CREATOR OF THE BROOKING COLLECTION AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GREENWICH, DARTFORD CAMPUS
Dartford is the home of the Brooking Collection, one of the very few places in the country where people can come to research their restoration of a period building.
The Brooking Collection holds thousands of examples of original architectural features from large items such as doors, windows and sections of staircases to smaller things like door knobs and knockers and sample lengths of architrave and skirting mouldings. Some of the things in the collection are examples of fine craftsmanship or are particularly eye-catching in their design. Others come from more commonplace, cheaply built buildings. All are important in providing a record of the history of building in Britain. Every year it is visited by both the general public and professionals whose work it is to restore old buildings.
This large and unusual collection has been created single-handedly by Charles Brooking. Charles, now 46, began forming his collection of architectural features and details when he was just a schoolboy. By the time he was 12 he had already collected some of the items that can be seen in the collection today. It was from that age that he really began collecting in earnest, with the aim of establishing a museum, encouraged by one of his teachers who realised that no one else was preserving this type of object.
For the next 20 years Charles' ever growing collection continued to be housed in a series of sheds and containers in his parents' garden (fortunately a large one!). Architectural salvage yards are now a common sight but in the 1960s and 70s they didn't exist as little value was attached to parts of old buildings. Charles has been credited with inventing the concept of architectural salvage. He was certainly part of the movement to preserve our built heritage which has swelled in the last couple of decades. Everything in the Brooking Collection was destined for destruction, usually through building demolition.
In 1986 the University of Greenwich offered to house the Collection and transform it into a public museum on the University's Dartford Campus on Oakfield Lane.
In 2002, the University sold its Oakfield Lane site and with insufficient space available to house the collection at the Avery Hill campus, it was moved to the Pepys Stable Block on the Maritime Greenwich campus of the University of Greenwich, (part of the Greenwich Foundation)
.Today it is visited by a variety of people who want to see examples of the craftsmanship and design of past years in order to guide their own restoration work. This ranges from members of the public who wish to return their Victorian or 1930s home to its original appearance, to the professional staff of English Heritage or the National Trust who are working on stately homes.
The collection continues to thrive and grow and regular workshops are held which deal with a variety of aspects of the collection. Contact the University of Greenwich for further information.