Archaeologists discover Foundations of the World’s first football stadium
Archaeologists from Archaeology Scotland have discovered the remains of the first enclosed, purpose built international football stadium in the world, the original Hampden Park, on the Southside of Glasgow, Scotland.
The 1st Hampden Park was opened on the 25th of October 1873 and was home to Queens Park FC and the Scotland national 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, one of which is emblazoned on the rear wall of Hampden Bowling Club’s pavilion, where a mural depicts 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, captained Scotland on his debut a year earlier in 1881, in a match where Scotland won 6 – 1 in London.
First Hampden was constructed the year after the first international football match took place, played between Scotland and England at the West of Scotland Cricket ground, in Glasgow, in 1872. The archaeological discoveries made during this important project will help celebrate the 150th anniversary of this significant event, next year, helping to highlight the central role that Glasgow and Scotland played in the development of the global game.
The exact location of the First Hampden had been lost over the years but was amazingly rediscovered in 2017, when Graeme Brown, Hampden Bowling Club Secretary at the time, and project partner, discovered a railway map proving Hampden Bowling Club’s legendary tale.
This fantastic discovery allowed archaeologists at Archaeology Scotland to pin-point the exact location of the stadium where they revealed evidence the stadium during two digs this summer.
Carrying out geophysical survey, as well as excavating six trenches in the Queens Park Recreation Ground and Kingsley Gardens, the archaeologists revealed evidence of the foundations of the first Hampden Park Pavilion where the first players to play for Queens Park and Scotland would have got changed before matches and where the team officials would have sat.
They also found tantalising evidence of the original playing surface, sealed beneath over a century of earth and grass, as well as numerous artefacts dropped by the early supporters including beer bottles, juice bottles and clay pipes.
Lead Archaeologist Dr Paul Murtagh explains that “the archaeological evidence that we have revealed allows us to say with certainty that this was the location of the world’s first football stadium. By finding the foundations of the first Hampden pavilion and tying this evidence in with the geophysical results, as well as the evidence we have from the historical map, we have been able to prove that this was the site of the First Hampden”
He continues “the artefacts that we have discovered offer us a real and tangible connection with those early football supporters, who watched some of Scotland’s and the world’s most important and formative football matches. Some of the most intriguing finds are a number of pieces of wire which may be part of the original fencing which ran around the outside of the pitch, which we have photographic evidence for. We are tempted to imagine the fans holding on to this wire, as the swigged their beer and smoked their pipes, cheering on Scotland as they beat the Auld Enemy, again and again.”
Forming part of Archaeology Scotland’s New Audience Project, funded by Historic Environment Scotland, the team carried out work in the summer of 2021, and in September, to coincide with the Men’s National Football team returning to their first major tournament in 22 years, coincidently taking place in the current Hampden Park.
“This was an incredible opportunity for Archaeology Scotland to contribute to a project with real local, national and international significance, especially as it is the home of Scottish and arguably world football” says Eila Macqueen, Director of Archaeology Scotland.
She continues “Our New Audience Project, 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 we have been able to work with people from lots of different backgrounds, whether they have been born and brought up in the area or have just arrived. Over the course of the project we had volunteers from eleven different countries on site, helping them learn more about their new city, learn a bit about archaeology, practice their English and Glaswegian and making friends. The project has meant we have had loads of different outcomes not just for archaeology, but for the volunteers as well as the local community”
Graeme Brown, Founder of The Hampden Collection, which was set up following the discovery of the 1st Hampden map, explains, “This project is the foundation stone of our flagship #Restore1stHampden programme, which Hampden Bowling Club and The Hampden Collection set up in 2017. First Hampden is one of the secrets of the sporting world, and our partnership with Archaeology Scotland is a key step in ensuring everyone understands the importance of this site.”
He continues, “We need to preserve First Hampden for future generations to enjoy. This site is where the modern passing game was created and set the template for every football stadium ever built. We are looking forward to Archaeology Scotland unearthing more exciting objects, facts and stories about the site underneath our feet, and more importantly, with the Community engaged to help.”
Hampden Bowling Club Vice President, Will Moffat, explains, ‘ We are absolutely delighted and thrilled by the work completed by Archaeology Scotland over the summer. They have provided further evidence of our heritage, and it has been brilliant to see so many new faces engaged in our story, and the site of 1st Hampden. We are forever grateful to the team, who are diligently cataloguing and registering all their finds, which will ensure the 1st Hampden is never lost again.’