‘OUR CENTURY AS A BEES FAMILY’

‘OUR CENTURY AS A BEES FAMILY’

My grandfather, Cyril Baker, lived in Eccleston Road, West Ealing, with six brothers, two sisters and his parents. Nine of them, though perhaps never all at once. Their father was a tea dealer and accountant but the family fell upon hard times when he died just before the birth of his youngest son Hubert, affectionately known as Bunnie.

The children grew up with few material possessions but they were blessed with a love of the outdoors and sport. Soon after the turn of the century the boys made their first journey to Griffin Park. We think that it might have been in the very earliest years of the stadium’s life, around 1904 when Cyril, was ten years old. 

The Brentford players of 1904-5 that the Baker boys would have watched.

In all likelihood they walked there past Victorian town houses and London brick cottages, cutting through unmade lanes and across fields until they stopped just short of the river and bustling docks. Perhaps they stopped at The Plough Inn or the Globe for brandy or porter – though some of the boys owned Temperance Society badges so maybe they lingered at Edwards Dairy instead.

Bunnie was football mad. In his late teens he co-founded a sports society that we think was called Drayton Athletic Club. Our photos suggest that the ‘Athletics’ club was largely about soccer.

‘Bunnie’ Baker is centre, middle row.

Bunnie features in all the pictures, surrounded by team-mates in sturdy leather boots, shirts laced at the collar and wool stockings and flanked by an entourage of gentlemen in three piece suits. 

Bunnie is back right of those in white.

By this time six of the boys were working for the Great Western Railway and they had a passion for steam engines which endures today in our family. They played cricket and bowls at the GWR Sports Club in Vallis Way. Then came the Great War. Each Baker Boy volunteered and, whether by luck or judgement, all joined different regiments. All bar Cyril. Cyril’s childhood friend Harold had somehow enlisted in an Australian regiment and served in Gallipoli. He was home on leave in Eccleston Road. We suspect Harold did not altogether meet with approval from Cyril’s family. One day he took Cyril for a ride through Ealing in the sidecar of his motor bike. I suppose that, after the horrors of the Dardanelles, Castlebar Hill didn’t offer much of a challenge to Harold and he may have been a little cavalier in his attention to road safety. An accident occurred and Cyril was taken to hospital with a broken leg which meant that he was not accepted into the armed forces. Good old Harold I say.

The supporter’s badge that belonged to Sharon’s grandfather Cyril Baker.

With hindsight we count ourselves lucky that six of the seven brothers made it through. Only the baby, football-mad Bunnie, did not return.

Private Hubert ‘Bunnie’ Baker,London Regiment.

He lost his life in 1917 in the Third Battle of Ypres a few months after arriving in Flanders. Heavy shell fire destroyed part of the battlefield burial ground and for a while the family did not know where he lay. It was left to one of his brothers, Stan, to discover that he had been reburied in Railway Dugouts War Cemetery in Zillebeke, Belgium.He is also commemorated on a family gravestone in Kensington and Chelsea cemetery, Hanwell, and on the GWR Roll of Honour on Paddington Station.

Bunnie’s grave at a British military cemetery in Belgium

 

The remaining Baker boys at what was the GWR ground and is now Ealing Trailfinders Rugby Club.

The Baker Boys married and dispersed. Only sister Edith was left in the house in Eccleston where she took in lodgers, including Graham, a lad up from the West Country who married Cyril’s daughter Iris, thereby narrowly escaping the awful fate of being a Swindon supporter. Thus a second generation of Bakers, my parents Graham and Iris and her brothers Tony and Clive, followed the family footsteps to Griffin Park. And yes, they really did pay to leave their bikes in the gardens of enterprising Brentford folk. 

Brentford were sliding down the divisions but still drew big crowds to those shallow-stepped, open terraces. My mum and her brothers talked fondly of their heroes of those days – Hill, Crozier, Harper, Greenwood, Hopkins – at family gatherings for decades afterwards. 

