Project Update – 03/06/21

New archaeological project to uncover and preserve the worlds first purpose-built football stadium kicks off.

Archaeologists from Archaeology Scotland are set to kick off an exciting new project to excavate the world’s first purpose-built football stadium; the First Hampden Park, on the south side of Glasgow, Scotland.

Working in partnership with Hampden Bowling Club, where the stadium once stood, the new project aims to uncover the remains of the very first international football stadium, including the first pitch, the first stand and the first pavilion.

The First Hampden Park was opened in 1873 and was home to Queens Park FC and the Scotland National Football team until 1883, when it was closed due to the building of the Cathcart Circle Railway line.

This site witnessed some of Scotland’s greatest victories. A recently renovated mural was
unveiled depicting Scotland’s 5-1 win over England in 1882. Importantly the mural shows
Andrew Watson, who played in that game and is the world’s first black international footballer. Andrew Watson captained Scotland on his debut a year earlier in 1881, in a match where Scotland won 6 – 1 in London. This remains England’s biggest ever home defeat.

First Hampden is the football ground where the modern passing game of football was invented, which is now played or watched by billions of people around the world. The methods and techniques developed on this ground, cement the reputation of Scotland as the home of world football.
Furthermore, this stadium created the template for how football is watched and is the blueprint for every football stadium ever built.
Taking place a few days before Scotland’s men’s team kick off their first major tournament in 23 years, at the current Hampden Park, the dig comes at an important time for the history of the game in the country.

“This is an amazing opportunity for Archaeology Scotland to uncover one of the most important sporting sites in the world” says Dr Paul Murtagh of Archaeology Scotland, who is leading the dig.
He continues “This is the site where the passing and running game was first played and where modern football was born. This site is the place where the idea of a purpose-built football ground originated, with a pavilion in the corner, a grand stand built to host spectators and the first use of turnstiles for entry. It is the place were all football stadiums, and indeed sport stadiums around the world, are able to trace trace their history back to. This is not only one of the most import archaeological sites in Glasgow or Scotland, but it is one of the most important sites in the world, especially for those interested in the social history of the modern world, as well as the history of the beautiful game. A game that has gone on to dominate the world and shape billions of lives”.

Eila MacQueen, Director of Archaeology Scotland comments that “The universal appeal of football makes this site an ideal candidate for our New Audience Project. The project, which is funded by Historic Environment Scotland, is designed to engage audiences that would not normally have access to heritage or archaeology. In this instance, working in the south side of Glasgow, and in partnership with Hampden Bowling Club, our aim is to work with people from lots of different backgrounds, whether they have been born and brought up in the area, or have just arrived, and especially those that may be asylum seekers or recent migrants. Football and archaeology are great ways to bring people together.”

Graeme Brown, Hampden Bowling Club Committee Member, explains, “This project is a massive step forward in our #Restore1stHampden Project, which highlights the importance of First Hampden to the World, and our ambition of restoring the ground to its former glory.
He continues “We have had an exceptional response from the community, public and media, who are getting involved in the project, and actively following this fascinating story. We cannot wait to see what we find in this hallowed ground. First Hampden is the football ground where the modern passing game of football was invented, which is now played or watched by 3.5 billion people around the world, and this project aims to reveal the foundations this historic site, located in the Southside of Glasgow.”

The project will take place from the 7th of June until the 13th of June. Due to Covid-19 restrictions Archaeology Scotland would ask that no one visits the site during the dig. However, the archaeologists are planning to excavate more of the site in September to continue the investigations, when hopefully there are fewer restrictions. In September there are plans to hold public open days and a pop-up exhibition with all the finds on display.