First ‘Hampden Park’ football stadium unearthed in Glasgow

The first Hampden stadium, complete with enclosed pitch and turnstiles, was built in 1873.

The remains of the original Hampden Park, dubbed the world’s first purpose-built international football stadium, have been unearthed during a community project on the south side of Glasgow. The stadium’s location was thought to be lost, but the persistence of a rumour sparked new research which led to its excavation as part of the New Audience Project, a widening participation initiative headed by Archaeology Scotland and funded by Historic Environment Scotland.

Photo: Archaeology Scotland.

The first Hampden stadium, complete with enclosed pitch and turnstiles, was built in 1873. It went on to host Scottish international games against England and Wales, but the stadium was demolished in 1883/1884 to make way for the Cathcart railway line, after which its location was forgotten. In 2017, however, Archaeology Scotland was approached by Hampden Bowling Club secretary Graeme Brown, who mentioned the rumour that his club was built on the site of First Hampden. ‘No one believed him,’ Lead Archaeologist Paul Murtagh told CA, ‘because we thought it was buried underneath houses.’ Graeme did some digging of his own, however, via the National Records of Scotland. ‘He asked them if there was any map or any mapping evidence to do with the railway line,’ Paul said, ‘and he got two maps back, and one of them had the map of the first Hampden on it, which was unbelievable.’

Archaeology Scotland carried out surveys and excavations in Queens Park Recreation Ground and Kingsley Gardens this summer, revealing the foundations of the first Hampden Park pavilion and, perhaps, the original ground surface of the pitch, said Paul. The team also found 19th- and 20th-century artefacts, possibly discarded by fans, including bottles and clay pipes. Research in this area is linked to narratives of industrialisation, said Paul: ‘It’s about how society changed in the late 19th century, how people had more leisure time.’

First Hampden was unearthed by Glaswegians and New Scots, including refugees and asylum-seekers. ‘Football’s a global language,’ Paul said, noting that volunteer participants came to First Hampden from 11 different countries.