In 1960 Graham died suddenly leaving Iris to bring up two small children – my sister Cathy and me – and later that year Cyril was killed in a motor accident. There was no time and little money to spend on football, and probably no heart for it either. Until the spring of 1967. 

Uncle Clive came to our house and said simply “I think it’s time we got you two along to Griffin Park”. Cathy remembers her first visit clearly. Exeter City, an evening under floodlights, the Royal Oak End. Hooked.

We migrated to a spot with a better view on New Road and adopted our ‘own’ crush barrier. Though I was mortified to have to queue under a sign that read BOYS ENTRANCE it wasn’t long before I’d bought the rosette, knitted the scarf and had a black and white photo of Alan Hawley taped inside my desk lid. Iris and Tony soon returned and we befriended three lovely people who stood close by, Joyce and Bill Neate and Betty. 

Cathy and I were the third generation, watching fourth division football. One substitute, one bag of monkey nuts, one ladies’ lavatory with a big hole in the wall, gates of 5,000. Wreathed in cigarette smoke and diesel fumes we watched our own heroes – Phillips, Ross, Nelmes, Gelson, Higgie – take on Bradford Park Avenue, York City and Barrow. The pitch was bald by Christmas and at half time the ‘crowds’ on Ealing Road and the Royal Oak swapped ends by charging along the rain-filled ditch at the bottom of the New Road terrace. 

Early in the 70s one of the Baker Boys, possibly the last, died. At the funeral Clive and Tony met Phil. He said he was Stan’s son. He was a Brentford supporter. Soon Phil was coming to games with us. The quietest, gentlest and most good-natured of men, he might be remembered for brief spasms of wild and vitriolic high-pitched shrieking  when Brentford displeased him. His children, our second cousins, came though curiously often chose to stand in a different part of the ground. 

How I wish they could see Brentford now. The Brothers, my Mum and Dad, Clive, Tony, Phil. They would not believe their eyes. And how I’d love to go back in time and watch them at Griffin Park. Today, a fourth generation of our family comes to watch the Bees, my daughters and Phil’s grandchildren. 

I tried to explain how it felt to be leaving Griffin Park.

It’s like…it’s like putting our family home up for sale, the house where my grandparents lived, where they brought up their children. Where our parents raised us…and where my home is now.

Actually, I realised, that’s not what it was ‘like’. That’s how it really was.

Sharon Adlem

 

Cathy Adlem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MY 52 YEARS  WITH THE BEES

MY 52 YEARS WITH THE BEES

I have been a Brentford supporter 52 years (today is actually the anniversary!) when the Club was a consistent Division 4 (League 2 Club. I frame my Bees supporting life as a game of “Snakes and Ladders” with more
snakes than ladders ! Thankfully there are more ladders than snakes nowadays ! I have been both an active member of BIAS and Bees United, fully involved in many fundraising activities to not only fundraise but also promote supporter involvement, which I am passionate about.

Jon Gosling fund-raising for the Bees.

I have served on the Bees United Board in two stints for more that half the time the Society has existed.  I was privileged to be elected as the BU Supporter Director on the Club Board between 2006-2009.  It was then when I acquired my most precious momento of Bees United supporting time, being in the pre-season squad picture of Andy Scott’s Championship winning side in 2008-2009.  That season was the start of the Club’s rise to better things and who knows where it may lead us next?

Jon is second from right in the middle row

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BEES FAMILY HEIRLOOMS- MY UNCLE’S RATTLE

BEES FAMILY HEIRLOOMS- MY UNCLE’S RATTLE

My Dad (Tom) and my Uncle Fred (his brother-in-Law) were both Brentford supporters in the pre-Second World War days.  Dad rarely saw the team play as he worked on Saturdays in the grocery trade.  Uncle Fred, was one of the several Cook brothers who were enthusiastic fans, and they became quite well known at Griffin Park.  Uncle Fred followed the Bees for many years after the War.  

