The Brentford Griffin and the West London Dragon

The Traditional Griffin
The Traditional Griffin

In 1984 , and possibly earlier, people began seeing a mysterious object flying around the West London Suburb of Brentford. Decribed as a winged dog or a large bird like creature it seemed to match the description of the classical griffin, a flying lion with an eagle's head.

Psychic investigator and quester Andy Collins carried out the definitive investigation in 1985 [1] and few new facts have been unearthed since then.

Andy Collins involvement with the Griffin began with a report in 1985 on London Weekend Television's 6 o'clock show about sightings of a griffin in the air over Brentford. In 1984 a man named Kevin Chippendale twice saw what he described as a large dog with wings flying over the houses of Brentford which he later identified as a griffin when he saw the sign of the Grifffin Arms pub nearby. A psychologist named John. Olssen saw the beast when jogging one morning. Andy concluded that a third possible witness did not actually see a griffin

Summary of the affair

Rereading my copy of Andy's booklet it becomes clear that the Brentford Griffin saga could very plausibly be considered as a leg pull originated by Robert Rankin, author of a number of humorous magickal mysteries centred on Brentford. A few papers who were aware of the griffin story dropped it when they heard Rankin was involved, bit at least one ran a piece and the simplest explanation is that it was a leg pull originated by Rankin that led to a short lived flap of Griffin sightings.

This explanation, convenient though it is overlooks the fact that the first sightings of the Griffin occurred in 1984 well before the program was created. Andy Collins interviewed Mr Chippendale and was impressed by his apparent honesty and lack of guile. Also, for what it is worth, Robert Rankin  apparently claimed  sightings went back to before the second world war.

Going through the twists and turns of the investigation would essentially reproduce the book here and I can only recommend you get a copy and read it thoroughly.

An extra twist occurred in 1998 when Martin Collins (coincidences like this keep cropping up) wrote a letter to Fortean times stating that when at school in the 1950s he had heard that there was a family of griffins living on Brentford Eyot, an island in in the Thames at Brentford. You can find the details from[2]

Brentford's local football team is called the Griffins and they play at Griffin Park
Brentford's local football team is called the Griffins and they play at Griffin Park

Brentford has numerous griffin connections. The original coat of arms of Brentford, unveiled in 1932 show a griffin, Brentford's football team is called the Griffins, though no one knows why and the local brewery at the time was the Griffin brewery. Again no one knew where the name came from though the trademark may have been purchased from another brewery that went out of business before 1900 and may have led to the naming of the football team and a local pub.

In mythology the Griffin, offspring of an Eagle and a lion, was sacred to the sun and kept guard over hidden treasures. This is possibly significant.

In the 60s and 70s, I was told, by investigator John Merron, that buildings in the nearby borough of Acton were covered with carvings and statues of dragons. By the time I found out they all seemed to have vanished into skips. Traditionally dragons hoarded and guarded treasure and breathed fire. Intriguingly Mr Chippendale twice saw a flying beast pass between himself and a development called Green Dragon Towers.

I would therefore theorise that the Dragon was originally associated with West London and especially Acton and Brentford. There is a TENTATIVE support for this in that West London has a Wormholt Road and Wormwood Scrubs prison, “worm” being an old word for a Dragon. However the history of place names is full of traps for the unwary and I will accept correction from any place name expert.

If the Dragon was associated with West London this archetype, using the term loosely, would have been in the back of the minds of the inhabitants possibly generating sightings or influencing the interpretation of sightings. For reasons unknown the treasure guarding dragon was replaced by the treasure guarding griffin in Brentford. Leaving the question: What and where is the treasure?

Dragons, like this German one, were often carved as magical guardians. What did the Griffin guard?
Dragons, like this German one, were often carved as magical guardians. What did the Griffin guard?

The wrap

One thing is clear. The Brentford Griffin is a mystery that will never die. am convinced no flesh and blood griffin has ever lived on Brentford Eyot. However I am obliged to consider the possibility that a virtual Griffin was created from the imaginations and legends of the inhabitants.

