Fringe Box



New Home for Architectural Historian’s Important Collection Takes Shape

Published on: 14 May, 2023
Updated on: 18 May, 2023

Architectural historian Charles Brooking’s ever-growing collection of windows, doors, staircases, fixtures, fittings and more, and spanning five centuries, now has a permanent museum to house it all.

Architectural historian and collector Charles Brooking.

Charles, who grew up in Guildford and now lives in Cranleigh, got the collecting bug for architectural detail in 1956 when he was just three year years old. He was fascinated by the stylised 1930s Bakelite house numbers he saw on neighbours’ front gates.

That set him on a path determined to preserve mementos of Britain’s built heritage. At first it was in the Guildford area that he began to reclaim items as houses and other buildings were being demolished, later focusing on London and then further afield.

It’s said that he has never knowingly driven past a builder’s skip without stopping to examine its contents for items of interest. Today, he continues to rescue items, the Guildford area included.

Pictures show some of the thousands of items Charles Brooking has rescued.

The museum is called The Brooking and is in Whitchurch, Hampshire, but not yet ready to open to the public. Click here for its website.

Charles says he is delighted that finally a home has been found for this most important collection – which is, in fact, the largest collection of British architectural detail in the world.

As The Brooking’s website states: “Although we still have some way to go, it’s been a long and remarkable journey to get here. It all began when our founding collector, Charles Brooking, started rescuing pieces of architectural detail from house renovations, skips and demolition sites, often carrying them to safety himself. And he didn’t just rescue them, he researched them too, building up an encyclopaedic knowledge of their provenance and architectural history.

“The impressive, ever-growing collection, spanning over five centuries of design and making, was housed at the University of Greenwich for 25 years. In 2012, it was moved to temporary emergency storage and although objects from the collection were proudly exhibited at the Venice Biennale 2014, the storage conditions were far from ideal. Most of the collection was inaccessible and at risk of deterioration.

“In 2017, The Brooking, the charity to which Charles had previously donated his entire collection, began a new chapter of governance. This led to a series of loans and joint initiatives, notably with the VILLUM Window Collection in Søborg, Denmark and London Metropolitan University.”

Charles Brooking is not only a architectural historian, but also a noted historic buildings consultant. He offers services and architectural reports, and a number of general and specialist courses. These cover all aspects of architectural detail and are held at his teaching gallery in Cranleigh. Click here for his own website.

Share This Post

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *