The Flying Griffin of Brentford
The Griffin was a part of Brentford’s heritage long before the first modern sightings of a real-life Griffin were reported in the 1980s.
Brentford Football Club’s ground is called Griffin Park. A pub on a corner of the stadium is called The Griffin. They serve Fuller’s Ale, brewed in bordering Chiswick. Fuller’s logo features a griffin.
The Green Dragon estate is a famous landmark of the town (seen in the background in the photo above). Griffin Court is situated just off the High Street.
The legend of the Griffin runs throughout the town, embedded in the street names, estates, football team, pubs and local folklore.
It transpires that there is historical evidence of a family of griffins who lived on Brentford Eyot. So the story goes, King Charles II bought the first one here as a present for his mistress, Nell Gwynn. Neil A from the Beasts of London website picks up the tale
“During the middle of 1984, a Kevin Chippendale was strolling along Braemar Road, when he observed a strange creature in the skies near the Green Dragon apartments, rather coincidentally! He claimed that the beast resembled a dog but with wings and a beak.
Mr Chippendale saw the creature again in the February of 1985 and said that the apparition bore some resemblance to the creature painted on the sign of the Griffin Public House.
A friend of Kevin’s, an Angela Keyhoe also claimed to have seen the flying monster. She was on a bus journey when she saw it sitting on the gasometer next to the Waterman’s Art Centre. She said it resembled a giant black bird. Several passengers on the bus apparently saw the creature, and so did psychologist John Olssen, one morning whilst he was jogging near to the Thames. Sightings seem to escalate, and the legend was featured in the press and also on The Six O’ Clock News.
Nell Gwynn, who had a house in the Butts at Brentford. One day the griffin was playing on the banks of the River Brent, which flows past the Butts, and fell in. The hapless creature was washed down the Brent into the Thames, finally being washed up on Brentford Eyot. As it was assumed to have been killed, it was left alone and was able to live on the Eyot for many years – griffins having a lifespan of centuries.
Then Sir Joseph Banks brought back a griffin from a Pacific island where he had been with Captain Cook. This griffin was originally housed in the Pagoda in Kew Gardens, which is on the opposite bank of the Thames from Brentford Eyot where it found a mate awaiting it.
There was soon a whole colony of griffins and they spread out from the Eyot all over the town of Brentford, where they can still be seen to this day, if you look closely enough.
This story has stayed with me…it is a nice bit of Brentford mythology.”
It could be convincingly argued that it is this very connection that inspired this obvious hoax in an attempt to give the story credibility. Maybe. But whoever did so did their research or were lucky to have such a back-story to put meat on the bones of their reports.
Whilst remaining alert for pranksters, trolls and hoaxers that dwell within T’Hinternets, we are open-minded as to the alleged sighting of the elusive Griffin of Brentford. We recognise the symbolism in the town and comprehend its importance, we have researched the history and we are well aware there are more things in this world than is thought possible in the seemingly humdrum existence of suburbia. This includes griffins, dragons, giants, genies, thunderbirds, wizards, centaurs, fawns, fairies, yeti, nessie, pixies, crypto-terrestrials, unicorns* and all the other characters of mythology and folklore.
In fact, we would go so far as to say that virtually every mythological creature is or was a real creature once upon a time. Many of which may still exist in habitats off-limits to human exploration or stumbled across by a fortunate or unfortunate few intrepid or accidental tourists whose Fortean stories are filed away under cranks and hoaxes because despite recent inventions such as the GPS and applications such as Google Earth and Ocean we should be reminded that mankind has yet to explore the depths of the oceans, the subterranean realms and impenetrable mountain ranges and rain-forests.
Who knows, perhaps some may even be a lot closer to home, obscured by our own disbelief systems and social constructs. We see what we believe.
*We are still undecided as to whether unicorns were/are real or 100% mythological.
The Peacocks of Kew Gardens