Football's Square Mile - The Biggest 'Open Air' Football Museum

How do you build a coliseum, which has no walls? An interesting question you might ask. How do you confront 158 years of a story, which England peddled to convince the World they are the home of the most important cultural phenomenon ever created? Another almighty challenge to take on. And finally, how do you build a museum with exhibits, artefacts and displays, which are football fields in length? Read on to find out the answer to how we have completed this challenge.

The question of what makes a museum is an interesting one. History is all around you. The only reason you have today is because of yesterday, and all the days before that. The magnificence of museums is they concentrate the mind, bringing together an experience telling you what you need to know, and you always take away something new regardless of how many times you visit. The beauty of the answer to the challenge I have posed is that we needed to start with no limits on size and scale, and break all the customary rules and procedures of building a museum.

In 2021, we have met the challenge head-on; after seven years in the making, and achieved with no funding and no input from the authorities; we have built an open to all museum for everyone who loves the ‘Beautiful Game’. Here are some examples of how we have done it:

You need to have a building to house all your exhibits. No, you don't need one building, and you certainly don't need brick walls as a boundary fence.

You need to own or lent the objects which are in it. No, you don't need to do this either. As I have already said, history is all around you and accessible for all to enjoy.

And finally, you must have staff, including an expensive Museum Director. No, you don't need to have a vast expenses bill and payroll, but you will need to think lateral and put in homemade effort from a group of brilliant volunteers.

Now I have explained the rules that we have broken to build our museum; I better give you an introduction. In the south side of Glasgow, Scotland, there is a small lawn bowling club called Hampden. The Bowling Club has an extraordinary double life, where it's a successful bowling club, and in another, it has an incredible footballing heritage. Since its establishment, Hampden Bowling Club would explain that you were sitting on the 1st Hampden Park, and was the first purpose-built international football ground. However, they had a problem, no one believed them.

The Story of the Lost Hampden Park

In 2017, as Secretary of Hampden Bowling Club, I finally found a map proving the site and that the Bowling Club legend was indeed fact. This map showed in all its glory the 1st Hampden Park, which was on this site from 1873 to 1883, built by the masters of Football, Queens Park Football Club. This ground hosted the first Scottish Cup Final in 1874, and Scotland's national football team was undefeated on this ground, regularly beating England, in one case 5 - 1, and defeated Wales 9 - 0.

Hampden Bowling Club which now resides on the original 1st Hampden Site
PHOTOGRAPH BY Hampden Collection

The map showed this 'Tartan Fortress' as being situated in the leafy pocket of Crosshill, Glasgow, and most importantly proved Hampden Bowling Club was sitting on top of this site, which itself opened in 1905. The 1st Hampden Park set the template for every football ground ever built, including grandstands, pavilion, the first use of turnstiles, stadium baths, and Queens Park invented the members' book, which today you call the season ticket.

These master stadium builders would build 2nd Hampden in 1884, and opened 3rd Hampden in 1903, which became the World's biggest football ground at the time, which at its peak could hold an eye-watering 184,500 people. 3rd Hampden has only been eclipsed once in history at the 1950 World Cup Final, but its current attendance record of 149,547 set in 1937, where Scotland would once again beat England by three goals to one, is still one of football folklore, and is of course the home of famous Hampden Roar.

Creation of the Hampden Collection

Since the map was found, I have been on a mission to promote these sites, and founded the Hampden Collection in December 2017. Our mission is to promote and protect the three Hampden Parks, and all who played on them. Our team of brilliant and passionate volunteers, includes poets, an artist, historians, graphic designers, web designers and everything you need to create a platform to tell this story. We are spreading the football gospel about the real story of Football, where the Scotch Professors invented the modern passing and running game, and transported it to every corner of the planet.

Our first brick in this 'Open Air' Football Museum was a marvel from our Artist in Residence, Ashley Rawson. Ashely designed the 1st Hampden Mural for Hampden Bowling Club's Pavilion rear wall in September 2019 – Charles Alcock could never explain this victory of SCOTLAND 5 – 1 ENGLAND in 1882, at the dawn of Football. He just ignored it.

1st Hampden Mural
PHOTOGRAPH BY Hampden Collection

After this game, Scotland would teach England how to play Football, as England imported the Scotch Professors by the dozen to teach them the 'Beautiful Game'. These Scotch Professors would traverse the globe, including Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Canada, US, Continental Europe, Australia and New Zealand, taking their football, and showing the locals how to play the 'Scotch Game'.

