Cusps and foils are commonly seen as decoration on buildings. Cusps are projecting
points and foils are the spaces between them. Both the cusps and the foils are usually
even in size, and they are either arranged in a row as seen on bargeboards, for example,
aligned within an arch, or else joined together to produce a shape such as a trefoil.
This porch at Shimpling Church in Norfolk is unusual in being timber-framed. It
has a cusped and foiled bargeboard.
Lych gate with cusped and foiled bargeboard at Starston Church in Norfolk.
Cusps and foils in flushwork at Diss Church in Norfolk.
Cusps and foils in stonework at the entrance to the porch at Old Hunstanton Church
Cusps and foils within an arch on wooden furniture inside Bressingham Church in Norfolk.
A bargeboard with cusps and foils on the gable end of a house at Flixton in Suffolk.
Thihs house in Beccles in Suffolk with its cusped and foiled decoration is very reminiscent
of the ‘cottage ornee’ style of building which was popular in the nineteenth century,
when many estate cottages were rebuilt in a picturesque manner. One of the features
which was used to ‘prettify’ such cottages was an elaborate bargeboard. Some of
the inspiration for the fashion came from the example of the Royal Lodge at Windsor
Great Park, which was built in 1814 with a thatch and fancy detailing.
The earliest surviving cusps and foils in East Anglia date from the thirteenth century,
and our to be found in churches. They are reminiscent of cusps and foils seen in
Saracenic (Muslim) architecture where they seem to be a natural development of the
horseshoe arch much used by the Muslims. Good, early examples can be seen in Spain,
such as at Cordoba where they decorate the arches between the pillars at a mosque
dated AD 965, and the screen of a chapel at Villa Viciosa which was erected in about
It was in Spain that Muslims and Christians came to live together in mutual tolerance
thanks to the astute leadership of King Ferdinand III of Castile (1199-1252). His
reign saw the start of a cross-cultural flowing of ideas. It was his daughter, Eleanor
of Castile, who married King Edward I of England: this made close connections between
England and Spain by which were brought new ideas in art and architecture.