Early English Gothic Period

Early English Style of Gothic architecture spanned from 1189 – 1272. During this era, English architects and artists fully embraced this style of art and design. Buildings were mostly free from Romanesque influence and embraced the new structures of medieval architecture, along with ornamentation and carvings.

Key Features:

  • Introduction of the flying buttress, pointed arch and ribbed vaulting
  • Pointed arch openings and support, also knows as a lancet arches
  • Lancet windows that were larger and wider 
  • Moldings carved with great depth
  • Tooth ornamentation
  • Large rose windows
  • Emphasis on increased height
  • Clusters of slender columns surrounding a central pillar (or pier)

Tooth Ornamentation    

Tooth Ornamentation
Foliage was used in an exquisite and delicate manner and was integrated into moldings and frameworks. Similar ornamentation was used on arches and piers to accentuate the structures. The trefoil leaf dominated ornamentation but architects and artists varied in the ways they used their designs. Often, leafs were used in cornices, along groining, and within moldings of windows and doorways. Designs of the time were termed “Stiff-leaf."
Moldings used were bold and rounded, and hollows were cut with deep angles to produce effects of light and shade. Within the detail of the moldings small pyramid shapes were used. These pyramids were cut into four leafs or petals meeting at the middle point. Ornamentation fashioned in this way was termed “tooth ornamentation” because it resembled a row of teeth. Foliage carvings used to decorate structures were created in a careful and delicate manner. Leaves curled over corners and edges, adding elegance to buildings. Crockets were also introduced during this era as a type of elaborate decoration.  Marble shafts were used with pillars and crockets were arranged vertically over each other.

Early English Leaves


This combination of molding and ornamentation was used on arches, doors and windows. These distinctive carvings and works of art were very characteristic of the Early English Gothic style. Chester Cathedral and St.Hugh’s Choir, Lincoln, shows examples of these particular designs.

Doorways were generally pointed and often used a type of opening called a Carnarvon arch, or a Shoulder arch. Rounded arches were used in the doorways and were distinguished by their moldings, with the occasional use of segmented arches in doorways.
In general, Early English Style buildings were comparatively lighter and had distinctive features externally and internally. Externally, buildings were shaped to appear long and narrow, were lancet-shaped, had pointed windows, were bold, and had projecting buttresses and with pitch roofs. Internally, buildings had pointed arches supporting slender and lofty pillars. Instead of heavy masses and horizontal lines along support structures, architects used light and graceful forms of vertical lines. (see Westminster Abbey and Salisbury English Style as examples).
Trademark Buildings:

  • Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire, England
  • Wells Cathedral, Somerset, England 
  • Westminster Abbey, London, England
  • Lincoln Cathedral, Cantebury, England

Architecture Styles: