Lintels (Older Version)


Lintels and Arches over Door and Window Openings

The Brick Border shows how important lintels and arches are for supporting the bricks over window and door openings. This section illustrates some of the many different solutions that architects have invented to solve this problem in our local buildings.

Bricks and Building Forms

All openings in brick walls need some way of keeping up the bricks above the openings. This may be an arch or a flat lintel of some kind.

Fig. A A brick wall with and without a lintel.
Fig. B The setting out of a brick arch with wedge-shaped bricks.
Fig. C The setting out of a rough brick arch. These are normal bricks and the wedges are formed with mortar.
Fig. D A ferro-concrete lintel, the modern solution to the problem. Some builders use steel lintels and wooden ones used to be common.
Fig. E A relieving arch used to carry the weight round to the sides of the door or window opening so that hardly any weight falls on the lintel.
Fig. F A section through the cavity wall in Fig. D. There is an outer skin of brick, a cavity for heat insulation and an inner wall of thermal concrete blocks. The damp proof course carries any moisture which has penetrated the outside skin out through the gaps shown above the lintel in Fig,. D.


A splendid stucco door head in Stoke Newington Church Street

The stucco work includes dentil work inside the triangular pediment and below the canopy; a central mask with swags of flowers and fruit on either side; two elaborate Gibb's brackets supporting the canopy and an egg and dart moulding round the door. A drawing of this door appears in Dan Cruikshank's splendid book 'The Art of Georgian Building'.

The next door house with stucco in a Classical style, Stoke Newington Church Street.


The bracket under this canopy go back to the timber joists in early wooden Greek temples and carried by them into their stone ones. The design is over 2000 years old.

A stucco lintel with a triangular pediment, supported on Gibb's brackets

Flat Lintels

A Flat Lintel made of specially shaped bricks.

These sets of bricks were made art the brickyard and came in wooden boxes The Gibb's brackets on either side support the eaves. Manor Road, c.1850. By this time the Fire of London Regulations forbidding projecting eaves were not being obeyed in the suburbs, so these eaves need support.


Flat and curved lintels above the windows
Lordship Grove, off Manor Road c. 1850


A flat lintel in London Stock bricks


A cut brick lintel with a heavy brick keystone, Stoke Newington High Street.
The window frame is fully exposed instead of being hidden behind a layer of brick.


Post War Lintels. Manor Road

The lintels are made of ferro-concrete with a row of brick soldiers above. These are purely for decoration, not strength.

A Post War Block of Flats at the corner of Town Hall Path, Albion Road.

Here the windows have ferro-concrete lintels but the soldiers have been dismissed. The result is just as strong, but plainer.


A block of modern flats in Yoakley Road made in grey brick

In this block of modern flats the concrete floor above acts as a lintel so there is no need for an extra one. The grey bricks are laid as stretchers, showing that theses are cavity walls.

A relieving Arch

The weight is diverted round the arch and down to the ground. This means that there is almost no weight pressing down on the window head or door opening.

Figure 1

Arch Layouts

Arches instead of lintels


Arches act as lintels, carrying he weight safely to the ground, and can be of many shapes.

These drawings show the shuttering used to hold the bricks as they are being mortared together to form the arch. The wooden shapes are called the centring. When the mortar has set and the arch is secure, the centring is lowered and used again. This makes sure that all the arches are the same shape.

1 Segmental arch with wooden former (centring) in place

2 Round (Roman) arch with centring in place and standing on two jacks which can then be lowered to release it when the mortar is set.

3 Four-centred arch. Here the word centre means a point where the point of the compass is set to draw the arc.

4 Round wooden centring for Roman arch

5 Another type of four-centred arch.

6 A Florentine arch. There is a row of these above a terrace of shops in Essex Road, on the right hand side travelling to The Angel.


Flat Lintels inside arches

Two arched lintels windows with cut brick lintels
inside relieving arches in Church Street

The relieving arches carry the weight of the wall round the windows and down to the ground. This allows the brick work within the arches to be half a brick thinner than the outer wall. The cut bricks of these particular lintels are very thin, hardly thicker than tiles.

Curved Lintels

An Arched lintel with a white painted keystone and
supporting abutments on either side. Manor Road c. 1850.

The abutments and keystone are probably all in Sandstone.

This is a curved lintel in bull-nosed glazed brick which is very hard wearing


A curved lintel consisting of three terra-cotta blocks.
The Old Tram Station, Manor House.(now flats).


A wide arched doorway to a block of flats, with a
keystone and side buttresses, Church walk c.1900.

The full triple doors to the flats. These are the reason the arch is so wide.

An elegant round-headed window in Church Street

The round brick arch and the lower wall of the house have been covered with stucco and lined to give the appearance of stone. Some early builders used to colour and grain their stucco walls to make them look even more like stone blocks.

The cast iron railings are in a traditional design to be found in coastal towns all over the World.

When Britain was a great manufacturing nation we poured thousands of tons of cast iron like this each year. British ships carried corn and meat back from Australia and other colonies, but sailed out with many empty holds. To do this they needed ballast if the ships were not to topple over and capsize. Captains were happy to carry heavy cast iron for almost nothing, instead of having to buy ballast, so cast iron was cheap in the colonies. Today China exports to us and carries away our rubbish for recycling in their empty ships, in the same way

A Triple Arch which acts as a lintel
Grazebrook Road

This design fits the triangular gable shape and so is pleasing. These are all sash windows. Notice that the top sash, which is open, has right angle corners and there is a curved inner frame designed to show when the window is closed. This window design was adapted so that there was a curved upper section designed to show and above it panels of plain or coloured glass.

Another Triple Arch in Grazebrook Road


1349 lintel

A lunette window supported by a brick arch.
The gable wall is angled, giving this unusual arrangement of curves.

A Venetian Style window shape carried out in flat, severe brickwork,
Stoke Newington High Street School building. London School Board 1918.

This is very different from the original Venetian windows yet the design carries on and looks attractive. The flat façade seems similar to the many flat frontages which Edwin Lutyens was to design in the nineteen twenties. It would be very interesting to know who designed this building. It was just before its time. There is one odd point. The different roof lengths cuts short the second buttress from the right, but why has it been left unfinished, with no capping stone?

It seems extraordinary that they were building this in the last year of the First World War. That war cannot have been quite so total as the Second World War.



Lastly comes this most unusual lintel




One of the wedge-shaped bricks
which form the half cylinder


Saved as lintel arch brick final






An Unusual Lintel.

This is an extremely wide flat lintel. There is not much weight above it but it is still extremely wide and likely to break. The architect decided to spread the weight along the lintel. A half cylinder made of specially shaped bricks forms a relieving arch. The fronts of the bricks are hollowed away to form an attractive hemisphere. It looks like a conceit, put in to make the lintel attractive. What it really does is to spread the weigh so that it falls on two places on the lintel, instead of one. Instead of the centre point of the lintel bearing all the strain, the weight is distributed and the lintel is less likely to break. It has survived perfectly. The joints are good as ever.

Main Menu