He not only went to first team home matches, but every other week saw the reserves at Griffin Park.  He suffered a serious accident in the early days of the War, and his injury resulted in him being discharged from the Army.  Consequently he was able to continue watching The Bees, not only that but he kept most of the programmes.  When he stopped attending matches, in the late 1950s he handed to me his programme collection, which started in the early 1940s.  The programmes during these early years, due to Wartime restrictions were incredibly flimsy and printed on poor quality paper. Many were single sheets, and yet he kept them all in an immaculate state, with no tears or folds.  

Towards the end of the 1950s he gave me, a schoolboy, his Brentford rattle which presumably he had taken to matches.  The rattle was in fact an ARP (Air Raid Precautions) rattle, manufactured by Clement and Sons in 1939.  Uncle Fred no doubt used it during the war period, and although such items are rare now, in the post-war years many war ‘adapted’, i.e. painted in football club colours and with a team name.  Such was the one I inherited, suitably painted with red and white stripes, and inscribed ‘Up The Bees’.

In those relatively non-violent days of the 50s and 60s, such rattles were a common site at matches, as was mine, and it accompanied me to games, both home, and on my travels to away games.  When we were drawn ‘away’ to First Division West Bromwich Albion, in the fourth round of the F.A.Cup in 1959,  I travelled to the match by train from Ealing Broadway, along with several friends.  There was massive support for The Bees, and after we alighted at Birmingham’s Snow Hill Station, we were greeted by the local Press.  The Birmingham Evening Post chose to use a photograph on the front page of their next edition that had been taken of me at at the forefront of our group, complete with home made red and white painted hat, and brandishing my rattle.  

Dave Twydell in glasses and hat, plus rattle, in 1959. If you were also in that picture let us know at admin@beesunited.org.uk

It was an exciting day out, but we lost 2-0 before a crowd of nearly 42,000.  There was, however, was one compensation after the girls in our small group decided we would wait and greet the team outside, after the match.  The delay meant we had missed the buses taking supporters back to the train station.  The team took pity on us, and allowed us to travel back to Snow Hill on the Team Coach.

Another match was particularly memorable, when I traveled to Vicarage Road in the 1961/62 season.  Although we lost 2-1, in my enthusiasm I used the rattle to good effect when we scored… and accidentally hit a Watford supporter with it, who was sitting next to me.  He was not sympathetic or supportive!

The days of taking rattles to matches soon dwindled, and within a few years they were banned completely.  But I still have Uncle Fred’s rattle, now silent, to one side.

You can read more about Dave Twydell and his Brentford collection in our previous article about the models of Griffin Park he made and the video he produced.

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BEES FAMILY HEIRLOOMS -A DAD’S WW2 AUTOGRAPH BOOKS

BEES FAMILY HEIRLOOMS -A DAD’S WW2 AUTOGRAPH BOOKS

Starting in 1943 13 year old Mike Cabble set off  from his home in Isleworth for Griffin Park with a mission for the rest of the Second World War; to collect as many players’ autographs as possible. When he secured the signature of an especially famous player, such as Ted Drake of Arsenal and England, he would record their name in his own immaculately neat handwriting.

After Mike passed away in 2017 his two autograph books became the proud property of his son .You may know him better as Bees iFollow co-commentator Mick Cabble.

Mick says one of his dad’s favourite hunting grounds was South Ealing Station where players would get the tube into London after a game. There were no team coaches in wartime London. “My dad would follow the players out of the ground, continue with the crowds up the road to South Ealing and stand on the platform with the players collecting autographs as they waited for the tube. That’s where he got the autograph of the famous winger and England international of his day, Leslie Smith, who was one of his heroes and his favourite player.

“Dad also kept a record of every game he went to and always bought two programmes, one to write on and one to keep clean. He was a keen amateur artist and once sent off beautiful drawings to Disney’s cartoon studios hoping for a job. He told me that the wartime years were fascinating times. By 1943 Brentford were well supported and despite air raids over London the Bees played regularly around the capital”.

For thirty years Mike and Mick were to experience a story in every part of the country in their own travels with the Bees. Mick says: “ When he was aged 78 I took him up to Darlington for the promotion game in League 2 , a day he treasured with three generations of his family, his daughter LIz, granddaughter Siobhan and me, he loved it. I took him to his hundredth league ground. Hereford United, in his 80th year. Then he declared saying he’d visited 100 league grounds watching the Bees it was time to watch just the home games from now on.

