The Brooking houses the largest collection of British architectural detail in the world. Each piece offers a small but telling glimpse into the past. We are here to breathe life into architecture and to bring architecture to life.

We are busy creating our first permanent museum home. Although it will be some time before we open our doors to visitors, we are ready to invite interest from organisations to collaborate in joint initiatives and programming.

Who we are

The Brooking conjures surprise and intrigue, casting a different light on everyday objects. It helps open our eyes to the familiar wonders all around us. Our collections reframe and recontextualise the magnificent and the mundane, inspiring our curiosity, finding joy in the unexpected, revealing what’s remarkable about the seemingly familiar.

The buildings we live in reveal all kinds of things about who we are and how we live. The commonplace can help us reappraise the overlooked, and underappreciated. Every door, every window, every staircase has a fascinating story behind it. They tell us about social history, technology, style, design and craftsmanship. And yet they are so ingrained into our everyday lives that we mostly pass them by without a second thought.

The Brooking is for everyone, because the details of architectural design are woven into the fabric of all our lives, surrounding us all the time. These obsessively collected and researched pieces can enrich our lives today and tomorrow, so its vital they aren’t consigned to history.

Through joint initiatives and programming, we will bring architecture to life to a wider range of audiences.


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.


More recently, we successfully applied for a £2.5m grant from VILLUM FONDEN*. This has accelerated the development of The Brooking, as we move towards becoming a permanent museum with a project management team and a dedicated building in Whitchurch, Hampshire. We have now begun the painstaking process of inventory, cataloguing, rationalisation and interpretation.

As we rediscover each of our objects, we can start to consider new opportunities for collaborative programming, additional fundraising, and in time, opening our doors to the public. We are committed to making our collections as accessible as possible, as soon as possible, through online digital experiences and working with volunteers.

*VILLUM FONDEN (a part of THE VELUX FOUNDATIONS) is a philanthropic foundation that supports technical and scientific research as well as environmental, social and cultural projects. In 2022, VILLUM FONDEN granted approximately €140m in Denmark and internationally. VILLUM FONDEN was established in 1971 by graduate engineer Villum Kann Rasmussen, founder of VELUX, whose mission is to bring daylight, fresh air and a better environment into people’s everyday lives.


Our collections reflect the changing architectural fashions and behaviours of British society. Not only in design, making and use, but in alteration, demolition and through heritage interpretation. Every object in the collections has been conceived, created and discarded from use. Whether through rescue, salvage or donation, we have extended their lives, adding to their biographies through their preservation.


As we relocate and reorganise our collections, The Brooking can still give access to objects and interpretation via collaborations with business, academic, heritage and other organisations. Over the past ten years, we have been fortunate to share objects with organisations able to engage with their own audiences.

Venice Architecture Biennale
Wall of Windows, 2014

Although some time ago now, the Venice Biennale continues to cast a long, positive shadow for The Brooking. Objects from the window collection were selected to feature in the centre piece ‘Elements of Architecture’ exhibition, curated by renowned architect Rem Koolhaas. The exhibition put the architectural fundamentals of our buildings under the microscope, such as the floor, ceiling, façade, door and window. It also featured a selection of the most revealing and surprising moments from an accompanying book, Elements of Architecture, that reconstructs the global history of each element.

Photography by Andrea Sarti.
Het Nieuwe Instituut & MacGuffin magazine
Finders Keepers: The Life of Things, 2017-18

‘Finders Keepers’ was inspired by Nobel Prize-winning writer Orhan Pamuk’s Modest Manifesto for a Museum, which makes the case for a museum of everyday life objects. Held at Rotterdam’s Het Nieuwe Instituut (Dutch Institute for Architecture, Design and Digital Culture), the exhibition explored stories of collectors and their relationships to things. Curated by the Amsterdam-based editors of MacGuffin magazine, the show brought together more than 5,000 objects from over 40 collections in a Grand Parade of Everything. A selection of staircases, cast-iron rainwater heads and sash-window weights from The Brooking collections cast a light on our Founding Collector Charles Brooking and his ongoing dedication to architectural rescue.

