HIBERNIAN'S HERITAGE

 

A rich seam of tradition, heritage and drama has coursed through the veins of the Club since its humble beginnings.

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The West Stand of Easter Road Stadium in 2001

 

Hibernian Football Club have been living and breathing football at Easter Road Stadium since February 1893. Today, the stadium proudly stands at a capacity of 20,421 in the Leith area of Edinburgh.

The Hibernian Historical Trust details the venues that have been occupied since the formation of the Club and the various transitions of Easter Road Stadium.

 


 

1875: Hibernian play their first ever match at The Meadows

The newly formed Hibernian played their first ever match on the Meadows in the South of Edinburgh's town centre.

After the Club's formation in 1875, the first task for Hibernian was to obtain official recognition from the Edinburgh Football Association and Scottish Football Association, who had themselves only existed for a few years. This proved a somewhat difficult challenge, with approaches to both authorities knocked back.

The Edinburgh F.A. did not look on the newly formed Edinburgh Irish team kindly, going as far as to issue instructions to all member clubs that they must not play any matches or indeed even have any contact with the new Club.

However, one team broke ranks and agreed to play the Edinburgh Irish, and it was the most unlikely of them all to do so, Heart of Midlothian. On 25th December 1875, Hibernian faced up to Hearts on the Meadows in Edinburgh, the start of local rivarly that would quickly develop and remain to this day.

The Club would play on the Meadows until a move to a more familiar location in 1880.

 


 

1880: A lease is signed for Hibernian Park

The Club first moved to the Easter Road area in 1880 to a ground known as Hibernian Park.

The location of Hibernian Park had the advantage of being equidistant between their two main sources of support at the time, the Irish immigrant communities in the port of Leith and the Cowgate area of Old Town Edinburgh.

Throughout the 1700s, Irish immigrants had naturally gathered on the Cowgate area of the capital, an area becoming known as 'Little Ireland'. Social roots were formed within this close Irish community; roots that influenced the creation of Hibernian Football Club in 1875.

After appearing in their first Scottish Cup tie in 1877 and winning the Edinburgh Association Cup that same year, Hibernian looked to established themselves at their first permanent home at Hibernian Park.

 

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A map of the Easter Road area in 1888 with the location of the Hibernian Park area shown

 


 

1881: A stand is opened at Hibernian Park

In just half a dozen years since their formation, Hibernian had seen the interest in football rise to a remarkable extend and the Club were drawing thousands of supporters to Hibernian Park on a regular basis. The gate money generated was being spent on charitable causes for the most part, as well as the expenses required to run the football team itself.

A portion of the funds was also being put aside to pay for the building of a stand at Hibernian Park, which duly opened in 1881. The structure was used for the first time on 8th October for a Scottish Cup tie against St Bernard's, won 3-2 by the Edinburgh side.

 


 

1890: The lease for Hibernian Park expires

With Hibernian suffering financial difficulties in the early 1890s and many players leaving the Club to join newly formed Celtic, it was to get even worse for the Edinburgh side.

In September 1890, it became obvious that the Club would shortly have to vacate Hibernian Park as the lease had expired, with developers looking to start building what would become Bothwell Street.

On the 27th September, the last ever game was played at Hibernian Park in the second round of the Scottish Cup, with Hibernian crashing out of the competition 9-1 to a strong Dumbarton side.

After leaving Hibernian Park, Club Secretary Richard Payne was unsuccessful in negotiating a lease on first Powderhall and then Logie Green. This in turn meant that Hibernian had no choice but to play all of their games away from home in what was a very turbulent time for the Club.

 


 

1891: The Club play their one and only match at Leith Athletic's Hawkhill ground

Crisis level had been been reached at Hibernian and there was much dispute as to how things could be taken forward.

Committee members of St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Edinburgh, which had been a rock solid supporter of Hibernian for many years, decided to become involved and the upshot was a lease on Leith Athletic's Hawkhill for the purpose of home matches.

However, there was a dispute over the terms of the Club's lease with Leith Athletic and so on 28th February 1891, Hibernian played their first and only 'home' match at Hawkhill when they drew 1-1 with Mossend Swifts.

