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Parts of Brentford’s defunct former home Griffin Park still standing after partial demolition

Parts of Brentford’s defunct former home Griffin Park can be seen still standing after partial demolition of the much loved stadium.

Griffin Park was a football ground in Brentford in the London Borough of Hounslow and was the home ground of Brentford FC from its opening in September 1904 to August 2020.

The ground is in a predominantly residential area and was known for being the only English league football ground to have a pub on each corner.

The ground’s name referred to the griffin featured in the logo of Fuller’s Brewery, which at one point owned the orchard on which the stadium was built.

Between Brentford’s formation in 1889 and 1904, they played at five grounds around Ealing – Clifden Road, Benns Field, Shotters Field, Cross Road and Boston Park Cricket Ground, but it was in 1903, when Fulham chairman Henry Norris (a prominent estate agent), Brentford manager Dick Molyneux and club president Edwin Underwood negotiated a 21-year lease at a peppercorn rent on an orchard (owned by local brewers Fuller, Smith and Turner) along the Ealing Road, with the option to buy the freehold at a later date for £5,000.

Once a gypsy camp was removed, work started on building the ground in January 1904, with the help of architects Parr & Kates. An orchard was cut down by local volunteers, who were allowed to keep the wood.

The ground was initially built with a 20,000 capacity in mind, and a potential icrease of 30,000–40,000. An 800-capacity stand from Boston Park was rebuilt along the Braemar Road side of the ground, with an extension taking the stand’s capacity to 1,500. Beneath and behind the stand were three dressing rooms (one for each team and one for officials), a number of offices and a recreation room.

The ground was named ‘Griffin Park’ after a nearby pub, The Griffin, which was owned by the Griffin Brewery and was used for accommodation, then following a number of trial matches, Griffin Park was opened on the 1st of September 1904. Back then, season tickets for the 1904–05 season (priced between 10 shillings and one guinea) sold out.

The first competitive match played at Griffin Park was a Western League fixture versus Plymouth Argyle on the 1st of September 1904. With the Braemar Road grandstand had been completed by the time of the fixture, the dressing rooms weren’t ready and the players were forced to change at the public baths in Clifden Road, and this led to a borough surveyor declaring the grandstand unsafe and banned its use until improvements had been made.

Plymouth Argyle scored the first competitive goal at the ground through Fred Buck, but four minutes from full time, Tommy Shanks scored from a James Swarbrick cross to secure a 1–1 draw. The attendance was estimated at between 4,000 and 5,000.

The first competitive fixture to be played at the ground was a Southern League First Division match on the 3rd of September 1904, which saw a 0–0 draw between Brentford and West Ham United.

It wasn’t until the 22nd of October 1904 that the Bees got their first win at the ground, a 2–0 win over Millwall. The first Football League match to be played at the ground was on the 30th of August 1920, with Reginald Boyne scoring the only goal of a Third Division fixture vs Millwall.

Development at the ground came thanks to money generated from Brentford’s run to the fifth round of the FA Cup during the 1926–27 season (£5,000, equivalent to £317,500 in 2022), allowing a new grandstand to be constructed to replace the ‘cow shed’ on the Braemar Road side of the ground.

Unlike the old grandstand, the new stand ran the length of the pitch and after the season, it was announced that Griffin Park would be completely redeveloped over the following decade.

Concrete terracing was put in place at the Ealing Road end of the ground in 1930 and during the 1933 off-season, a new stand was constructed at the Brook Road end of the ground with a New Road terrace extended the following year to allow a further 5,000 supporters to be accommodated.

Before the Bees’s debut First Division season in 1935–36, the New Road terrace was extended and a roof was added, which took the stand’s capacity to 20,000.

Further developments were far and few between at Griffin Park between the mid-1930s and the mid-1980s and the ground’s 38,000 capacity was the largest in its history.

The front of the Braemar Road stand was rebuilt in 1963, club offices and a club room installed. Flats were built, matchday parking area behind the Ealing Road terrace in 1985 and a year after, the Brook Road ‘kop’ was torn down and replaced by a two-tiered stand. On the New Road side of the ground, the 1930s extension to the terrace was taken down and a sheet metal wall was added to the back of the stand.

