The blog

Roger Hunt is an award winning writer and blogger specialising in sustainability, old houses, housebuilding and traditional and modern building materials. He is the co-author of Old House Handbook and the companion volume Old House Eco Handbook.

Brooking appeal

The first time I met Charles Brooking was on an organized walk through the Surrey countryside. In no time at all I was being ushered into a series of nondescript sheds in the garden of his parent’s house below St Martha’s Hill, near Guildford. These were no ordinary sheds full of garden accoutrements. Instead, they housed his ‘Collection’: windows, doors, fanlights, rainwater goods, ironmongery and a myriad other items from buildings of all ages and types.

Charles started collecting architectural detailing in 1958 when he became fascinated by Bakelite door numbers. He was 4 years old. Soon he had turned the attentions of his enquiring mind to the workings of windows, having seen a diagram of a box sash in a children’s book. At the age of six he requested a window for his birthday. More windows followed and, with his bedroom full, his parents gave him a shed. This he opened as a museum.

In the 1960s it was not difficult to find what is nowadays highly prized architectural salvage. He explained to me how “old houses were being demolished everywhere and fireplaces, doors, windows and staircases were there for the taking”. Charles became dedicated to rescuing important items of architectural detail before they were consigned to the skip, sold to the highest bidder or, worse still, destroyed.

By 1986, it became clear that there was a ‘need to safeguard the future of ‘The Collection’ and The Brooking Architectural Museum Trust was formed to guide its development. The following October disaster struck when the ‘Great Storm’ wrought havoc to the by now numerous sheds that housed the Collection in the garden at Guildford. With them reduced to ramshackle shanties, hastily shrouded in plastic to protect their valuable contents, the quest for a permanent home for the Collection had become a priority.

The University of Greenwich stepped in and, for over 20 years, has housed the major part of The Brooking Collection in 6,600 sq ft of warehousing at Woolwich. At the same time, Charles has been able to offer education through access to selected displayed items. Now the University is unable to renew the leases on the present warehouses and the Collection must be loaded into containers and moved to a secure site.

Funding permitting, this upheaval is in preparation for the opportunity to establish a new facility which is being planning with the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum near Chichester, in West Sussex. At the same time, Charles has offered to pass the major part of the Collection to the permanent care of the Trustees.

But none of this can happen unless, as a matter of urgency, the Trustees can raise an initial £20,000 to fund the costs of moving the first phase of the Collection to a safe place pending the move to its new home.

Charles has amassed Europe’s definitive collection of windows and doors which, with many other artifacts, represent an unparalleled history of the architectural detail of the United Kingdom. I urge you to help. Donations can be made via the Brooking Architectural Museum Trust page of the Charities Aid Foundation website.

Image credit: The Brooking Collection

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SPAB Working Party

For the last 25 years conservation experts and volunteer heritage enthusiasts have come together to join the annual Working Party run by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB). I went along to join them and created a video about the Working Party at Sullington Manor Farm near Storrington, West Sussex. They were working…

Listed building allure

Listed building allure

Every year, many of the estimated 450,000 listed buildings in the UK change hands on the property market. In England and Wales these properties are designated Grade I, Grade II* or Grade II having being deemed to be of historical, cultural or architectural interest. All buildings built before 1700

Environmental Pocketbook

Environmental Pocketbook

If you’re going to invest in just one book on sustainable, low carbon building I’d strongly suggest that you make it The Environmental Design Pocketbook. Now in its second edition, this useful volume by Sofie Pelsmakers should be essential reading for architects, designers, developers, planners, students, clients and anyone else involved in the construction and operation of buildings….

