The Iron Liddy Column

Brace yourselves Hammers, it’s a long one …..

As some of you may recall, back in March 2017 I wrote an article on how football is being used within care homes and community spaces in England as a key to unlock dementia patients’ memories and to engage with them in a meaningful and therapeutic way.

As I explored the subject I discovered that directed reminiscence therapy based on football has also been adopted in Scotland and that group sessions have been held for sufferers and their carers in the Hampden Park Museum amongst the football artefacts and memorabilia in order to help trigger memories. As I wrote in 2017:

“Thinking about the fact that these sessions took place within the setting of the Hampden Park football museum really served to compound my profound anger and disappointment that the current West Ham board took the decision to auction off our club’s memorabilia when we left Upton Park last year. They may only be dusty artefacts to some but for many older West Ham fans, especially those suffering from dementia, they could have been valuable portals to memories which would enable them to reconnect with their past and their present and give them back their sense of identity and self-esteem. Some of these items were procured with the assistance of financial donations by fans for the West Ham museum that was opened at The Boleyn ground in Bobby Moore’s memory on 23rd October 2002; and which silently and mysteriously disappeared ….. but that’s a story for another article.”

At the time a couple of WHTID readers did ask me to go on and write that article on the disappearance of our museum. Unfortunately life took over and sad and difficult circumstances meant that the rest of 2017 went by in a horrible blur. By the time I came up for air it was December and although I did then revisit the subject and began to investigate the history of the West Ham museum and what had become of it, the information I found never did manifest into an article.

Last week Iain asked me if I would write a regular column for WHTID again so I’ve been trawling through all my old research for inspiration and I came across the information I’d compiled on the museum. This is what I found.

Establishing a West Ham United museum became the dream of Club Chairman Terence Brown and his fellow Director Charles Warner during the Club’s Centenary Year of 1995, at the beginning of a £35 million redevelopment project. Around the time that the Centenary Stand (latterly the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand) was opened the Club made an appeal to West Ham fans for financial donations to help make Terry Brown’s dream of a museum a reality.

Fast forward five years to the year 2000 and the old West Stand was demolished so that work could begin on the Dr Martens Stand. The new stand would also incorporate conference and banqueting facilities, a hotel, the club shop and the longed-for museum.

In May 2001 Stuart Ryan was appointed as Commercial Director of the Club and at the time he had this to say about the Dr Martens Stand and the new West Ham United museum:

“The cornerstone of the club is the friendly atmosphere and heritage element that West Ham is synonymous with, so the design and development of everything within that is trying to make sure we don’t lose the roots and real feeling of the club, the tradition that everyone has come to know, love, and respect.

“I was just chatting with the Chairman and we were in agreement that the uniqueness and one thing we must never move away from is the great heritage of the club.”

In August 2001 the Upper Tier of the Dr Martens Stand, named after the Club’s sponsors, was opened for the first home match of the season against Leeds United. An article featuring an interview with Sir Geoff Hurst which appeared on the official WHU website that same month talks of some of the acquisitions for the planned new museum:

“Sir Geoff Hurst admits that his World Cup medal, which will be one of the attractions of the West Ham museum in the new stand, once formed part of a bracelet that was worn by his wife in public! Along with his FA Cup winner’s medal from 1964 and his Cup Winners’ Cup medal from 1965, which will also be on display when the museum opens next summer, Mrs Hurst wore surely the ultimate piece of jewellery on nights out.”

Sir Geoff explained:

“For many years my wife had the three medals on a bracelet and would go into public places.

“More people talk about the World Cup today and the significance of it, so its value is higher, but then you could get away with it.

“To wear a World Cup medal on your bracelet today would be unthinkable, but that is how it was.

“It is held in more reverence today than it ever was before.

“There would be a huge risk today; it is a treasured item and a token of England winning the World Cup in 1966, which people of our generation are very proud of and remember fondly."

The West Ham article continued:

“Not that there will be any more soirees with the medals jangling on Mrs Hurst’s wrist – all three are safely in the possession of West Ham now that the World Cup medal has gone to the club for £150,000.”