Mick Cabble and daughter give grand-dad a grand day out at Darlington.

“Dad was a Brentford  supporter for 73 years. A lot of people don’t have relationships with their father but I was very fortunate because through Brentford I went with him everywhere from Sunderland to Plymouth and Swansea to Norwich. One of my favourite photos captures his face as Brentford beat Preston in 2014 to get promotion to the Championship, he was with my daughter Siobhan”.

Now Mick himself reckons hes been to about 1,500 games, more than 350 of them away and has co-commentated on over 100 of them.

One of the most interesting names recorded in his father’s autograph books is that of Frank Soo who played for Brentford from 1943-45 while serving in the RAF.

Frank Soo, wrongly listed as J.Soo, alongside other wartime Bees

It was common during the war for players registered for one club to play as ‘a guest’ for others, sometimes in areas where they were doing military service. Frank Soo started 26 games for Brentford, one of which was abandoned, ,scoring two goals (against Spurs and Arsenal. He had a Chinese immigrant father and an English mother, was born in Derbyshire, raised in Liverpool and signed for Stoke City at the age of 19 in 1933.

Frank Soo while at Stoke City.

He became the first player of Chinese heritage to appear in the Football League when he made his first team debut against Middlesbrough. Soo made his international debut against Wales in May 1942 which made him the first non-white player to wear an England shirt. But the FA decided they would not recognise wartime international fixtures as ‘official’ matches.

Frank Soo, far right, before an England wartime international. Joe Mercer and Stanley Mathews are also in the line-up.

Bees fan Rob Jex, who has an extensive archive of Brentford match reports, says “Brentford manager Harry Curtis had tried to sign Soo or his fellow Stoke City wing half Jock Kirton in October 1938 when Brentford were bottom of the First Division, but Stoke turned down his ‘substantial bid’. I suppose, therefore, that when his RAF posting brought Soo south, it was only natural that Harry Curtis would be interested in securing him as a guest at some point”. Rob has found the programme for the 1944 away game at Spurs where Soo is shown as left half . Somebody has written 1 against his name to denote the fact that he scored in the  2-2 draw. The programme advises fans that ‘in case of emergency take cover under the stands’ . 

Rob says “The all too rare references to Soo in the reports of his matches are always complimentary: “classy touches”, “an artist who knows every move on the board”, “the complete artist”, and he, along with another Brentford war time guest, Matt Busby, are held up as the top left half backs in the game”. Mick Cabble says his father talked of Soo as a ‘very popular player’.

According to Rob Jex “There is some debate about whether Frank was the first non-white player to play for Brentford. Some Bees historians feel that it might be either Trinidadian Felix Leotaud, who was on the club’s books in the 1890s and later became President of the Trinidad and Tobago FA in the 1930s, or Frederick Corbett, who was born in Essex in 1881 and died in Brentford in 1924, who played for the Bees in the Southern League”.

If you have a Bees family heirloom that you’d like to share with fans please email admin@beesunited.org,uk

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ALBERT WAS AT A BEES  SEMI NEARLY 80 YEARS AGO

ALBERT WAS AT A BEES SEMI NEARLY 80 YEARS AGO

He was at Wembley in 1942 when Brentford won the London War Cup in front of 70,000 fans, he was in the record crowd of 38,678 at Griffin Park for the FA cup 6th round tie v Leicester City in 1949, on the special train to Blackburn in 1989 when 3,000 travelled north for a 5th round FA Cup game, at  the promotion clinchers at Peterborough in 1992 and Cambridge in 1999,  and at Griffin Park against Preston when we won promotion to the Championship in 2014.  Albert French is truly living Brentford history.

