage.  There is a band of little faces of animals around the top of the richly-traceried panels of the bowl.   It dates from the first half of the fourteenth century, and is almost identical to one in Rattlesdon Church.


The screen in the Harling Chapel at East Harling Church in Norfolk has ogee arches.  It has its original colour, a fan canopy, tracery tipped with roses, and much heraldry.  In the spandrels there are carvings of figures and faces, and in the panels there are birds, owls, dragons, men and a squirrel eating a nut.


The fourteenth century rood screen beneath the chancel arch at St. Mary’s Church at Grundisburgh in Suffolk has been carefully restored.  It has elegant ogee arches and openwork tracery, embellished with leaf-crockets.

Pulpit with ogee-shaped decoration at Gissing Church in Norfolk.

This fifteenth century wooden screen with ogee-shaped decoration is at Walsham-le-Willows Church in Suffolk.

Ogee-shaped decoration on this painted wooden medieval screen is at Tivetdhall Church in Norfolk.



Below: Ogee-style window on a building in King’s Lynn in Norfolk, which was designed by Tree and Price of London.