In 2006, the pitch moved a few metres to the west in order to accommodate box goal nets and the year after, a roof was added to the Ealing Road terrace. A few improvements were made after Brentford’s promotion to the Championship in 2014, including resurfacing of access areas, extra CCTV, new signage, new heated seats in the dugouts and AstroTurf installed in the pitch-side run-off areas. With the club getting in the Championship playoff places in January 2015, additional work was carried out on the New Road stand ahead of a deadline for submission of a report to the Premier League, which outlined development plans ahead of a potential promotion. LED advertising boards were installed at the ground for the first time during the 2017–18 season and goal-line technology was installed during the 2017 off-season.

Griffin Park was dubbed a fortress during the 1929–30 Third Division South season when Brentford set an English football record when the club won all 21 home games. Despite the record (which still stands as of 2022), the Bees finished as runners-up to Plymouth Argyle and failed to win promotion to Second Division.] Brentford finished the 2014 calendar year with the best home record in the EFL, winning 17 of 23 games (two more than the next-best tally) and accruing a 78% winning record.

Brentford’s 5th-place finish in the Championship playoff places in the 2014–15 season raised questions about whether Griffin Park was suitable for the Premier League. Brentford were given special dispensation by the Sports Ground Safety Authority to retain the terracing in the Ealing Road and Brook Road stands for the 2017–18, 2018–19 and 2019–20 second tier seasons, due to the club’s good safety record and its impending move to the Community Stadium.

In October 2018, it was reported that the 2019–20 season would be Brentford’s last at Griffin Park, and had promotion to the Premier League been achieved at the end of the 2018–19 season, the club would have applied for special dispensation to play the 2019–20 Premier League season at Griffin Park.

Due to the Covid pandemic, the last match was played behind closed doors at Griffin Park was a 5–0 Championship win over Sheffield Wednesday on the 7th of March 2020. The final first team match played at Griffin Park was a 3–1 Championship playoff semi-final second leg victory over Swansea City on the 29th of July 2020, with Bryan Mbeumo scoring the final Brentford goal. The final match at Griffin Park was a 2019–20 London Senior Cup semi-final, played between Brentford B and Erith Town on the 26th of August 2020. Brentford B won the match 6–3.

Outline planning permission for the redevelopment of Griffin Park into housing was granted in 2005 but, the year after, the Bees was granted more time to identify an appropriate scheme for a new stadium, before getting a second extension granted in 2012 and, in 2015, the club submitted a reserved matters application to establish the landscaping and scale of the development.

On the 3rd of September 2015, Hounslow Council approved the building of 75 new homes and community park on the site of Griffin Park, after the club moves out. At the centre of the development will be a garden, which will honour the stadium.

The EcoWorld project team expected to submit an application in Summer 2021 and a planning determination by Hounslow Council was expected before the end year.

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THE PROPOSALS

Demolition of the Griffin Park site began in Spring 2021 and expected to be completed in early 2022 which, if the application was approved, is when construction of the proposals is expected to begin.

Before construction goes ahead, the developer entered into a construction management plan with Hounslow Council. This can set limits on construction hours, vehicle movements and other aspects of the development and ensures the construction will be undertaken with consideration of the neighbours.

The construction is expected to take around two-and-a-half years in total, and as of July 2022, some of the stands still remain as can be seen in photos below…

The new proposals seek to achieve four goals:

– Create a development that feels connected to the Brentford Neighbourhood
– Create a new park for Brentford residents
– Celebrate the heritage of the site
– Create a broad community by including different housing types

The new homes around the edges of the site are located on the site of the current stadium stands and help organise the development in a similar fashion to how Griffin Park is laid out today. The new park area at the centre of the site overlaps with the current location of the existing Griffin Park football pitch centre circle. The park will also be a place to highlight the heritage of the site through thoughtful design.

The project team also plan to name the future roads, access points and buildings after people important to the history of the area.

The proposals will provide housing for every stage of life and flexible housing allows residents to evolve through the development.

The proposals will include apartments for first time buyers and young professionals attracted by the less central, more residential location. The smaller houses will provide suitable homes for young families looking to upsize from apartment living as well as downsizers moving from larger family properties when children have left home.

The larger houses of four and five bedrooms will suit those with established families in need of space who will be attracted to the developments green spaces.

The proposals will also include affordable housing. The type of affordable housing, amount and location are currently being discussed with Hounslow Council’s Planning Officers and is yet to be determined.

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