Sir Geoff expounded:

“West Ham have it now and that’s it; it will be next seen at the launch of the new museum.

“I auctioned most of the memorabilia last year through Christie’s but I retained the World Cup medal as I decided I would keep that.

“But I always knew that we were going to release it somewhere because it has been locked away in a bank vault and nobody ever sees it.

“You can’t split the medal between three girls and two grandchildren, and I always felt it was fitting to go to West Ham because I spent 15 very happy years there and it is a club I am extremely fond of.

“With the new stand and the museum, and the fact that they had acquired Bobby Moore’s collection, I felt it was a very nice thing to incorporate my medal into the collection as well.

“I think you could argue I could have got more for it but I didn’t want to put it on the open market.

“West Ham made some overtures to me, and talked about the new stand and the museum; the money was a secondary thing.

“I felt it ought to finish up at West Ham and the price was not a consideration, though with the shirt fetching £85,000 last year, which was remarkable for a shirt, the medal might have gone for more.

“I very rarely look at the medal because it is locked away. The last time I saw it was after a specific request from the members of the 1966 club in the Bobby Moore stand about a year or 18 months ago.

“They joke about whether I really played in the final as they’ve never seen the medal so I wanted to ram their words down their throats and produce it.

“That’s the only time it’s been seen in public over many, many years; so it will be nice to share it with a lot of people who can have a look at it.

“The museum will provide an opportunity for fans to see not only my medal but Bobby Moore’s collection and Martin Peters’ medal, which will be lovely.”

The article revealed that the new £3.5 million museum would also house Bobby Moore’s £1.45 million collection of memorabilia and it concluded with the following quote from Chairman Terry Brown:

“This will be a unique collection and we were very lucky; the odds against being given the opportunity to acquire these three World Cup winner’s medals at the time when we were building our museum at Upton Park must have been very long indeed.

“There is a lot more to a football club than buying and selling players – having three players from one club playing in a victorious England World Cup final team is a unique feat and we are immensely proud of it.

“What better way is there of commemorating that achievement than to display all three of their winners’ medals?”

In November 2001 the 15,500 seater Dr Martens Stand was completed and the Lower Tier was opened for our home game against Spurs. In the meantime work continued on the front section of the stand that would house the new museum and club shop.

On Thursday 9th May 2002, the Dr Martens Stand was officially opened by Her Majesty the Queen as part of her Golden Jubilee celebrations. Joe Cole, Jermain Defoe, and Glen Johnson all skipped training that Thursday morning to meet the Royals at the Boleyn Ground before both the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh paid a visit to the new museum to sign the visitors’ book.

Then, after more than seven years of planning, the West Ham United Museum finally opened its doors to the public for the first time on Saturday 24th August 2002.
Speaking at the time about the donations made by West Ham fans to fund the museum Terence Brown said:

“I can assure all supporters who made contributions that every penny went into this massive project that has cost around £4 million.”

In a review of the museum for the Culture 24 website David Prudames wrote in August 2002:

“From the grainy photograph of boys knocking a ball about in the street to the artist’s impression of the club’s soon to be 40,000 seat stadium, this Museum not only traces the history of a football club, but that of the game itself.

“On entering, visitors are greeted with a projected image of Arnold Hills, owner of the Thames Iron Works and Shipbuilding Company. Lamenting the decision by his works’ football team to turn professional and change its name to West Ham United, Hills admits: “It is important for each community to have its own football team.” Hills could never have foreseen what would happen to the amateur game of Association Football, but, as this Museum attests, his sense of community undoubtedly lives on. West Ham United’s connections to its East London home are ever-present from a video installation of the local Boleyn Pub to the celebration of the Hammer’s most famous locally-born son, Bobby Moore.

“An intriguing timeline runs the length of the Museum space, flagging up world events with the coinciding achievements of West Ham United and their headline-making players. This gives a colourful insight into the way such events have affected the game of football. For example, West Ham United’s war time recruitment of Irish players when the local lads had all been called up to fight the Nazis.