Here is another puzzle The Mystery of St Juttemis

References


[1] The Brentford Griffin: The truth behind the tales, Andrew Collins, Earthquest books 1985 ISBN 0 950802425


Addendum

In 1990 in Sutton Coldfield near Birmingham several people saw a bale of straw flying across the sky at a height of 500 feet. It was falling slowly and may have landed about a mile away. Police reckoned it must have fallen of a lorry (!!!!)

source: Abbreviated report Fortean Times 55 citing UK Press gazette 6th Aug 1990 which in turn quoted the front page of the Sutton Coldfield News presumably of late July

Question: Would a griffin look like a flying hay bale if it were in a bad mood.

There are some strange things up there.

September 2011: Iemoved the link to Monstropedia as it has been identified as an attack page.


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Comments 9 comments

Mad Dan Eccles 5 years ago

Don't bother trying to get hold of the pamphlet referred to here - it's very collectible and now sells for £80 - that's nearly £2 a page! It's worth pointing out that the ONLY evidence that there were any local legends of a griffin prior to the hoax orchestrated by Robert Rankin in 1985 is that Robert Rankin himself said there were without giving details or providing any evidence at all, and that 13 years later, somebody calling himself Martin Collins wrote to Fortean Times making the same claim, and quoting an elaborate and wildly improbable story involving King Charles II, without giving any references. I've certainly never seen any mention of it in books on British folklore, including books dealing with this exact type of story. So "Martin Collins" probably made it up, and since Fortean Times has no way of checking whether people who write to the letters page use their real names, he could have been anybody - including Robert Rankin.

That being said, it's a splendidly silly tale that was never intended to be anything more than a bit of fun, so why not celebrate it? If any residents of Brentford happen to read this, consider the benefits to local tourism Mothman has brought to the previously obscure town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. There's even a very impressive (if slightly tacky) statue of the critter! Maybe Brentford should consider doing something similar? The erection of a suitable statue, and perhaps al Griffin Festival? If it was a success they could have it every year, and before long eberybody would think the Griffin really was a legend going back centuries. Robert Rankin could be the guest of honour - he seems to like that sort of thing. They could invite Andrew Collins too, but somehow I don't think go.


AlexK2009 profile image

AlexK2009 5 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland Author

Whether or not the Griffin is fable, people saw something interpreted as a griffin. And there are the possibly coincidental griffin associations in Brentford. What it was we will never know. But an air of an unresolved question lingers in my mind.


Jan Eskildsen 5 years ago

Forget it. The griffin or gryphon is fables, legens and mythica animals from folktales, just like dragons and wyverns. Look also for a Wyvern near the rivers Wye and Severn. They are surely derived from large birds like eagles. Another example is the sea serpent, which might be derived form the herring king.

See this video about the oarfish:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUaL6hHluZ8&NR=1


Jan Eskildsen 5 years ago

Forget it. The griffin or gryphon is fables, legens and mythica animals from folktales, just like dragons and wyverns. Look also for a Wyvern near the rivers Wye and Severn. They are surely derived from large birds like eagles. Another example is the sea serpent, which might be derived form the herring king.


Jennifer Lynch profile image

Jennifer Lynch 6 years ago from Stowmarket, Suffolk.

I think David Icke knows quite a lot about this sort of thing!


Sa`ge profile image

Sa`ge 6 years ago from Barefoot Island

I enjoyed reading this, I am not one who knows much of griffins or dragons so this was very interesting to me. thank you much. you got my vote here. going to read up on St. Jutt now. aloha :D


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 7 years ago from Hither and Yonder

"no satisfactory explanation" -- This is true of so many things.  A few years ago there were 8 separate sitings of 'big foot' in my part of the world, actually three or four big foots. 


AlexK2009 profile image

AlexK2009 7 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland Author

I am not suprprised. It is a little known mystery with no definite conclusions. There is no satisfactory explanation.


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 7 years ago from Hither and Yonder

Very interesting. I had never heard of these sightings before.

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