A Head for Heritage
Two incarnations of the Gibb’s Staircase and Central Lounge
Member Martyn Kingsford serves on ROSL’s Buildings and Heritage Sub-Committee. He tells Overseas why he joined the club and wanted to give back
How did you first hear about ROSL and what made you become a member?
I first came to ROSL to chair a conference on fire risk and prevention. I liked what I saw and the relaxed friendly atmosphere. I was at the time a member of a military club, which was rather stiff and formal.
What do you enjoy most about spending time in the Clubrooms?
Having a G&T in the bar or the lovely garden on a Summers evening! The garden and the view of Green Park are treasures. I enjoy playing bridge at the Bridge Club with my wonderful Bridge partners (Omar Sharif played at ROSL). I am in the London Group and I enjoy attending lectures and the concerts.
What made you want to get more involved in Club Life and to join the Buildings and Heritage Sub-Committee in particular?
I was invited to join the sub-committee and shortly afterwards became Chair. I have always been someone who contributes as a ‘pay back’ and in this case very much to support our staff. I have experience in governance for over 40 years so it is natural for me to do this and particularly as a Chartered Surveyor with a long interest in historic buildings.
What unique challenges do a building such as these present in terms of presentation and compliance?
There are three buildings. Vernon House and Rutland House are Grade I listed buildings and the Westminster Wing is of special interest as a good example of 1930s “art deco”. One of my sayings is that “like cats you never own a building – the building owns you”. This is especially so with Grade I-listed buildings. ROSL has a duty to the nation to care for these buildings and ensure any works or decorations (for example) comply to the Grade I-listing. In the same way the Senior Management Team and the Estates Team have, during lockdown, been working very hard to bring the buildings up to the stringent compliance rules such as fire safety; electrical services with catch-up repairs. We have not fully finished yet.
What are the next steps of the Master Buildings Strategy of the three buildings?
The Master Buildings Strategy (MBS) is about vision. How does ROSL, over the next ten years or more, wish to use the buildings? The good news is that last year we appointed Architects Martin Ashley Associates (MAA) to work with us to develop the MBS. Martin Ashley MVO has had a long career working on some of the nation’s most important buildings, such as Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace and the Naval College at Greenwich. MAA have produced a Heritage Statement so that we all can understand the historic significance of these buildings as the foundation of our vision. However, as part of the MBS, we must first ensure that we carry out the catch up repair work, have systems in place to maintain the buildings and that ROSL complies to the law concerning building ownership and the listings.
How can members help?
The buildings, as Grade I-listed, as I have said, are part of the national heritage and are, in themselves, works of art. So, I suggest we all take pride in them. This is also very true of the Princess Alexandra Hall and my favourite space – the Hall of India and Pakistan. Over the next six months, there will be a debate on how we are using the buildings and what our vision is for 2030. I would encourage members to engage in this debate and express their vision. Above all, we must take pride in our clubhouse as we do in ROSL.
To contribute to ongoing restoration of the clubhouse, please visit www.rosl.org.uk/supportus
Martyn was born in Nottingham and started his career in 1963 at Nottingham Council. Following senior appointments at Thamesmead and Lambeth he was for 20 years Director of Housing at Kensington and Chelsea and then CEO of the Tenant Management Organisation leaving in 2001. He has chaired five housing Organisations and has been a chief executive of three.
In the 1980s he was the London Boroughs Association Adviser and for eight years co-chaired the all London Working Party on Homelessness. For 23 years, Martyn has been the Hon. Policy Adviser to the Tenants and Residents Organisations of England.
He is a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Housing and an Academician of the Academy of Urbanism. He is a Freeman of the City of London and a member of the Chartered Surveyors Livery Company.
Martyn served for 27 years in the Royal Engineers (Territorial Army) retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel and was awarded the Territorial Decoration (TD). He was appointed an OBE in 2014 for services to Housing, Tenants and Community Engagement.