Once more, the Hibernian was forced to play all of its matches away from home whilst the search for a new site continued. The effect of being on the road all of the time was disastrous. Many defeats were suffered in this period, with the Club also struggling to maintain and grow a fanbase.

 


 

1892: Hibernian sign a lease for Drum Park, the land used for the existing Easter Road Stadium

After taking time out to revive the Club, Hibernian was reformed in 1892. With Treasurer Philip Farmer at the fore, the Committee worked hard at resurrecting the beloved green jerseys and securing a new home for Hibernian.

Towards the end of 1892, the Committee signed a lease on a field called Drum Park. The field had a slope and the access was not great, but this space was to become the home of Hibernian Football Club, a home the Club still occupy to this day.

After membership of the East of Scotland FA was gained and following several weeks of frantic work to make things ready, the new Easter Road ground was formally opened on 4th February 1893 with a challenge match against Clyde. The fact that Hibernian went down 4-3 with a makeshift team mattered not, for it had been 21 months since Hibernian last played a game.

 

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A map of the Easter Road area in 1919 with the location of the Drum Park area shown 

 


 

1893: Hibernian play their first ever League match at Easter Road

Easter Road staged Hibernian's first ever home League match after the Club joined the Scottish League in 1893, entering in a newly formed second tier named Scottish Division Two.

In their first ever League match at Easter Road on 26th August 1893, the home side trailed 2-1 early in the game against Morton, but the feverish Hibernian support roared their heroes on to a game they eventually won 9-2.

Before this inaugural match, gaining entry to the League set up had proven difficult, as with only one Division in place prior to 1893, Hibernian had to contest any vacancy with other rival teams seeking membership. Such an opening in the Division was only likely to arise by a member Club folding.

Despite this problem, encouraging news arrived from Airdrieonians, who wrote to Hibernian asking if they would lend their support to the creation of a Second Division of the Scottish League. This idea was seized upon immediately and Hibernian threw their full weight behind the campaign, with the Club accepted as a member of the newly formed Scottish Division Two League soon later.

Hibernian would go on to win the first season of Scottish Division Two.

 


 

1893: Wooden staging is constructed

As season 1893/94 got under way, the Club was in a good state of affairs, largely thanks to the tireless work of Secretary Thomas Flood with a hard-working Committee of stalwarts in support. Money was still tight but the ground was in an improved state with a good stand and dressing rooms.

The installation of raised wooden staging around the other three sides of the pitch allowed devoted fans a better view of the developing Easter Road team.

 


 

1902: Hibernian consider moving to Aberdeen

It must be stressed that from during the period of 1892 onwards, Hibernian were only renting Easter Road, with Edinburgh City planners designating the land for future development. This meant that the Club were unwilling to fully develop the ground and therefore searched for alternative venues.

Hibernian actually considered relocating to Aberdeen in 1902, a year before Aberdeen Football Club was formed by a merger of three local clubs.

Also in 1909, work began on a potential new ground in the Piershill area of Edinburgh, but the North British Railway company won a court order allowing them to build a railway line over the ground. No line was ever built, but Hibernian's interest in moving to the site was thwarted.

 


 

1922: Development to Easter Road properly begins after a 25 year lease is signed

The long-term future of Easter Road was secured in 1922 when the Club agreed a 25-year lease on the ground. This gave the Hibernian Board the focus to efficiently develop Easter Road.

Two years after signing the long-term lease, three banks of terracing were raised on the North, East and South sides of the ground, with a main grandstand seating 4,480 people built on the West side of the Easter Road pitch. It is said that the fee Hibernian received from Arsenal for goalkeeper Willie Harper paid for the building of the new Easter Road grandstand in 1924.

Prior to the constructon of the West Stand, the playing surface was moved 40 yards East to provide space for the stand's construction, with the slope also reduced to approximately six feet in height.

The redeveloped Easter Road had a capacity of 45,000.

 


 

1950: A record attendance at Easter Road Stadium is achieved for a match against Hearts

On 2nd January 1950, a record Hibernian attendance of 65,860 was set in an Edinburgh derby against Hearts. This attendance is also a record for any football match played in Edinburgh.

As the fans had been tightly packed on the terraces to achieve this record attendance, the size of the East Terrace was increased even further. The Hibernian Board even drew up plans to expand the overall capacity to nearly 100,000, which would have been done by raising both the North and South Terraces to the same height as the East side. However, these plans were never realised.