And perhaps what’s most relevant at the moment is that he watched a Cup semi–final which Brentford not only played in but won. The Carabao Cup semi-final next month will be our first ever ‘major’ semi  because nobody is claiming that the 1942 semi in the London War Cup was ‘major’ but it was the best available in wartime. Brentford met Arsenal at Stamford Bridge and there was a goalless draw.The replay was at White Hart Lane and Albert was there to see the Bees win 2-1. He remembers that it was a crowd of about 40,000, unsegregated and no need for social distancing then. Albert recalls that the game was very exciting with a great atmosphere, the view from
behind one of the goals was rather poor but he saw the Arsenal great Cliff Bastin playing.

Albert was  97 this December and we think that makes him the oldest season-ticket holder and BU member, just a little older than Ron Fishlock who we reported on last season. If you know of anybody who’s older do let us know. Albert was ten when he went to his first game at Griffin Park. It was Saturday March 17th 1934 and the Bees won one-nil against Blackpool. Harry Curtis was the manager, Ramsay MacDonald was Prime Minister of the UK and the next day Mussolini announced Italy’s ‘primacy’ across the world. Brentford’s own plan for world domination would also hit a snag later when the Bees lost a crucial game and ended up one point off promotion to the First Division. The next season they made it, maybe a precedent for this season?

Albert says ““The first games of mine were a real treat, great gems”, there were crowds of up to 30,000 and boys like him “were passed above people’s heads from the back to the front of the stands”. He lived in Hanwell and can remember when “all conversations over the garden fence were dominated by talk about Brentford”. These were the days when hunger marchers came down to London and “there wasn’t much money about”. He also remembers the open top trams which ran across West London and on match-days “it was absolutely pandemonium”.There would be many more match-days for Albert over the next nine decades. Perhaps the most extraordinary was the 1941-2 season at the height of the Second World War. “I was only about 16, but I travelled around everywhere, every match, home and away, north and south. I went to Wembley for the London War Cup Final, that was another great day. I can picture it as if it was yesterday. Leslie Smith was absolutely brilliant, Joe James held the cup and he nearly dropped it on the floor”.

Over the years there were many other great days like the cup victory at Blackburn that took the Bees to the sixth round of the FA Cup against Liverpool in 1989 and those promotion games at Cambridge and Peterborough. Albert’s son David went with him on many of these trips.  And there were the not so good days. Disappointments include numerous relegations, countless play-off failures, Freight Rover and LDV final defeats and Mr Raymond Biggar’s 9 minutes of added time against Notts County in 1993 that ultimately led to our relegation.

Albert and David French’s programme from the infamous 1993 match against Notts County.

 David says; “One of the worst moments was at Gillingham in the FA Cup. We were 3-1 up with 11 minutes left and somehow lost 5-3. We drove all the way back home without saying a word to each other”.  And the Doncaster Rovers disaster of course, best summed up by a comment from an older supporter who told them as they left the ground “if you’ve been supporting Brentford for as long as I have, THAT’S what it’s all about!”

Peter Gilham welcomes Albert French on a 94th birthday treat with Albert’s son David.

There are also weather memories on and off the pitch. Albert says; “Before the Clean Air Act there were matches in thick fog and on Boxing Day 1948 we were playing Plymouth and in the Royal Oak stand there were supporters with about 3 inches of snow on their heads”.  Also David remembers; ”we got soaked queueing in a long snake for tickets for the Liverpool cup game, we went to dry out in the Royal Oak where we met Gary Blissett and Andy Feeley having a leisurely post-match beer in the warm”.  A very early start ensured Albert survived another ticketing disaster in 2005 and with David he was at the “very entertaining Martin Allen inspired 2-2 draw at Southampton in the FA Cup 5th Round”.

