Every so often I come across something of great interest (to me anyway)but which is also very unusual, and this is certainly the case with regard to “The Brooking Collection” (www.thebrookingcollection.com) and (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-15652628), (http://www.atkeyandco.com/about/the-brooking-collection)
Housed at the home of it’s creator Charles Brooking, the collection comprises some 500,000 individual items of architecture spanning several centuries. The collection also contains the definitive and complete collection of Crittall Windows – you know, those metal framed windows often with a brass handle usually found in 1920’s and 30’s buildings.
The collection as it stands today is quite literally the life work of Charles Brooking, who is only to happy to talk about whatever takes your eye. Charles most certainly knows his stuff, whether it be a fireplace from a Royal Palace or a humble cellar door from a labourers cottage, Charles is able to speak with authority on his subject, and it is his passion for the items in the collection that shines through.
The hitherto (largely) uncatalogued part of the Brooking Collection in storage
2014 sees the 14th International Architecture exhibition at the Venice Biennale entitled Fundementals and directed by the internationally renowned Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. 65 nations are taking part and in the British Pavilion is displayed a series of windows chosen from The Brooking Collection. (See more about the Biennale and press reviews here: http://www.labiennale.org/ and http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/architecture-design-blog/2014/jun/05/rem-koolhaas-architecture-biennale-venice-fundamentals.
Of the more accessible part of the Brooking Collection, it was the stained and coloured glass windows which caught my interest, partly because the house I grew up in had coloured glass fanlight windows (common in 1920’s and 1930’s built houses) and seeing other examples of these windows brought back childhood memories; but also the colours in the glass reflected the light in interesting ways.
a group of domestic coloured glass windows
Part of domestic stained-glass window display, showing Aesthetic Movement fanlight – from large villa, circa 1885, Aldershot, Hampshire.
Part of high-level iron window display. The circular window of circa 1865 came from a waterworks outside Banbury, Oxon, the fine cast-iron window with margin lights, containing painted glass – from the Midlands, circa 1840. This was donated to the Collection by Drummonds of Bramley, Surrey.
Glass Factory Samples and Sample Booklet for Chance Brothers and Co, Birmingham and Glasgow
Baltic pine bulls-eye window – from the central pediment of the Peterborough Block, Stoughton Barracks, Guildford, Surrey, built in 1876 for the Queen’s Regiment. Acquired 1984.
I love this small round window (above), the glass is quite thick and gives a slightly distorted view, but most of all I love the weathering on one half of the frame and not the other – fascinating! As well as windows – of which there are many; the collection has an interesting line in staircases. Some were built to be spectacular such as the section below.
and these elaborate balustrade sections
Part of staircase display showing a section of stylised ‘Art-Deco’ balustrade – from 1935 extension to the Southern Railway Orphanage, Oriental Road, Woking, Surrey – demolished in 1988.
While others are much more restrained, yet equally decorative like the subtle decoration on the newel post from a Lyon Tea House.
Detail of newel-post from the first Lyons Corner House tearoom, Piccadilly, London, circa 1905.
It is fair to say that every element of architecture is represented in the Brooking Collection, and many pieces are unbelievably rare while others stand out because they are spectacular such as this rainwater head
Cast-iron gryphon rainwater head, made by Walter McFarlane of Glasgow, circa 1898 – from building in Sutton High Street, South London. Acquired when the building was demolished in 1995.
Of course, it is not all “high brow” and some elements are just a little bit ‘fun’ such as a display of ‘Knobs and Knockers’ and these delightful multi-coloured plastic door handles.
Knobs and Knockers
Colourful plastic handles
The Brooking Collection started when Charles Brooking was a child with bakelite door fittings, moving on to sash windows and then later to the wider architectural extravaganza that exists today.
The Brooking Collection in 1966
Certainly the inclusion of windows from the Collection in the 2014 Venice Architectural Biennale is a major coup and this may bring about the possibility of finding a backer willing to provide a permanent home for the Collection as a whole. The current premises can only give the visitor the smallest glimpse into the world of architectural design, yet it also attracts important visitors from the world of architecture and high culture such as the broadcaster and historian Tom Dykhoff (http://www.tomdyckhoff.com/)
Page from Brooking Collection visitors book – Tom Dykhoff visited in April!
The Brooking Collection is certainly one of the most unusual collections I have ever come across, a sort of hybrid between museum and architectural salvage. Some items being quite literally the only one in existence, while others are obviously still relatively commonplace. No distinction is made and everything is welcome such that fireplaces from Royal Palaces sit alongside fire grates from humble terraced works cottages; the Brooking Collection is truly democratic!
Appointments can be made to view part of the collection through the website (link above).