 

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Edinburgh Select versus Newcastle in front of the East Terrace on 6th August 1955

 

The match between Edinburgh Select and Newcastle, as shown above, was one of the annual pre-season Edinburgh Charities Day fundraising matches played between a selected Edinburgh team and a top English side every year between 1944 and 1962, alternately at the Easter Road and Tynecastle grounds. The image shows the tightly packed East Terrace extending upwards in the background.

 


 

1954: Floodlights are used at Easter Road Stadium for the first time

Hibernian opened their own floodlight system on 16th October 1954 in a challenge game against near neighbours Hearts, the visitors winning the fixture 2-0.

Only the best lighting system available during that period was considered to be good enough for Hibernian. As such, the Easter Road floodlights were mounted on specially constructed 100ft high pylons at each corner of the ground, installed by local company Miller & Stables who would go on to construct similar leaning gantries in many other Scottish grounds.

Rather than install roof-mounted lights, Hibernian requested the corner floodlight system and it was one of the first such structure to be built anywhere in the world. After completion, Hibernian were said to be the pioneers of real floodlighting after other clubs had taken part in floodlight trials.

 

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An aerial view of Easter Road Stadium in the late 1950s

 

There was not universal acceptance for the practicalities of playing under lights however, with several sides claiming that it gave the home team an unfair advantage. In as late as 1958, teams such as Aberdeen refused to play under the Easter Road floodlights, despite the possibility of some of the games finishing in virtual darkness.

Common sense prevailed in the end, and the eventual widespread introduction of floodlights would have a major part to play in the growth of European and International competition, something accurately predicted by the Hibernian Chairman Harry Swan many years before.

The aerial image above interestingly shows the top of the East Terracing undergoing the final phase of being concreted over, taking place towards the end of the 1950s. Prior to concrete, the terracing was constructed of ash and sleepers. The corner floodlights are also fully constructed in this image.

 


 

1965: The 'Cowshed' is opened in the North Terrace

In 1965, Easter Road boasted a new covered enclosure in the North Terrace, the structure becoming affectionately known as the 'Cowshed'. The enclosure stood behind the goals at the end of the ground that now houses the Famous Five Stand.

Hamilton Academical arrived at Easter Road on Saturday 6th November 1965 as the first visiting team to play with the new addition at Easter Road. The formal opening of the enclosure was celebrated in style, Hibernian securing their biggest League victory to date by thumping Accies 11-1. It was a monumental day, with the goals spread between Eric Stevenson (3), Jimmy O'Rourke (2), Jim Scott (2), Peter Cormack, Davy Hogg, Joe Davis and an own goal. Stan Anderson netted the Accies consolation.

 

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George McNeil playing in front of the new North Terrace enclosure against St Johnstone in December 1965

 

With the exception of the 'Cowshed', Easter Road Stadium went largely unchanged throughout the 1960s and 1970s, with further major development to the ground not coming until the 1980s.

 

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Hibernian versus Celtic on 19th September 1970 (pics: The Celtic Wiki)

 

The top image taken in the 1970/71 Hibernian versus Celtic League fixture shows the West Stand on the left and North Terrace 'Cowshed' enclosure behind the goal. The second image demonstrates the vast scale of the tightly packed East Terrace, which helped to generate an attendance of 36,423 for this fixture.

 


 

1975: The stadium capacity is reduced

The capacity of Easter Road was reduced to 30,000 as a result of the regulations enforced by the 1975 Safety at Sports Grounds Act.

Under the compliances of this safety law, sports stadiums with a spectator capacity of more than 5,000 people are designated by the government and must be fully certified.

A safety certificate, issued by the local authority, sets the permitted capacity for the sports ground and details terms and conditions that the ground management must comply with in order to operate the sports ground at its permitted capacity.

 


 

1980: Undersoil heating is installed

Hibernian became the first club in Scotland to install undersoil heating in 1980.

With leading the way in such innovations, the Club were able to attract English giants Manchester United to Easter Road, with The Red Devils accepting a last-minute friendly with Hibernian on Boxing Day, 1981. As an Arctic blast decimated the 1890/91 festive fixure list North and South of the border, Manchester United manager Ron Atkinson accepted the offer to bring his team of stars to the perfectly playable Easter Road pitch.