“The Museum centres on the Champions’ Collection, which, with its medals, shirts and caps worn and won by three of West Ham United and England’s most famous names, is a true football treasure. Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Sir Geoff Hurst’s involvement in the World Cup winning side of 1966 is well documented. Visitors can hear all about it from recordings of the players themselves, experience it with the late Sir Kenneth Wolstenholme’s famous commentary and see it in the form of three winner’s medals.

“A £4 million project, the Museum doffs a cap to the fans with a song sheet for crowd favourite I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles and offers profiles of current players. Charting football’s evolution, the West Ham United Museum is a worthwhile experience for any fan of the game, not just those whose favourite colours are claret and blue.”

Two months later, on 23rd October 2002 the Club held an official opening ceremony for the West Ham United Museum in Bobby Moore’s memory. The ceremony was attended by Bobby’s first wife Tina, their children Roberta and Dean and granddaughter Poppy. Martin Peters, Brian Dear, and Sir Robin Wales, the mayor of Newham, also attended, together with other guests associated with West Ham’s history. Among them was Patrick Hills, a descendant of Arnold Hills who founded the original Thames Ironworks club in 1895, and who was quoted on the club website at the time:

“It was a wonderful day, I have thoroughly enjoyed myself, and I am enormously pleased with how it has turned out.

“It is all extremely interesting and, I thought, very well done.

“We are delighted to see what has been happening; history is important to visitors and fascinating for the children.”

The Club also invited Dorothy Young to the official opening of the museum. Dorothy was the daughter of the Geordie footballer Jack Young, who played for the Hammers in the famous 1923 ‘White Horse’ FA Cup final. In her interview for the Club’s website in October 2002 Dorothy recalled:

“Dad was right full back and Billy Henderson was left full back; they both came from the little village of Whitburn. I think he earned £7 a week in the summer and £15 when they played. A lot of people only earned £3 even in the 30s.

“We used to come and live in Shepherd’s Bush in the football season until we were kids and then had to go to school in the north east.

“It was very hard times in those days but he was a very good footballer. It was a £600 transfer when, as dad told me, in those days £200 was a good transfer fee to pay.”

Jack continued in the game after his playing days were over by scouting for a former playing colleague, George Kay, who went on to manage Liverpool FC. The Club’s article on Dorothy and Jack Young concluded:

“When the museum eventually expands – as it will – the contracts Jack signed are likely to be on display."

Later that same year, in November 2002, a promotional article in praise of the new museum appeared on the Club’s website stating that the museum had the approval of Bobby Moore’s family and quoted his daughter Roberta as follows:

“It was an honour to be at the opening of the museum recently – and it is exactly what dad would have wanted.

“We all have special memories of him and his part in something etched in our nation’s history.

“He was a giant of a man in his own quiet, unassuming, way – he was a gentleman and a gentle man.”

Bobby’s former wife, Tina, added:

“It is fantastic; I am so happy because I think everything that Bobby treasured, all his possessions, are in the right place.

“Upton Park was the place he felt at home, and it is exactly right; it is unbelievable to see all the stuff that I spent hours polishing with a toothbrush!

“It is where everything should be exactly as it is with people looking at it.

“I am just delighted and thrilled; I treasure everything in there because it meant a lot to us.

“He was a very modest man and also a very proud one, and what you can see at the museum is what Bobby had to display and admire when Bobby was here.

“Bobby has come to rest.”

Bobby’s son Dean was also delighted to visit the museum and said:

“I had a lovely day, but it was a bit nerve wracking because it was so emotional.

“It is a fantastic museum and it was great to be back; they have done the family proud – and dad especially.

“It is spectacular, brilliant, and it is just nice to see all the old stuff again which I haven’t seen for about 10 years.

“They have done a really good job and I will be coming back again to see everything.

“They have done it justice and I am sure my dad would have been very, very proud of it – I am.

“They have kept his memory alive which is the right thing to do; it is a reminder of the good times – and hopefully there will be plenty more to come.

“My sister is overjoyed by the museum and Bobby’s granddaughter Poppy loves it as well.”

Well done if you’ve made it this far, you’ll be pleased to know that there will now be a short interlude for a comfort break and light refreshments before the concluding part is published at 5:00pm. Until then …..