Albert reckons he’s seen 49 of the 59 people in Brentford’s Hall of Fame. A small selection of his favourite players through the decades starts with what he thinks was Brentford’s greatest ever team in the 1930’s.  An early idol was Dai Hopkins, a Welsh international winger and lynchpin of that team.  Albert remembers being transfixed by seeing his skills in the flesh from close quarters in the New Road stand.  In 1942 Albert was called up and served in the RAF in North Africa and Italy before being de-mobbed in 1947, so there were a few missed years of watching the Bees.  Bill  Gorman (‘Baldy’), Billy Dare, and our half-back line of Ron Greenwood, Tony Harper, and Jimmy Hill (‘Chinny) sticks firmly in his mind from the late Forties and early Fifties.  The terrible twins Jim Towers and George Francis loomed large in the late Fifties and early Sixties.  Moving on – and with David now attending – John O’Mara & co. lit up the 1971/72 campaign followed a few years later by another great strike partnership of Andy McCulloch and Steve Phillips.  Chris Kamara, Terry Hurlock and Stan Bowles was another great and very characterful midfield in the 1980’s along with strikers Francis Joseph, Dean Holdsworth, Garry Blissett, Marcus Gayle, the ‘FT index’ Nicky Foster and Robert Taylor and Lloyd Owusu. He’s forgotten some of the details of DJ Campbell’s cup exploits against Sunderland in 2006 (he obviously got too excited) but he does remember Billy Grant playing several ‘Brentford themed’ numbers on an out of tune piano in a rocking Lord Nelson afterwards. The experience proved so overwhelming for a glory-hunter friend that he brought season tickets for his entire family for the following season.  Sadly he wasn’t seen much thereafter!”

Albert has seen Brentford teams under the stewardship of over 40 managers, starting with the legendary Harry Curtis during the 1930’s through to the manager of our greatest team in the modern era, Thomas Frank.  Apart from Harry Curtis, Albert’s favourites include Jackie Gibbons, Steve Perryman, ‘Mad Dog’ Martin Allen and Uwe Rosler.  Mark Warburton, Dean Smith and Thomas Frank are all recent favourites and he met Dean and Thomas as part of a 94th birthday treat organised by his late daughter Rosemary. 

Albert thinks that Brentford teams since we’ve been back in the Championship are playing the best football he has ever seen, in fact so good it is largely unrecognisable from the offerings of the previous eighty years.  He loves watching all the current players and the pandemic has been a unexpected boon for him in that via iFollow he is watching more live Brentford action than ever before.  He has become a re-born Bees fanatic. 

Albert,Stephen and David French -three generations of Bees fans. If you add in Albert’s late father Wiiliam, its a four generation Bees family.

In more recent times David French was at the Bees United meeting in 2009 when members voted in favour of the deal with Matthew Benham which became a turning point in the club’s history. David and his Dad are both season-ticket holders in the new stadium but only David has been able to go so far, being one of the 2,000 who attended the game against Blackburn. Albert’s heart condition makes getting to the games problematic. ”It’s difficult to explain my position, one minute I’m at death’s door, the next I’m not. It’s quite amazing what has been done medically. You name it, I’ve had it done. I always ask ‘is it worth it? Every time the doctors say ‘of course, of course’.

Albert is scheduled for an anti-COVID vaccine in the second week of January so here’s to the day when the virus has receded enough and Albert is well enough to go to the stadium. Perhaps it will be in time for the 90th anniversary of his first trip to Griffin Park. Certainly Bees United will do what it can to help make that happen. For Albert it will be another memory, he has been around so long that he says “‘I’ve seen stands go up and I’ve seen them go down”.

  

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HOW THE HISTORIAN BEES SAFEGUARDED THE BEST OF OUR PAST

HOW THE HISTORIAN BEES SAFEGUARDED THE BEST OF OUR PAST

In 1990 Rob Jex was voted Brentford’s first ever ‘Supporter of the Year’, beating off competition from Peter Gilham for an award for an ‘outstanding contribution to the centenary year’. Almost every Saturday for two years he’d gone to the British Library Newspaper Library to research match reports from 1889 onwards for use in the book ‘100 Years of Brentford’. 30 years later Rob, now retired, has got more than 50,000 digital items about Brentford FC on his computer. He’s spent more days than he cares to remember digitising everything from match reports to fans’ scrapbooks, club programmes, player contracts plus photographs of cups and shirts.

