Many items are recovered just before or during demolition or alteration work – usually,
by Charles himself. Information about potential discoveries can come by word of mouth,
or from an alert by construction companies and property developers. Offers come also
from The Royal Collection, the National Trust, English Heritage, local authorities,
owners of country estates, and so on.
Much of the process comes from co-operation, networking and goodwill. With these
over many years, great reference pieces have now been saved.
The Brooking National Collection of Architectural Detail is the only major national
resource of its kind in the UK. Using thousands of carefully-selected artefacts recovered
from buildings that faced demolition or alteration, it charts the evolution of Britain’s
constructional elements over the last 500 years.
The Collection’s founder, Charles Brooking, has rescued architectural features from
all over the British Isles, from Jersey to John O’Groats. Since 1966 he has retrieved
them from iconic buildings that range from the humble terrace house and vernacular
cottage, to great country estates and Royal palaces.
This invaluable archive is legendary in the world of conservation, and has much to
teach anyone with an interest in Britain’s rich architectural heritage. It is unique
in offering a ‘hands-on’ experience – nowhere else can one examine, for instance,
the inner workings of an 18th-century sash window, the cunning design of an elegant
Georgian staircase, or the colourful doors from the Royal Box at the old Wembley
unique - a living, practical aid to architectural practice and education, as well
illumination of a significant
part of our history.”
Close attention is paid to the social hierarchy of detail and joinery, so important
in historic buildings. Pieces preserved range from the spectacular to the ordinary,
and sometimes the banal. All have their place, even numerous examples of the once-derided
factory-made metal window.
The Collection does not discriminate between the humblest and the grandest,’ says
Charles Brooking. ‘Nobody else, no other Collection does this – to embrace the everyday
as well as the privileged.’
A 1760’s doorcase (left) being erected at an exhibition at Islington in 1999.