Brentford FC, currently playing their first ever season in the Premier League, bid a fond farewell to Griffin Park in 2020, their previous home for 116 years. ‘Farewell Griffin Park – The Fans’ Story’ is a special exhibition at the London Museum of Water & Steam, just around the corner from the new Brentford Community Stadium. It will be open for the remainder of the Premier League season.

The exhibition tells the role of fan groups on the 18-year journey from Griffin Park to the Club’s new ground, with fans initially rejecting a move to then Conference side Woking’s ground in 2001. Visitors have the chance to sit in a former Griffin Park dugout chair, before enjoying three never displayed before fan collections, including a fan’s model of the classic old ground.

A new Black Lives Matter section has been added, with a list of black Brentford players with over 100 appearances for the club. Countless other pieces of classic Brentford memorabilia are on show, with late Bees fan John Pitt’s extraordinary garden shed the centrepiece.

Whilst visiting the Museum, I spoke to Ron Cooper to find out more, a Brentford fan of 62 years, having first attended a game in the 1962/63 season, when the Bees were in the Fourth Division. Ron remains a season ticket holder now, and is also co-curator of the exhibition, alongside Stewart Purvis, Chairman of Bees United. The exhibition is a collaboration between Brentford FC and Bees United, the Brentford Supporters Trust.

Ron told me about John Chandler, who has ‘a collection of programmes of every home game from the 1930s, until he stopped attending games at the age of 93’. There are other programmes on display, including several from Brentford’s last season in the First Division in 1947, as well as a team sheet from 1946. ‘During the war and just after there was a paper shortage and team details were printed on single sheets’. The idea was to make them recyclable; thankfully John kept his, leaving the Museum with a unique collection.

In May 1942, Brentford beat Portsmouth 2-0 in the London War Cup Final, being the Bees’ only win at Wembley before last May. Played in front of 69,792, this remains the largest crowd to ever watch Brentford, a record which could still be broken this season. Ron explained how ‘John was serving on HMS Cairo during the War, and his father sent him an autographed copy of the programme to read while he was on naval duties’.

‘In the August of that year HMS Cairo was torpedoed by an Italian submarine. As the ship began to sink John tried desperately to retrieve his programme from his cabin, but he was unable to reach it before the ship sunk’. Fortunately, John survived, and his father was able to get him another copy; this is the copy on display at the exhibition.

Now on to John Pitt’s shed. Ron Cooper describes is as ‘a unique collection of one man’s devotion to Brentford’. For over forty years he collected anything to do with Brentford he could. John would spend his Sundays compiling match reports on every game, including the clubs, kick-off times, attendances, substitutions, and bookings.

‘Every player who ever played for the club during John’s time had their own page showing all the details of their playing career’, which were updated after each game. ‘When he died his family, his daughter and son offered the collection to Brentford. Ron’s son, ‘the brains behind many of the ideas’ at the exhibition, along with co-curator Stewart, suggested they have a recreation of the shed in the Museum. Mrs. Pitt, her children, and grandchildren, have since been able to visit it.

‘John Pitt travelled the length and breadth of England watching Brentford with a friend’, John Dean, who died recently at the age of 96, having supported Brentford for 90 years. All three of these Johns, with varying stories, have truly encompassed what it means to be a Brentford fan.

This wonderful exhibition, along with several Brentford supporters’ groups such as Bees United, as well as the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust, highlight some of the wonderful work football clubs, and indeed sports clubs, do in their communities. It is currently unsure as to what will happen to the exhibition next season, but it has certainly brought to life some fascinating stories.