The First Hampden Project

Archaeology Scotland & Hampden Bowling Club: The First Hampden Project

New initiative to uncover and preserve the World’s first international football stadium

A new initiative to uncover the World’s first purpose-built international football stadium, the original Hampden Park, has been launched with the creation of a new partnership between Archaeology Scotland and Hampden Bowling Club.

The first Hampden Park was opened in 1873 and was home to Queens Park FC and the Scotland National football team until 1884, 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 being the home of football. Furthermore, this stadium created the template for how football is watched and is the blueprint for every football stadium ever built.

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, discovered a railway map proving Hampden Bowling Club’s legendary tale.

This fantastic discovery has allowed archaeologists at Archaeology Scotland to formulate plans to carry out archaeological investigations, including geophysical surveys and excavations. These investigations will identify anything, which still survives buried below the ground. Excitingly, Archaeology Scotland will also continue its work it started in 2017, investigating the roof of Hampden Bowling Club’s Pavilion, which is thought to be the original roof from the First Hampden pavilion. This pavilion is arguably the most important football building in the world, on a site of world importance for sport.

Forming part of Archaeology Scotland’s New Audience Project, funded by Historic Environment Scotland, the team will carry out work in the summer of 2021 to coincide with the National Men’s Football team returning to their first major tournament in 22 years, coincidently taking place in the current Hampden Park. 

“This is 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 and in partnership with Hampden Bowling Club, we aim 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 immigrants. Football is a great way to bring people together, no matter where they are from or what football team they support!”

Graeme Brown, Hampden Bowling Club Committee Member, explains, “This project is part of our flagship #Restore1stHampden programme, which we initiated once we proved the site 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 every built. We are extremely excited to partner with Archaelogy Scotland to unearth more exciting facts and learn more about the site underneath our feet, and more importantly, with the Community engaged to help.”

The project will look for participants to take part in the archaeological activities and a call for volunteers will be announced in the spring of 2021. The project will also work with groups and individuals from refugee and migrant backgrounds. All participants involved will get a taste of archaeology, learn new skills and help with cross generational learning and community building. There will be opportunities for the public to visit the excavations and there will be open days and an exhibition so that everyone can see the results for themselves, details of which will also be announced in Spring 2021.

Our Launch Event – 29th November 2020