Photography by Mathijs Labadie.
Studio display and heritage resource, 2012-2020

Purcell is a worldwide, cross-disciplinary community of architects, master-planners and heritage consultants. Founded in 1947, its experts are fascinated by extending the life of the old, providing excellent new design for the present, and advising on how to create sustainable futures. Purcell displayed a cross-section of our collection at their London studio in Bermondsey Square for nearly nine years, to provide creative inspiration and technical reference materials for their heritage and contemporary design works.
Heatherwick Studio
Studio display and heritage resource, 2017-2021

Heatherwick Studio is a celebrated team of over 200 problem solvers, dedicated to improving the physical world around us all. Working from a combined workshop and design studio in central London, they create buildings, spaces, masterplans, objects, and infrastructure and are well known for projects such as Coal Drops Yard London, the New Routemaster bus and Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town. The studio housed over 30 objects from The Brooking over a five-year period, exhibiting several collections of objects to provide inspiration and a reminder of the craftsmanship and materials of the past.

“The Brooking re-teaches us the vital importance of once more paying care, attention and even love to the detailing and manufacturing of new buildings.” (Thomas Heatherwick, 2019).

Photography by Laurian Ghinitoiu.
VILLUM Window Collection
Wall of Windows, 2018-present

In 2017 we started talking to the VILLUM Window Collection, a museum based in Copenhagen, about rehosting the Wall of Windows. The new display was relaunched in June 2018, and has proven a popular addition to their other permanent displays. Museum Manager, Dorthe Bech-Neilsen, told us: “The display has captured the imaginations of our visitors, old and young, not only the beauty of the individual objects but the vast array of styles, materials and craftsmanship. The exhibition gives visitors an opportunity to experience a work of art, which was an acclaimed highlight at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2014.”

Photography by VILLUM Window Collection.
London Metropolitan University
Year 1 Architecture degree course, 2018-present

The Brooking began collaborating with the architecture school at London Metropolitan University on a first-year study project in 2018. We have loaned the school a selection of objects for six years, the focus for a different project theme or brief for each academic year.  The objects give students a chance to engage with briefs for hands-on problem solving using life-size physical objects in their studios. Projects have included creating display housing for the objects and ideas for a London-based outpost for some of the collections. Here our objects are used to inspire creativity beyond their historic significance and values. They ignite the process of design thinking for a diverse body of aspiring young designers.

Photography by London Metropolitan University.
Simon Savage, PhD study
PhD study on collecting and the collector, 2019-present

PhD candidate – Simon Savage of Torrens University Australia – is currently researching The Brooking. His thesis explores curation and museology. Using select objects from the collection, Simon looks into engagement and narrative with architectural objects. Through this study of preservation, collation and itemisation, objects are seen through the lens of artefacts with ‘living’ stories.  This provides a continuing narrative for different audiences, exploring theories of a person’s perception and interpretation of architectural details.

Photography by Simon Savage.


Paul Bonnici-Waddingham Project Director
Paul Bonnici-Waddingham Project Director

Paul is a heritage professional, a designer, reclaimer and maker. His interest lies in interpretation, adaptation and reuse, and the multisensory experience of heritage spaces and objects. After a 20 year career in marketing and branding, he refocused his attention to people’s everyday relationship with the past. He gained a degree in Heritage Interior Design and a master’s degree in Heritage and Interpretation. Paul was The Brooking’s chair of trustees from 2017 until 2022 and now oversees our VILLUM grant project, in particular collaborations and programming, branding and marketing.
Anna Bishop Project Manager
Anna Bishop Project Manager

Anna is a freelance heritage consultant with a master’s degree in Cultural Heritage and Resource Management. Following a career in operations management, Anna completed a foundation degree in Historic Building Conservation in 2016 and, after her master’s degree, started a part-time PhD. Anna is an experienced volunteer manager with a keen interest in diversity and accessibility within the museums and heritage sector. Anna started with us as a volunteer in 2015 and was a trustee from 2018 until 2023. Anna is now part of the VILLUM grant project team with responsibility for our collections’ management, knowledge capture, volunteer engagement and site operation.
Peter Stewart Chair of Trustees
Peter Stewart Chair of Trustees

Peter is an art historian and classical archaeologist with an interest in all periods of architectural history. He specialises in the art of Greece and Rome and its modern reception. He was born in Belfast and educated at Cambridge University. After working in Cambridge, Reading University, and the Courtauld Institute of Art, he moved to Oxford University in 2011. He is currently Director of Oxford’s Classical Art Research Centre and Professor of Ancient Art. Peter’s wide-ranging publications include The Social History of Roman Art (2008) and A Catalogue of the Sculpture Collection at Wilton House (2020). Peter has been chair since October 2023.