Rob Jex ‘Supporter of the Year 1990’

The knowledge and commitment of Rob and the rest of the Brentford Historians Group – Paul Stembridge, Paul Briers, Mark Croxford and Dave Lane – has meant the jewels of the Bees archive can be safely stored while other artefacts can be released for sale to benefit the club. Before launching an auction the club needed to make a full inventory of what was in Griffin Park and the club’s storage facility. The first version was done by Neil Cooper, a Bees fan with a Masters Degree in Museum Studies, and it took him 230 hours. Neil is the son of BU Board member Ron Cooper whose devotion to the club’s history is such that for many years he has been welcomed into Griffin Park to clean the cups in the Boardroom and The Hive. Ron and Neil also worked with the family of the late John Pitt to transfer his extraordinary collection of Brentford memorabilia from his garage, attic and garden shed. There were three days of careful and sensitive work moving the objects into a safe space in the club’s care.

A glimpse inside the John Pitt collection of everything Brentford. Picture courtesy of the Pitt family.

The Historians were then invited to sift through the full range of items in the storage facility. Most of these are Brentford’s property but there are also personal collections like John Pitt’s and the Arthur Charlton collection which have been bequeathed to the club and will be kept intact. Paul Stembridge, a recently retired archivist, began photographing everything that was in storage, the Hive and the Boardroom and building on the original inventory, and with Rob Jex put the 1500 + pictures in a database with all the relevant details. Whatever was later decided to do with each item a photograph and a detailed description of it would always exist.

A Brentford season ticket from the 1890s, part of the Arthur Charlton collection

Thanks to the Historians, club officials were able to decide which were the most important items to be kept for future display. These include such gems as a ‘1892-93 season ticket and fixture list with gold foil emblem on front’. Everything else on the database was then made available for auction if the club wishes to sell them and anything not sold can be removed knowing that at least a digital record exists.

The 1937 contract for Brentford Hall of Fame centre half Joe James

Sally Stephens, Brentford’s Fan and Community Relations Director said; “I can’t thank everyone involved in this project enough. It’s been a painstaking task over a number of months and we simply couldn’t have completed this without the dedication and the time offered by all the people involved so far. Thanks to them, we can ensure that items that are important to the Club’s history are retained and cared for appropriately and others can feature in our Farewell Griffin Park auction to allow fans to own a little bit of our history, including many old shirts and framed pictures that once adorned the walls somewhere in Griffin Park.”

Rob Jex’s own connection to the Bees goes back to his father David who’d gone with his own father to an FA Cup game against Preston in 1936. Rob’s own first game was in February 1967 against Bradford City and he’s been a regular since 1973. “I’d always been fascinated by the history of the club and I heard that although the date of Brentford’s first ever match was known nobody knew what the score was or who played. I thought that’s a challenge, I’ll see if I can find it out and I did. The club were impressed and I was asked to research the early years – 1889 to 1920- for a book to mark the centenary in 1989.” 

From that he developed a plan to create a digital record with as much material as possible about every game in Brentford’s history. “I’m a kind of match by match person looking for as many different reports on each game as possible. With a digital archive you can include fans’ own reports. It’s a labour of love really.”

Rob with just a part of his 30 year ‘labour of love’

With the current squad making fresh history this labour of love already covers about 8,000 matches and now increases every match-day. Rob is happy to share with like-minded souls and last year began to pool his work with others and build a digital collection covering their different interests. 

“Dave Lane was the driving force behind setting up the Historians Group. We have different interests; Dave is producing his books, Mark Croxford is helping him with that but has also got his own digital archive of more recent stuff, Paul Briers is interested in the early days, Paul Stembridge helps my work. I’d like to get more people involved who have similar archives, the individual collections could be joined up technically, maybe via a digital hub.”  

Rob says of his own collection: “I don’t want to hoard it, I want to share it but on a limited basis. We don’t want the Historians work exploited by people selling copies of what are other people’s private property.” Rob still keeps all his own hard copies but “the ultimate objective in these paperless days is to get rid of them, to not keep what you don’t need. Having cleared out the homes of late parents the last thing I want to do is to burden my children with a whole mountain of stuff that they don’t really want.”

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