Corbel

Corbel on terrace house party wall

Corbel on terrace house party wall

In architecture a corbel (or console) is a piece of stone jutting out of a wall to carry any superincumbent weight. A piece of timber projecting in the same way was called a “tassel” or a “bragger”. The technique of corbelling, where rows of corbels deeply keyed inside a wall support a projecting wall or parapet, has been used since Neolithic times.  It is common in Medieval architecture and in the Scottish baronial style as well as in the Classical architectural vocabulary.

In Australian terrace houses of the Victorian and Edwardian (Federation) periods, corbels are most commonly found as adorning  projecting party walls.   They are typically decorative ornament and rarely load bearing.  Corbels on Australian terraces were most often contructed from shaped stucco in the decorative pattern of a scroll, acanthus leaf or in combination – and more rarely in the shape of a human or animal (such as a lion) head.  To a lesser extent corbels can also be found as decorative elements framing details on classical and italianate style terraces such as windows and parapets and sometimes arranged horizontally where more liberal adherence to the rules of classical language is applied.

The word “corbel” comes from Old French and derives from the Latin corbellus, a diminutive of corvus (a raven) which refers to the beak-like appearance.

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