Bertie Auld's Hibernian team drew 1-1 with the English giants, his side having taken the lead through Willie Jamieson.

 


 

1980s: The East Terrace is scaled down

Benches were installed in the North Terrace in 1982, viewed as a cheaper option than replacing the terracing crush barriers. Chairman Kenny Waugh admitted that modernisation of Easter Road was required however, acknowledging that, "Nobody needs to tell us what a state the ground is in. We know it is a mess. The trouble is that until now nobody stopped and looked at what has happened here."

In 1985, the height of the East Terrace was greatly reduced from its towering peak in the previous decades. A roof was also erected, with views of the pitch from the East Terrace somewhat restricted by the supporting pillars.

Supporters that usually resided in the East side of the ground were rehoused in old 'Cowshed' at the North end of stadium during development, which included the first leg of a League Cup Semi Final against Rangers.

Overall, this work pegged the capacity of Easter Road Stadium to 27,000, with the new East Terrace opening at the end of the 1985/86 season.

 

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Easter Road Stadium during the 1980s after the East Terrace (left) has been reduced in size and a roof added

 

The covered East Terracing was at its busiest for Graeme Souness's first match in Scottish football, as Hibernian played Rangers to raise the curtain on the 1986/87 season.

A 2-1 win for Hibs, courtesy of goals from Stevie Cowan and Stuart Beedie, and a red card for Souness, raised the new roof at a game watched by 24,576 – the biggest crowd at Easter Road for the previous 25 years.

 

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Rangers' Graeme Souness is sent off at Easter Road in his first match in charge of the Glasgow Club at the start of season 1986/87

 


 

1990: Bucket seats are installed in the South Terrace

Bucket seats were installed in the uncovered South Terrace to comply with the Taylor Report deadline. This measure reduced the capacity of Easter Road further to 13,500.

 


 

1995: North and South Stands are constructed

Easter Road underwent major redevelopment in 1995, The Cowshed and Dunbar End demolished to make way for the existing North and South Stands, both built at a cost of £8 million.

The corner floodlights erected in the 1950s were also removed and replaced with a lighting system situated on top of the East Terraced roof. During this construction period, the ground was also made all seated with the installation of bucket seats in the East Terrace. After development, Easter Road Stadium's capacity increased to 16,531.

Following images reproduced by kind permission of j.imac on Flickr.

 

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Demolition of the South Terracing begins (pic: j.imac on Flickr)

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Construction of the South Stand steel girders and concrete steps is underway (pic: j.imac on Flickr)

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The South Stand foundations are ready with the North Stand under construction (pic: j.imac on Flickr)

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The new floodlights above the East Stand are in place as the roof is added to the South Stand (pic: j.imac on Flickr)
 

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Work continues on the roof of the South Stand (pic: j.imac on Flickr)

 

In honour of the Famous Five forward line that terrified defences during the 1950s, the North Stand was renamed after the quintet in 1995, with an official opening taking place in 1998 in a friendly against Barnsley FC.

 


 

2000: The slope is removed

After years of staging some wonderful European nights and great domestic games, the pitch at Easter Road and the incline that sloped 6 feet 3 inches from the top goal at the Dunbar End, where the visiting supporters sit, all the way down to the bottom goal at the North End, was levelled at the end of the 1999/00 season.

The famous Easter Road slope, which was graced by the likes of George Best, Dino Zoff, and Ferenc Puskas, and Scottish talent like Lawrie Reilly, Billy Bremner, Alex McLeish and Jim Baxter, was consigned to the history books after a League match against Aberdeen on Saturday 29th April 2000. The home side signed the sloping pitch off with a 1-0 win.

Some opposition players and even some young Hibs teenagers playing their first game on the pitch, faced with the strong wind, driving rain and heavy surface during an Edinburgh winter, had said playing up the slope is like trying to climb the north face of the Eiger. That sense of foreboding worked to Hibs' advantage through the years, and clearly the positive psychology of 'kicking down the slope' in the second half of matches always had a place in the minds of the Hibernian players.

