Next Tuesday's game against West Bromwich Albion could be the last time we ever play under the Griffin Park floodlights as we prepare to say goodbye to our home of 116 years. There have been many magical moments under the lights in TW8 ever since we played our first competitive floodlit game 64 years ago today.
The first floodlights appeared at grounds as far back as the 1870s with Bramall Lane, Alexandra Meadows (then home of Blackburn Rovers) and Hermit Road (home to Thames Ironworks, who would go on to become West Ham United) all hosting floodlit friendly matches in the early years.
Under Herbert Chapman, floodlights were installed at Highbury during the 1930s but the Football League refused to sanction their use for competitive matches. This was a situation which lasted into the 1950s until, swayed by the popularity of floodlit friendlies, the Football League relented in February 1956.
By then many clubs, including Brentford, had seen the financial benefit that midweek, floodlit friendlies brought. The Bees were one of the early adopters of floodlight, spending a sum of £5,345 (equivalent to £147,400 in 2020) on erecting perimeter lights the length of the Braemar Road and New Road stands in 1954.
Among the friendlies held before competitive games were sanctioned was a match against an International Managers XI which attracted 21,600 spectators. By the time the Football League's ban on competitive floodlit football was lifted in February 1956, the Club had received over £10,000 in gate receipts from the friendly matches.
With the ban lifted, Swindon Town, who as fate would have it were the first Football League club to install floodlights back in 1951, were the visitors to Griffin Park on Monday 12 March 1956. A crowd of 7,249 were present that night but sadly the team failed to shine under the lights, Jim Towers scoring the only goal in a 2-1 defeat.
Swindon's prominence in this story continues as on Tuesday 21 August 1956, in front of a crowd of 13,510, goals from Towers, Jeff Taylor (2), and Wally Bragg, gave Brentford a first floodlit victory as they beat the Wiltshire side. Seven years later, the perimeter lights were replaced by Pylons on each corner of the ground with the current lights, taken from Stamford Bridge, installed in 1983. The heyday for midweek games under the lights at Griffin Park came during the 1971/72 season with crowds of nearly 14,000 turning up for games against Workington and Doncaster as The Bees earned promotion from Division Four.
There have also been many memorable cup matches under the Griffin Park lights. The largest attendance in the last 50 seasons at Griffin Park, 17,859, came against Liverpool in a League Cup tie in October 1983. And the last time more than 20,000 - and indeed 30,000 - were inside Griffin Park was also under floodlights. When The Bees lost to Burnley in an FA Cup Third Round Replay in January 1965, 30,488 were in attendance. Griffin Park next saw that many turn up again.
The excitement generated by our final season at Griffin Park, and our superb form on the pitch, has seen midweek attendances soar this season with five-figure crowds for all our midweek home games. Our most recent midweek game against Leeds United saw our biggest midweek league crowd since 1972 with next Tuesday's game against The Baggies set to run it close for that honour.