Fire in old buildings

Fire in old buildings

The devastating fire at the Grade I listed, 18th century National Trust mansion at Clandon Park, Surrey, once again highlights the need to do everything we can to protect old buildings. Whatever the size of the building, there are simple measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of fire, ensure early warning of a…

Adapting old buildings

Adapting old buildings

The need for fresh air and light in buildings is something I’m often talking and writing about because it’s central to creating a good home, but the theme is nothing new. I was reminded of this when I recently visited the King Edward VII Estate, near Midhurst, West Sussex. Here, the former sanatorium is being…

Building lime knowledge

Building lime knowledge

Lime, in the form of mortars, renders, plasters and paints, is a key component of old buildings and essential to their repair – or at least it should be. Today lime-based materials are also emerging into the mainstream and being used within low carbon construction systems, employed in everything from homes to superstores. All this…

Drain problems

Drain problems

A blocked drain is not a pleasant thing to wake up to. What’s worse is the realisation that it’s something that can generally be avoided by doing what I’m always talking about: maintenance. The drainage system is easily forgotten because much of it is hidden away underground but, as with any element of a building, it…

Building remembrance

Building remembrance

Visiting Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, the poppy installation at the Tower of London, reminded me that the built environment frequently plays an important part in both remembrance and memory. Each of the 888,246 ceramic poppies that flood the moat of the Tower depicts a death in the British forces in the First…

Materials testing

Materials testing

New techniques and materials aimed at producing low carbon solutions mean this is an exciting time to be involved with new build and retrofit. There are dangers though, in the rush to innovate there may be failures along the way so it’s vital that there’s scrupulously testing and monitoring at all stages. This is why…

Hidden London

Hidden London

Impending development often means there is a chance to step back in time because archaeological investigation may be undertaken as part of the work. This is especially true in London where layers of history have been laid down by successive generations as the city has evolved. Visiting Barratt London’s Landmark Place site close to the…

SPAB Working Party

For the last 25 years conservation experts and volunteer heritage enthusiasts have come together to join the annual Working Party run by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB). I went along to join them and created a video about the Working Party at Sullington Manor Farm near Storrington, West Sussex. They were working…

Listed building allure

Listed building allure

Every year, many of the estimated 450,000 listed buildings in the UK change hands on the property market. In England and Wales these properties are designated Grade I, Grade II* or Grade II having being deemed to be of historical, cultural or architectural interest. All buildings built before 1700 Tweet

Environmental Pocketbook

Environmental Pocketbook

If you’re going to invest in just one book on sustainable, low carbon building I’d strongly suggest that you make it The Environmental Design Pocketbook. Now in its second edition, this useful volume by Sofie Pelsmakers should be essential reading for architects, designers, developers, planners, students, clients and anyone else involved in the construction and operation of buildings….

Fire in old buildings

Fire in old buildings

The devastating fire at the Grade I listed, 18th century National Trust mansion at Clandon Park, Surrey, once again highlights the need to do everything we can to protect old buildings. Whatever the size of the building, there are simple measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of fire, ensure early warning of a…

Adapting old buildings

Adapting old buildings

The need for fresh air and light in buildings is something I’m often talking and writing about because it’s central to creating a good home, but the theme is nothing new. I was reminded of this when I recently visited the King Edward VII Estate, near Midhurst, West Sussex. Here, the former sanatorium is being…

Building lime knowledge

Building lime knowledge

Lime, in the form of mortars, renders, plasters and paints, is a key component of old buildings and essential to their repair – or at least it should be. Today lime-based materials are also emerging into the mainstream and being used within low carbon construction systems, employed in everything from homes to superstores. All this…

Drain problems

Drain problems

A blocked drain is not a pleasant thing to wake up to. What’s worse is the realisation that it’s something that can generally be avoided by doing what I’m always talking about: maintenance. The drainage system is easily forgotten because much of it is hidden away underground but, as with any element of a building, it…

Building remembrance

Building remembrance

Visiting Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, the poppy installation at the Tower of London, reminded me that the built environment frequently plays an important part in both remembrance and memory. Each of the 888,246 ceramic poppies that flood the moat of the Tower depicts a death in the British forces in the First…

Renovation tale – Part 1

Renovation tale – Part 1

This is the tale of my first major renovation project some years ago… On the table is the surveyor’s report; yellow Post-it notes stick from its pages in such profusion that they no longer have any relevance. Phrases like “needs attention”, “must be thoroughly overhauled” and “a fair amount of dampness” are highlighted by marker… Continue Reading