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Preserving integrity – God is in the detail

This is where The Collection comes to the rescue. It highlights the importance of the retention and repair of original fabric. It contains hundreds of items – complete assemblies, individual fittings and representative sections, which can illustrate how sensitive repairs can be carried out. Many of them show tell-tale signs of repair which, in themselves, give fascinating insights into artisans’ techniques through the centuries. And it’s not just windows, of course – The Collection covers doors, staircases, shutters, fire-grates, mouldings, architraves ...

‘Without Conservation, we have only imitation,’ says Charles Brooking. ‘It’s more than just preserving the overall structure. The detail tells you at least as much. The Collection is the actuality of an important part of our history.’

The Collection is not just a static gathering of objects, he says. It is a centre of learning and can be used to help any effort at architectural preservation. It shows traditional methods of repair that preserve as much joinery and fabric as possible, using methods adopted by such authorities as English Heritage and The National Trust.

And there is an economic dimension. ‘A house is much more likely to gain in value if it is preserved or repaired faithfully, rather than being revamped or replaced bit by bit.’

But different groups of interested people have different needs. For many years TV and radio companies have helped bring the intricacies of The Collection to a wider public through documentaries. On an individual level too, architects, homeowners, professionals in conservation and construction, conservation groups, interior designers can benefit from The Collection, it has something to offer all of them.                                                      

Not alone

There are many other groups and authorities in the conservation field, of course. Some have a specific focus of interest – The Brooking Collection is recognised by The Georgian Group, The Victorian Society, The 20th Century Society and The Ancient Monuments Society. Separately and together, their contribution to the preservation of Britain’s architectural history is profound and far-reaching.

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When restoring a building, some well-intentioned architects, builders and conservation officers can be faced with, say, a damaged window that seems beyond economic repair. They may choose to solve this by replacing it with a replica.

It can be cheaper. But important historic fabric is lost, perhaps from a Grade I or Grade II listed building still with some of its original Crown glass, period fittings and, of course, high-quality seasoned timber. All that is quite apart from the indefinable quality of originality that stamps a genuine piece of physical history.