 


 

2001: The West Stand is developed

A new West Stand was constructed in 2001 to replace the ageing main grandstand, increasing the capacity of the ground to 17,500.

A reception area, club offices, media centre, banqueting suites, hospitality area and changing rooms are all currently situated within the West Stand.

 

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The last home match before the West Stand is demolished in 2001 (pic: j.imac on Flickr)

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Demolition of the West Stand is underway (pic: j.imac on Flickr)

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Remnants of the old West Stand remain during a match at Easter Road (pic: j.imac on Flickr)

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Construction of the West Stand steel girders and concrete steps is underway (pic: j.imac on Flickr)

 


 

2003: A ground-share with Hearts is proposed

Despite the development work of Easter Road, Hibernian confirmed that they were planning with Hearts to potentially ground-share at a new-purpose built stadium at Straiton in the South of Edinburgh.

With a potential sale of the Easter Road land, Hibernian regarded this proposal as an opportunity to reduce debts, whilst also reducing future running costs in a shared stadium format.

However, with Hibernian not necessarily being forced to move, Club Director Rod Petrie commented that any decision would be based on financial grounds and after thorough consultation with the fanbase.

As Tom Farmer was a part-owner of the Straiton land that would be used for the ground-share scheme, the owner of Hibernian wiped away any accusations of self business interests during consultations, challenging his critics by stating, "All I want is for Hibernian Football Club to progress and to be around in 25 years time, in 55 years time and into the year 2075 and beyond. No-one wants to be at Easter Road more passionately than me, but the board has to examine every option."

Hibernian's survival was Tom Farmer's priority. The Hibs owner continued, "Make no mistake, I passionately want Hibernian Football Club to be at Easter Road but even more passionately, I want Hibernian Football Club to survive."

In conclusion, following a fierce campaign from Hibs supporters to stay put, the Club relented, committing a future to Easter Road in a statement on 28th October 2003.

 


 

2010: The East Stand is constructed

The Club first obtained planning permission to replace the East Stand in 1999, with the planning document renewed in 2005. However, East Stand development was put on hold until sufficient cash resources were obtained to finance the building project.

In 2009, Hibernian Chairman Rod Petrie announced at the annual general meeting that the Club would enter negotiations with contractors to establish the cost of rebuilding the East Stand. After negotiations were concluded, Hibernian announced in February 2010 that work would immediately begin on a new East Stand.

Demolition of the beloved East Stand began in early March of 2010, with the new structure opened a month ahead of schedule in August 2010, ready for the start of the 2010/11 season. This development signalled the completion of Easter Road Stadium.

During the construction, Petrie stated, "The fact the Club is able to build a new stand during what is a very challenging time for football, and the economy as a whole, is testament to the rock solid financial footing of the Club created by returning a bottom line profit for five consecutive years."

The East Stand was officially opened in a UEFA Europa League qualifier match against NK Maribor, the Slovenian outfit winning the match 3-2 and progressing to the next stage of the competition.

 

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The last home match before the East Stand is demolished (pic: j.imac on Flickr)

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Supporters make their way down the East Stand steps for the last time (pic: j.imac on Flickr)

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The floodlights are pulled down as work begins on demolishing the East Stand (pic: j.imac on Flickr)

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Demolition of the East Stand is underway (pic: j.imac on Flickr)

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Construction of the East Stand steel girders and concrete steps is underway (pic: j.imac on Flickr)

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Supporters enter the new East Stand for the first time in a match against Rangers (pic: j.imac on Flickr)

 

The stand was made single tier after a consultation process with supporters back in 2007. The consultation found that a single tier stand would be the most popular with the Hibernian support, with the intention of maintaining the characteristics of the East Terracing from years gone by. Chief Executive at the time Scott Lindsay explained, "During the consultation process the point was made to us many times that any new east stand should retain the essential feel of an uncomplicated viewing area."

The new single tier East Stand holds 6,400 supporters and increased the capacity of Easter Road Stadium to the present day total of 20,421.

 

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Present day Easter Road Stadium (pic: Stephen Dunn)
If you can add to any historical article, perhaps with special memories, a favourite story or the results of your original research, the Hibernian Historical Trust would love to hear from you.
You can kindly contribute by contacting us HERE.