The First Hampden

The First Hampden 1873-83

In 1872, Queen’s Park had to rent a cricket ground, to host the world’s first international. However, being smart cookies, they immediately set about coming up with a plan. They wanted to reduce their reliance on other sports, the next time that a big match was scheduled. It is hard to imagine that the most influential team in the world played at the south end of Queens Park Rec. At the end of the game they collected up all their stuff and dropped it off with the guy who lived in the Gatehouse of the Deaf and Dumb Institute.

Never forget: this is the dawn of regular, competitive football in the urban age. Lots of lads and lasses playing football regularly, with spare cash in their pocket and a desire to prove that they were the best. Lots of lads and lasses in big cities, where they could get a hundred teams together in the blink of an eye. It was all a bit different from getting a team together in your local village and walking 10 miles to play the people in the next parish. You could have a hundred people living up your close.

For the Spiders, booting a ball up and down a park with the boys from the Vale was not enough. They had just played the world’s first international, AND founded the world’s first football association that could be described as truly national. With the foundation of the Scottish Cup in 1873, the need for a home of their own became even more pressing.

However, there is the basic question: how would anyone know what a football ground should look like? The answer is - nobody did. It is like railway stations and trains in the 1830s. They were new, so how in the name of Harry Houdini could you design something unique? The first stations looked like inns and the first carriages looked like horse-drawn coaches sat on top of metal train wheels. The same, with Hampden. At the start, the pitch was surrounded by a wooden fence and that was about it. You could still watch the game for nothing, from the slopes of Prospecthill. I doubt that the fence posed much of a problem to the young team.

Glasgow City Council had been a bit naughty. In the 1857, they bought Pathhead Farm and started building the eastern half of Queen’s Park. That’s the flattish bit that you enter, from the big gates at the bottom of Victoria Road. Walk in that way and turn left and you are in the original park. The bit over to the right was still private land. Glasgow’s purchase left the land for the Rec and a wee scrap of a field which was only used for making hay. Why were they naughty? Because Pathhead Farm was miles from the southern boundary of Glasgow. Everyone knew that Glasgow was wanting to take over all the boroughs around it, which is why everyone was a bit touchy.

After a few attempts, going back and forth with the Council, QPFC managed to secure an area of land across from the Recreation Ground, under the shadow of Hampden Terrace. The First Hampden Park was opened on 25 October 1873. Queen’s Park entertained Dumbreck in the first round of the inaugural Scottish Cup competition. By ‘entertained’ I really mean ‘battered them 7-0’. This match was also the first occasion that Queen’s Park adopted the famous black and white ‘spider’ stripes. The blue shirts were handed over to Scotland.

From where did they get the name? The builder, George Eadie, had built a terrace of houses on Prospecthill Rd. He named the terrace after John Hampden: a soldier in the woefully misnamed English Civil War. Misnamed because it dragged Scotland into it, as well. Read your history, people.

What did the world’s first purposely built football ground look like? In the beginning they had almost nothing. The tollhouse for the road to Stranraer was at the corner of Cathcart Road and Prospecthill Road, so they left their gear there, until they built a tiny wee shed for £21 at Hampden. A burn or culverted watercourse stood directly behind the wee clubhouse. That will have been where they got their water, for washing and drinking, in the early days. It started over where the New Victoria Hospital is now, ran across what became the Rec, ran up the side of the Old Cathcart Road and then took a sharp right. It ran across the back of what is now Asda Toryglen and joined up with Malls Myre Burn.

The Tollman got £1 for his help. This state of affairs was pretty rubbish, but they kept on improving the ground. In 1875 they got hooked up to the mains, so they could have water and toilets. In 1876 they built a Stand on the South Side for £238. They had more than 600 season book holders.

One of the most famous images in world football, is some of the Queen’s Park members outside their second-hand pavilion. They had bought it for £65 from the Caledonian Cricket Club at Burnbank. It is possible it had already seen use as a football pavilion. The Rangers FC had played at Burnbank in 1875-6.

First Hampden Pavilion

As their history states, ‘with the ground came greater prosperity’. Hampden hosted many important games between 1873 and 1883, most notably the first Scottish Cup Final of 1874 and Scotland’s International with England in 1878. At the end of 1879, Queen’s Park had a balance of £211 in the bank. This was a phenomenal sum when you think that only six years previously, then had been able to send only eight men down for the 1873 England international. That balance is even more impressive, when you take into account that, not only had they coughed up £65 for the Pavilion: it had cost £240 in total, when you took into account taking it apart, moving it and putting it back together again.

So, Scotland invented the modern football stadium, had the largest numbers of spectators at games, invented the way we now play, and created the idea of training and tactics. Apart from that, it was all England.

Hampden Dig of 2021 should give us more answers, as we confirm this stadium as the one that founded world football stadiums.

Giving History a Sporting Chance