Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Consultation Workshop – Architectural and Buildings Records

As part of the project this month we have been putting together a workshop to consult with professionals, researchers, and those with an interest in the field of architecture and buildings.
One of the challenges of cataloguing the Francis Johnson & Partners Archive will be the specialist nature of the records.

We knew the general interest factor of prominent buildings such as Maister House, Sledmere Hall and Beverley Minster would attract the casual researcher. However, we wanted to ensure that architecture and buildings professionals, researchers, and those with an interest picked up on the potential relevance of this collection to their own work.

Plan showing proposed alterations to a house for the Trustees of Burlington Methodist Church at Bridlington, c.1968-1969 (Ref U DFJ/59). 
These records provide an excellent example of the working process of an architect, something that could be highly useful in architectural education. They document a major strand of classical architectural history in the 20th century and therefore are an excellent resource on which to base a research project. They also record new constructions and alterations and repairs to buildings on which architects might be engaged to undertake work. This record of previous work might therefore aid current architects when trying to identify materials to use and past contractors.

To ensure we reached this audience we needed to know that we were including technical terms and elements of description that these groups would be likely to use if searching our online catalogue. But we needed to balance this with not making the description too technical so as to put off the casual researcher. We also needed to know that we were promoting the collection using the most appropriate channels and to understand what past experience these groups had of using archival records.

To achieve this understanding we looked at the different approaches we might take and decided that application of the Revisiting Archives Collections methodology for consulting stakeholders might be applied to our case. The basic approach of this methodology is to consult with relevant groups of people on specific collection types to better understand what they want from the collection. [If you are interested in reading more about this approach see http://www.collectionslink.org.uk/programmes/revisiting-collections ].

So after much networking and contact seeking (thank you to everyone – our first experience of those working in the field of architecture and buildings has been a very friendly and helpful one!) we have now managed to arrange a workshop at 10am-1pm on the 15th April 2014. There are still a limited number of places so if anyone is interested please do contact us.

Claire Weatherall, Project Archivist

01482 317506

Monday, 3 March 2014

Local Man with a National Reputation

So the cataloguing has started now and it’s been really interesting so far. 

We knew Francis Johnson worked extensively on properties in Bridlington where his office and home was situated, and also on properties in Hull such as Maister House, Wilberforce House, Charter House and Rise Hall. Whilst it is understandable that many of the files relate to properties in the East Riding given his place of work, what surprised me was the geographical spread of his commissions throughout the northern region. 

We already knew that he worked on the Merchant Taylors and Merchant Adventurers buildings in York, but now it appears he also worked on the restoration of Fairfax House in York, Birdsall House in Malton for Lord Middleton, Aske Hall at Richmond, Captain Cook’s House and Lythe Hall at Whitby, and various buildings at Ampleforth. 

To the west of the region he worked on Nostell Priory near Wakefield, and Harewood House near Leeds. Heading to the south of the region, we have found files relating to commissions at Cobb Hall, Doddington Hall and Aubourn Hall in Lincoln, and Belton House near Grantham, Lincolnshire, for the Lords Brownlow. 

Proposed design of barn end at Aubourn Hall, Lincolnshire (U DFJ/855)

Also, it seems that Francis Johnson (or FJ to those of us who work alone in a cataloguing room with all his files!) worked fairly extensively in the North East. Again, whilst we knew he had works on St Chad’s College in Durham, he also undertook numerous commissions on behalf of the Raby Estate, including a number relating to Raby Castle itself. One of my favourite finds is that he worked on a lesser known country estate near to my own place of birth – the locally infamous Wynyard Hall near Billingham in Stockton-on-Tees, an estate favoured by north east football stars such as Alan Shearer. 

Proposed design of new private entrance portico facing lake at 
Wynyard Hall, Stockton-on-Tees Wynyard Hall (Ref U DFJ/1534)
Even wider than the northern region, we have uncovered files relating to work in London for the Queen and the Prince of Wales, Derbyshire on Hardwick Hall, Peterborough on Elton Hall and the British Embassies at Oslo, Washington and Tokyo. His network of connections amongst the landed gentry families of the north appear to have spread the knowledge of the quality of his work, his ethos and dedication to principals of classical architecture. The geographical spread of the files in his archive then reflects the national reputation of this first-rate local Yorkshire architect.

Claire Weatherall
Project Archivist