Lucy Hockley Trustee
Lucy Hockley Trustee

Lucy is a museum manager. Her field of expertise is lifelong learning and interpretation in museums as well as experience in volunteer management and collections management. She has previously worked in international networks, focusing on historic building use and conservation, also serving as a judge for the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra awards. Lucy has degrees in Heritage Management and History. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, an Associate of the Museums Association, a trustee of Europa Nostra UK and a heritage-sector mentor. Lucy has been a trustee since September 2020.

Rosemary Hurtley Trustee
Rosemary Hurtley Trustee

Rosemary has worked in quality improvement and change management relating to the care of older people for many years. She has a master’s degree in Gerontology and specialises in relationship and person-centred best practice. She is also active in community development, supporting health and wellbeing locally, facilitating better connectivity between organisations. She is a registered occupational therapist, author and speaker and runs her own consultancy, working in the UK and abroad. Rosemary has followed her brother Charles Brooking’s career from the start, and actively supports his work as a family member and a trustee since February 2021.

Colin O’Sullivan Trustee
Colin O’Sullivan Trustee

Colin studied Architecture at the University of East London and has a master’s degree in Urban Design. He worked on large-scale cultural and commercial projects in Dublin and London before becoming a Senior Lecturer in Architecture at London Metropolitan University. He is also the first year co-ordinator and an undergraduate design studio tutor. Colin has been a guest critic at architecture schools including University of East London, Central Saint Martins, Chelsea School of Art, Architectural Association, Leicester School of Architecture and TU Berlin. He has been a trustee since September 2020.

Thomas Hay Trustee
Thomas Hay Trustee

Tom is a business developer for renewable power stations, working on all commercial aspects of large pumped storage and offshore wind projects in the United Kingdom. He has a deep interest in architectural history and museums, and has been a volunteer visitor assistant at Sir John Soane’s Museum in Holborn, London, since 2016. He has also volunteered at Pitzhanger Manor, Sir John Soane’s former country house in Ealing, West London. He has a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and has recently completed a master’s degree in Construction Law and Dispute Resolution. Tom has been a trustee since October 2023.

Lily Crowther Trustee
Lily Crowther Trustee

Lily is a curator specialising in 19th and 20th century craft and design. She is particularly interested in the use of museum objects in higher education. Lily has worked in a wide range of museums, including independent, local authority and national collections, and is currently history curator at Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum. She is also reading for a DPhil in history at Oxford University and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Her doctoral research focuses on a collection of building materials and architectural details which was displayed in South Kensington in the 1850s to 1880s. Lily has been a trustee since October 2023.

Emma Denness Trustee
Emma Denness Trustee

Emma is a Registrar and Collections Manager specialising in collections development, information and documentation standards, and care and conservation standards. She is currently responsible for ARTIST ROOMS, the jointly owned modern and contemporary art collection of Tate and National Galleries of Scotland, and delivery of the associated national partnership exhibition programme. Emma has a passion for enabling access to collections, promoting enjoyable, meaningful and relevant visitor experiences. Emma has been a trustee since October 2023.

Charles Brooking Our Founding Collector
Charles Brooking Our Founding Collector

We work closely with our Founding Collector Charles Brooking as an independent architectural historian and collections consultant. Together, we are recording the oral history of his collecting and the logic of each collection – from the broadest understanding, to more specific insights into thematic groups and particular objects. Charles is an established architectural historian and consultant who holds a loan collection at his personal teaching gallery at his home in Cranleigh, Surrey, where he continues to research, study, and deliver courses on architectural detail.


As The Brooking begins to reveal, understand and share its true potential, we want as many people as possible to have access to learning and heritage interpretation as soon as possible. Even at this early stage before our doors open to the public, we want to attract audiences through collaboration, volunteering and donation-funded projects.

We are keen to start new conversations that explore opportunities for organisational collaborations. We are looking to develop exciting, imaginative, innovative programmes that offer all kinds of compelling audience experiences. Organisations interested in collaborating should contact Paul to find out more.

Soon we will be launching a programme of work to organise and record the collection’s objects through photography, storytelling, conservation, inventory and cataloguing. If you are interested to find out more and register your interest, please contact us and Anna will get back in touch.

We welcome financial donations that will allow us to fund initiatives beyond the scope of our grant project. If you wish to support us personally, please donate below. If you are an organisation and/or would like to discuss a particular programme of work to support or sponsor, please contact Paul.

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