THE CURRENT HAMPDEN, 1903 to 1980
The search for a ground Queen's could call their own was started, and eventually a twelve acre site was identified on the opposite side of Prospecthill from their second home. The owner of the land, Mr. Henry Gordon, was approached in 1900 and he was willing to sell the ground at a cost of £850 an acre, with a deposit of £6,000 and the balance payable in £1,000 installments.
The negotiating skills of the club were called upon again, and the required deposit was reduced to £4,000 with the balance payable in £500 installments at the clubs convenience.
Part of the grounds had been used as the home ground of the Mount Florida Cricket Club, and with Queen's arrival they were forced to move around 500 yards to the east to continue playing, approximately where the Toryglen Sports Centre sits today.
Once the deal was concluded, things moved rapidly, and in April 1901 the Southern Press reported that "The operations at Somerville Drive, Mount Florida, in connection with the new ground of the Queen's Park Football Club are proceeding at a rapid rate. All the sheds and houses required for the workmen and their tools and appliances have been erected, and work has been started in earnest in marking out the position of stands, gates, etc., and in levelling the field. When completed, the contractors affirm, the Somerville Park will be one of the best in the world."
The new structure was an expensive commitment for the club, with works to prepare the ground to cost £10,000, and the main stand (which were originally two separate structures with a gap in the middle) costing £5,000. In the meantime the club had to use a ground floor flat in Somerville Drive as their pavilion.
The land itself was in a natural bowl shape before Queen's bought it, and this assisted the structure of the terracing of the ground, which unusually was built on solid ground, rather than on wooden or metal supports as was common at most football grounds at the time. The bowl also meant that the playing area was 33 feet below Somerville Drive.
The architect of the stadium was Archibald Leitch, then a renowned football ground architect, and as well as being involved in the design of Hampden, he was also involved at Ibrox, Parkhead, Hearts, Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge amongst countless others both north and south of the border. The main stand at Highbury, now converted into flats following Arsenal's move to the Emirates Stadium, is one of the last surviving structures designed by Leitch.
By 1903 the ground was ready, and on 31st October Celtic provided the opposition in a league match which was won by Queen's by a single goal. Celtic were also involved in the next major development at Hampden in 1909, although this time it was in the destruction of the ground after a Scottish Cup Final replay against, you've guessed it, Rangers. Spectators had been anticipating extra time after the scores were level after ninety minutes, but when both teams left the pitch it became clear that was the end of the action for the day. Turnstiles, barriers and fences were all wrecked by a combination of vandalism and arson, and when firefighters appeared to extinguish the fire their hoses were slashed.
In a rather bizarre settlement, the SFA paid for half of the £1,000 worth of damage, while the other £500 was to be split evenly between Celtic, Rangers and Queen's Park. Explain that if you can.
After these repairs were made, other areas of the ground were soon improved, and in 1914 a pavilion was built at a cost over £5,000 in the gap between the two South stands, and that year also saw the first ever six figure crowd at Hampden.
Hampden Circa 1920 - Note the original press box, destroyed by fire in December 1945
Close up of the original press box
At that time, the boundaries of the club's land barely extended past the walls of Hampden Park, and if any further expansion to the ground was to be undertaken then they would have to extend their boundaries. In October 1921 a further 17 acres were purchased to the East, West and South of Hampden. The ground behind the West stand had been Clincart Farm, and in 1925 that part of the land was converted into New Lesser Hampden with a 12,000 capacity. The farmhouse was retained as a pavilion, and is still in use to this day.
Another first for the club was the installation of a permanent tannoy system in 1930, and then the addition of the 4,485 seater North Stand in 1937 helped secure an agreement with the SFA to play all major international and cup games at Hampden for the next 21 years. The stand was built at a cost of £63,325, but the advent of war initially saw the cessation of football. Faced with a large debt, Queen's gave all staff except the head groundsman a week's notice, and prepared to vacate the ground. Fortunately, the government saw the morale boosting value football had and soon gave permission for football to recommence.
During the war, the pavilion at Lesser Hampden was taken over by the home guard, and there was an attempt to plough over both the Hampden and Lesser Hampden pitches for agricultural purposes, although this was successfully resisted. The ground managed to escape any damage in the air raids over the West of Scotland, although Hampden was pressed into war service as a reception point for German prisoners of war before their dispatch to a PoW camp, as described by infantryman Kurt Bock, captured in Holland in 1944:
"...hours later, a train took us
elsewhere. It was not just an ordinary train; we sat on upholstered
seats. There was no screaming and spitting at us like in Holland.
Hampden was not so fortunate in December 1945, when a blaze tore through the pavilion on Christmas Day destroying all but the oak-panelled boardroom.
The pavilion was, of course, rebuilt, and other improvements were soon undertaken. In 1961 floodlights, designed by Miller and Stables of Edinburgh, were installed at the ground, four 230 foot high pylons each with sixty bulbs at a cost of over £30,000, and with the growing TV coverage of football a permanent TV gantry was installed in 1966. What had been intended as a project to roof the whole stadium started in 1967 with the West Terracing being covered.
There was a further fire which swept through the main pavilion in October 1968, described in the programme for the following Saturday's match. For several weeks this necessitated teams playing at Hampden changing at Lesser Hampden, and teams playing at Lesser Hampden changing at Mount Florida Primary School, just across Cathcart Road. The West terracing was roofed in 1968, but even with this it was clear that major redevelopment of the ground was required. The North Stand was fairly ramshackle, and less and less people were prepared to stand on the ash terracing. Lottery schemes and the like were promoted in order to raise cash, but this would only contribute a small percentage of the total cost. The government was approached to see if they would assist.
After lengthy negotiations the club were told on 7th June 1980, in confidence, that the government were willing to contribute half of the £11 million cost of the redevelopment, with the official announcement to be made the following week. Part of the deal was that Queen's Park, while retaining the right to play at Hampden, would sign over the title deeds for the ground to a new company, Hampden Park Ltd. That same night Jim Watt was defending his world lightweight crown at Ibrox, where Alex Fletcher, Minister of Sport in the Scottish Office, was a guest.
What happened next is part of Scottish football's history. Rangers chairman Rae Simpson persuaded Fletcher that it was pointless to redevelop Hampden when Ibrox was such a suitable stadium. Within days the government reneged on the deal, but still had to sign cheques worth £2 million (£10 million in today's prices) to buy off contractors who were already on site waiting for the go ahead.
Queen's were now left with a dilapidated stadium with no means of improving it to any meaningful extent. There was a severe uphill task in prospect if Hampden was to remain the centre of Scottish football.
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