A brick, a part of a floodlight pylon or some large metal letters may not immediately come to mind as the most appealing objects to put in a public display, but all will rightly take their place alongside instantly recognisable Watford Football Club shirts and a much-loved painting when a new exhibition opens at Watford Museum next week.

The Hornets, or The Brewers as they were nicknamed then, played their first game at Vicarage Road on Wednesday, August 30, 1922, and the ‘100 Years at the Vic’ exhibition will be the first major event to mark the centenary.

The exhibition opens to the public on Saturday, August 6, and will showcase a host of artefacts that the 100 Years at the Vic project has collated after asking people to get in touch, including some objects that would have been lost forever had they not been saved from skips by fans.

Watford Observer:

The co-curators of the exhibition with the flag that flew above Vicarage Road in the 1980s

From the bricks when the Vicarage Road terrace to a sign from the Watford Stadium halt station, lettering from the Watford Observer clock and this newspaper’s late cartoonist Terry Challis’ original allegorical painting that forecast the Hornets’ meteoric rise up the football ladder, the exhibition will feature objects that should capture the imagination of Watford fans of all ages.

Tom Brodrick, who has co-curated the exhibition with fellow Watford Treasury member Neil Dunham and museum curator Sarah Priestley, said: “The major part of it is inspiring people with how fantastic these items are and enthusing them about the history of the club and that it’s the club’s centenary at the stadium.

“Similar to the Goal-den Years exhibition that Sarah put together in 2002, which had such an impact on me personally, there’s going to be another generation which is going to be inspired by this exhibition, but also to learn in more detail about the stadium’s history as well.”

Neil said: “Watford is a unique football club. We’re a small club, we’ve got a great community and people that work at the club tend to be fans. We had Tony Marks and Ian Sewell who were both managers of the Hornets Shop, they’ve both given things to the exhibition.

Watford Observer:

The Watford Stadium halt sign below some lettering from the Watford Observer clock

“In the late 1980s and early 90s the club didn’t really take too much interest in their heritage and it was down to the supporters to dive into skips and climb onto the rubble.

“We’ve got people like [Watford fan and memorabilia collector] Barry Ladyman who went down to the club when things werehappening and being destroyed and he said ‘can I have that?’ and that’s where a lot of this exhibition has come from. That’s the beauty of it.”

The Goal-den Years exhibitions celebrated the achievements of Graham Taylor’s teams and since then Sarah has staged other displays at the museum related to the football club, which has helped build a network of fans and organisations with an interest in Watford’s history and memorabilia.

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She said: “I was up at Old Trafford for the first Women’s Euros match and that is an incredible place. But when you walk around behind the scenes in the stands you could be anywhere. What I love about Watford’s stadium is it is actually its own exhibition. There’s so much love for that history. It’s not just the case of the museum cares or some fans care, it’s so embedded.

“You’re surrounded by the three names [of the stands], of Ann Swanson now joining Graham Taylor and Elton, that’s a fantastic thing to have, but also those lovely little details and that history, so that’s how you get those fantastic bricks and the stories behind the clock.

“For me the objective behind this exhibition was it seemed such a lovely opportunity to tell a story in a different way, but also the opportunity to work with people who we’ve built up these lovely relationships with.”

Watford Observer:

An old Watford match poster

Asked about their favourite objects, Neil said: “The main things for me are the parts of the ground themselves. Maybe not so popular but we’ve got the entrance sign for the Petchey family, but for me the highlight is the Watford Observer letters from the Rookery roof that looked down on us when we had the glory years going on. And to have those letters reunited for the first time is quite emotional for me.”

Tom added: “Beyond those, being able to see the Terry Challis painting that became the famous poster that predicted that meteoric rise, the most fantastic period in the club’s history, for people to be able to see it is a wonderful opportunity.”

Sarah said: “Because I’ve got a personal relationship with the Watford Observer clock – we’ve rescued it twice – to see it connected back with some of the letters, that’s just amazing, but there’s things that I didn’t know existed. That’s what I love about the history of Watford Football Club. There is so much out there and it’s so fun as well.

Watford Observer:

Letters from the Watford Observer clock, a brick from the Vicarage Road terrace and part of the floodlight pylon that was sold to fans by the club

“Nothing is possible without the club’s support and every time we’ve done something they’ve been so supportive.

“We are the only example in the country where there is a football club officially supporting and connecting with a local history museum and there’s not that many that have their own museums either.”

‘100 Years at the Vic’ opens on August 6 and will run through next month and September. The museum is open 10am to 5pm, Thursday to Saturday, but there will be some special events taking place around the exhibition as well.