Corbels or brackets – satyresses

The city’s older buildings include several examples of decorated wooden corbels or brackets.  Strictly speaking, a corbel is purely decorative and contributes nothing to hold up the building above.  A bracket, however, is load-bearing and part of the structure of the building.  A corbel can be removed, added to another building, possibly be replaced, and so can be particularly difficult to date.

The nature of the decoration is very variable.  One type, sometimes known as ‘satyresses’, depicts grotesque women with large breasts, sometimes with cloven hooves, large ears, horns, and a grimace or pixie smile.  Eight Canterbury examples appear on this page – click on the image to learn where they can be seen.

For local examples of other types of corbel click here

Little seems to be known about their origins, age, or purpose, other than some vague hope of warding off disease or evil spirits.  Any further information would be welcome.