Friday 24 October 2014

Keeping Up the Pace (and Sims) at the Borthwick

Death and Dairies at Castle Howard
Loooong drawing of pillar at Castle Howard Mausoleum
Our week began with a brief introduction and tour of the Borthwick Institutes archives and stores. The collection is massive and the works are housed in strong rooms which we were certain could survive the apocalypse! The collection varies from maps and photographs to books, wills, church registers and architectural plans which is what we focused on for the week. The Pace and Sims collection includes plans and sketches to English landmarks like Castle Howard. The works we were assigned are relatively contemporary, primarily dating between the 1960s and the 1980s with our most recent plan dating to 1999. The plans include designs for everything from entire buildings to notice boards and toilets. We even came across a full size sketch of a pillar in the Castle Howard Mausoleum which, at nine meters, stretched the length of the large Lifelong Learning Room!

 The sketch was not very detailed and we believe this was because the architect may have been attempting to get a better idea of the height of the column.

The collection also included sketches of the Mausoleum on the grounds, originally designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor. These photos are copies of the original plans by Hawksmoor. These were interesting in that they included a stamp and address of where they were kept as well as, presumably, a signature from the person who kept or collected these plans. With these copies we were able to see the differences and similarities between older and more modern plans. Here, we observed likenesses in handwriting between eighteenth-century architects and twentieth-century architects. Most interesting was the stamp from National Buildings Record Office in Swindon. This was interesting as we discovered that the office in Swindon housed records and archives from various collections that were thought to be at risk from bombing during the Second World War. 

Some details the drawings for of Hawksmoor's mausoleum at Castle Howard
 Memorials and Mysteries at Newcastle Cathedral

Amongst mountains of architectural plans emerged designs in a language which we could not decipher.Danish! These were plans for the organization of text for Danish memorials at St.Nicholas Cathedral in Newcastle at which Ronald Sims was Cathedral Architect for a time. In researching, we discovered that the memorials are still displayed at the cathedral in recognition of the Danish merchant navy which made Newcastle its home port during World War II (see for more information).  We found these plans to be poignant as we were not expecting to handle documents for World War II memorials, especially to those outside of England.

The plans for Newcastle Cathedral also included sketches for a stolen noticeboard which was replaced in 1999. It was interesting to watch the progression of designs from the original board to the creation of a new board. This included many revisions which allowed us to experience the evolution of something that is seemingly insignificant.

 A Canadian in England!

Detail of the Canadian inscription
In the first roll of plans from Clifton Campville Church we found plans for memorials and various inscriptions for the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Prince Edward Island. We have tried to make a connection between Prince Edward Island, Canada and Clifton Church in Staffordshire (a tiny parish in English midlands) but have not been able to find its relevance. This was particularly significant for one member of our team as she is a Canadian. It was fun to come across something that was tied to Canadian heritage and history within mounds of rolls of English architecture.

This week has been particularly useful and full of surprises. Not only were we given the opportunity to handle and catalogue archival materials but also learned how to clean these sketches (rolls from the Atkinson Brierley drawings). We were given the opportunity to view and handle doodles, names and scribbles within the margins of these plans giving us insight into the personality of the architect and the day-to-day management of a major architectural firm.

One of our volunteers in action!
This post was written by students from the University of York on a work experience placement. 

You can read more about the experience of earlier students on the work experience programme at Keeping Pace

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