Glasgow site ‘one of the most important in the world’ say archaeologists

ARCHAEOLOGISTS preparing to uncover the world’s first purpose-built football stadium have hailed the Glasgow site as ‘one of the most important in the world’.

A team from Archaeology Scotland will kick off the project at Hampden Bowling Club on June 7, which was originally home to the first Hampden Park which opened in 1873 in Glasgow’s south side.

It is regarded as acting as the blueprint for every stadium built since, with it being the first to introduce modern concepts such as turnstiles, purpose built spectator stands and a pavilion.

The stadium witnessed some of the Scottish national football team’s greatest victories, with a recently renovated mural being unveiled at the bowling club depicting the country’s 5-1 win over England in 1882.

Importantly, the artwork features Andrew Watson – one of the world’s first black international footballers. Not only did Watson star in the game at the original Hampden Park, he also captained his country in a 6-1 victory in London the previous year – to this day it remains England’s heaviest home defeat.

Speaking ahead of the commencement of the dig, project lead, Dr Paul Murtagh, of Archaeology Scotland, said, “This is an amazing opportunity for Archaeology Scotland to uncover one of the most important sporting sites in the world.

“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 totrace 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, added, “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, commented, “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.

“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.”

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, Archaeology Scotland has asked that no one visits the site during the dig. However, there are plans to excavate more of the site in September – with public open days and a pop-up exhibition showcasing all the finds planned, should restrictions allow.