Sports History: how our campus has evolved to meet a growing interest in physical education

By Natalia Masewicz and Victoria Scott

This summer, with the Commonwealth Games captivating the imagination of both Scottish nation and tourists from abroad, sport has taken over the city of Glasgow. This interest in physical activities is not just a sudden whim produced by the hype of Glasgow’s prestigious position as a host city. The University of Glasgow’s archives hold plenty of records which show that sport has been as important to Glaswegians in past centuries as it is today.

With the growing energy throughout the city as we awaited the opening ceremony on 23rd July, it only seemed fitting that our project focused on the theme of sports and it’s place in Glasgow’s vibrant history. The archives themselves are rich in information about the way in which a growing interest in sports and physical education changed the face of the University campus, providing the perfect foundation for the our exhibition assignment, the outcome of which was to be a small display at Archive Services in Thurso Street, entitled ‘The History of Sport at Glasgow University.’The exhibition

Just a quick glimpse through the archives catalogues is enough to understand the significance of the relationship between the University and the development of sport facilities in Glasgow. As the University expanded and adapted to its purposes-built grounds on Gilmorehill, one of the pressing issues was finding suitable grounds for numerous sports associations that were founded in the second half of the nineteenth century. As we have learned from early photographs of the University buildings, a large area now occupied by the Zoology and Chemistry buildings used to be a Playing Field or Recreation Ground for students who practised rugby, football and cycling.

Ref. UGC202/3/16

Ref. UGC202/3/16

After 1922, when the Recreation Ground could no longer be used by students due to work carried out on the new department buildings, the University of Glasgow searched for alternative spaces for recreational activity. The new ‘Recreation Grounds’ were then spread over estates in Westerlands (Anniesland), Garscadden, Kelvinside and Garscube. The growing number of students and members of sports clubs also meant that the gym which had been in use since 1872 had to be replaced by a new facility – the building we know today as the “Stevie”. The Stevenson Building itself was opened in 1961, and held a variety of sports halls and facilities for University students and staff; most notable was the addition of the 25-metre swimming pool, a first for the campus.

Ref. UGC78/2/1

Ref. UGC78/2/1

Sorting through photographs of University teams and their games was definitely an exciting activity. However, whilst putting the exhibition together it was important to us to include a variety of material, not only documents and photographs. The Archives hold a large collection of other memorabilia, including badges, membership cards, as well as personal letters and scrapbooks. One of the most incredible finds was Boat Club’s Scrapbook from 1919–33 which includes many amazing photos, newspaper clippings and information about the members and the national and international competitions they took part in.

The Archives are an amazing depository of (forgotten) memories and treasures. Fragile and yet durable, these documents and photographs help us to understand the influence which past events still exert on our everyday lives, and it has been a privilege to take part in this project.

Categories: Archive Services

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