You will be wondering why on earth have you not heard about this? For many unaccustomed to Football (or Soccer) you have to understand Football is played or watched by 3.5 billion people around the World today. If you were to ask the footballing authorities, including FIFA, who created football, they would reply, England. England even wrote a song about it, entitled 'Football's Coming Home'. This version of history has now been peddled for over a century from the original writing of Charles Alcock, and you will not find any museum dedicated to contradicting this ultimate myth, therefore we thought we would build our own one.

World’s Biggest Open-Air Football Museum

Our final step in this story was on 13th June 2021, when our partners Archaeology Scotland found the foundation of the original Hampden pavilion, beer bottles from the period, and wire fencing, which encompassed the original pitch. This is the ‘X’ of what we have termed, ‘Football Square Mile’, and we have now officially opened the World's Biggest' Open Air' football museum.

Football's Square Mile
PHOTOGRAPH BY Hampden Collection

Our 'Open Air' Museum stretches across Glasgow from Glasgow City in the North, Cathcart in the South, and runs West to East across Queens Park, Crosshill and Mount Florida, and encompasses the most important footballing sites in the World. This is exactly one square mile, and is the cradle of the most played and watched sport on the planet.

The beauty of our 'Open Air' Museum is that it's completely free of charge. No queues, no opening or closing times, and accessible for all. You don't need to book, and of course, it's Covid-Safe with social distancing integrated into its design. All you need is a pair of comfortable shoes, and off you go.

Our mission is to bring Scotland's footballing heritage back from those who have either rewritten it or done nothing with it. Football is the 'Peoples' Beautiful Game', crafted and created in Scotland for the World to enjoy. And finally, when there is a major tournament, Football is indeed 'Coming Hame' to Football's Square Mile, Glasgow, Scotland.

As I have said, this is an 'Open Air Museum' and open to all. As with all good museums, if you would like to upgrade and hear first-hand about this incredible, cart upending and trailblazing story, then we have just launched a tour to take people around, in conjunction with Glasgow Football Tour. This will give us a sporting chance of telling this story to the world.

The Hampden Collection has proven what you can do with no money and people power alone. There are many other examples across the World, and this one adds to this impressive list.

Everything You Know Today About Football Is Scottish

The Scotch Professors, as they colloquially became known, created the passing, running and inclusive game of Football, and transported it to every corner of the planet. The Scotch Professors built the World's first purposefully built, enclosed international football ground at 1st Hampden. And, of course, Football is today viewed by a global audience? Would this audience have 24/7 access to Football without the inventions of the Television and Telephone? Both invented by the genius of Scots.

Queens Park Football Club and Hampden Park

Queens Park Recreation Ground, and the Three Hampden Parks (soon to be four), are the grounds where the modern passing and running game of Football was born and provided the template for every football ground ever built.

Four Glasgow Titans

Celtic Football Club held their first meeting at St Mary's Church, Rangers Football Club played their first game at Fleshers' Haugh, and Third Lanark Football Club’s first ground was Cathkin Park. When combined with Queens Park, these four 'Glasgow Giants' are synonymous with Football around the World, and have stadium attendance records totalling 403,000 between them.

Cathkin Park, site of the 2nd Hampden Park
PHOTOGRAPH BY Hampden Collection

Cradle to Grave

And it wouldn't be Scotland without the Tennents' Drygate Brewery, home to Scotland's best-loved beer, and Cathcart Cemetery, which is the Scotch Professor Burial Ground of the final resting place of Hugh McColl, RS McColl, George Patullo, Willie Malley and William Wilton, to name but a few. These were the grand architects of the 'Scotch Game', which transcended international boundaries, and taught the World to play Football. The Scotch Professor brand of Football, developed by generations of Scots over six centuries, is now enjoyed by over 3.5 billion people around the World, and was invented at 1st Hampden.

Tour Details

The Three Hampdens Walking Tour Commences 9th July 2021:

Adults - £10

Children - £5

Concession - £8

Tickets are available at https://glasgowfootballtour.com/walking-tour

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Graeme Brown

Graeme Brown is the driving force of the Hampden Collection. In 2017, he discovered the only map in existence of the World’s First Purposefully Built International Football Ground, the 1st Hampden Park. Since then he has been on a mission to preserve, protect and promote the wonderful story of all 3 Hampden Parks.

Graeme is currently retelling the story of Football through his first book, “Football Queens & Kings – Scotland, Invention and Football”, which is published every Sunday at 8:30pm on the Hampden Collection Media platform.