Its well recorded that Millwall were founded in 1885 by workers at C&E Morton's (formerly JT Morton) factory on the Thames at Millwall. Nothing happens in isolation, so here follows a potted history of London, the Isle Dogs and South East London up to the present day:

JT Morton's works were on both sides of West Ferry Road, at No's 2 to 4 and 19 to 21. The River frontage was named Sufferance Wharf. The site is now occupied by Cascades.

Between October 1885 and October 1910, Millwall used 4 different grounds on the Isle of Dogs. 

Millwall first HQ was The Islander Pub was situated at 3-5 Tooke Street. The pub was built around 1858. Its was used as changing rooms for Millwall Rovers in their first season. At this time it was more generally known as “Sextons” after then landlord Maurice John Sexton – the nickname continuing well after he had gone and into the 1920s. The pub was hit and destroyed in an air-raid in early hours of 7 September 1940 and it was not rebuilt.

Above: A photo of Tinsmiths at work inside Morton's premises on Cuba Street and Terry Hurlock and Andy Ambler unveiling a memorial plague on the 125th Anniversary
The Isle of Dogs 1991: Millwall Park and Mudchute are the green open spaces on the Southern tip of the Island
Not much survives of Millwall's old grounds on the Isle of Dogs, the name was even deemed unsuitable for the Dockland Light Railway Station, which was named Mudchute rather than Millwall Dock, over fears of attracting marauding away fans to wrong part of town.
So why did the Isle of Dogs, by the 1880's grow to be a solid working class district full of football mad immigrants from the North and Scotland. Its a story that encompasses the growth of London, the Age of Empire and the development of working class leisure time. Why after 25 years did Millwall Football Club uproot and move to New Cross on the other side of the river.

On the following pages: A Potted History of London and its growth , the Isle of Dogs and South East London.

It’s become the one fact included in every write up about Millwall. Millwall FC Founded by Scotsmen working at Morton's Jam Factory on the Isle of Dogs.

Let’s explore this and other myths that have grown up about the founding of Millwall Rovers in 1885.

Did Scotsmen found Millwall Rovers? This seems to be the impression that many people who have read Jim Murray’s book seem to take from it. Actually what Jim wrote was: “A group of workers in a preserve factory – many of them Scottish, some English – were convinced they could form a football team to give other local clubs a tough time.”

A Scottish flavour certainly, reflected in their choice of colours for the kit of Navy Blue and White. The names of some of players in Millwall first season show the cosmopolitan mix that was the Isle of Dogs in those days. Duncan Hean (Capt) George Oliver, J Reekie, Patrick Holohan, Owen Elias, Henry Gunn, Tom Jessup, Joe Potter, Fred Northwood, John Rowland, James Crawford, Harry Butler & George Syme. The Club Secretary was 17-year-old Jasper Sexton, the son of the Landlord of the Islander pub in Tooke Street where Millwall Rovers held their meetings. The First Chairman of the Club was Irish International and Local GP Dr William Murray-Leslie.

What there definitely isn’t any hint of is a group of Scottish Football Missionaries invading the Isle of Dogs and inspiring the locals to found a football club, which certainly is the pattern in some parts of the world. Millwall Rovers was a working mans team, not a works team, founded by young 'Londoners' with the luxury of leisure time on Saturday afternoon, a recent social change in Britain, to indulge in the English mania for football.

One of Millwall’s famous early players, Obed Caygill was a South Londoner, born in 1870 and Millwall’s goalkeeper till 1894 when he broke his leg and gave up football. Asked in an interview in 1893 in English Sports, he said of the founding of Millwall: “A few tinsmiths, engaged on the island were the founders. First called the “Iona” (A distinctly Scottish name!) it grew in importance till it reached it current position. It still continues practically as a working man’s team, only one or two of its members being engaged in other occupations, such as clerkships.”

JT Morton certainly was a Scottish firm, founded in Aberdeen in 1849, supplying food to sailing ships. With the development of the Canning process the market expanded greatly, with Morton’s opening a new plant on The Isle of Dogs in 1870 at the mouth of the West India Docks. Morton's works were on both sides of West Ferry Road, at No's 2 to 4 and 19 to 21. The River frontage was named Sufferance Wharf. The myth also put about is that Millwall was founded by Scotsmen who moved down to London with Mortons. However the 15-year lag tends to rule this out, indeed none of Millwall’s founders were natives of Aberdeen.

It was the growth of London and its job opportunities which drew men and women from all corners of the British Isles and with the Docks and related industries crying out for man power, the Isle of Dogs was a favourite destination for 20 somethings.

The most ridiculous idea about the founding of Millwall is there is such a thing as a Jam Factory! Apart from Jam making being highly seasonal work, the idea that Tin Smiths would be required if the only product was Jam is silly. Jam came in Ceramic pots and was usually made by women workers in the plant. Jam would be a small sideline of the Morton enterprise. Indeed when JT Morton died in 1897 he left a fortune of £250,000 (around £20m in today’s money!) to foreign Missionary work! Morton’s cannery and plant produced a wide range for foods for consumption at home and abroad. The range of products included: preserved fish, meat, soup, vegetables, fruit, sausages, ham, bacon, cheese, confectionery, jams, jellies, marmalades, candid peel, pickles, sauces, potted meats, and potted fish, oatmeal, barley, spices, pepper, salt, curry powders, bottled essence, tea, cocoa, flour, nuts, custard powder and hair oils!

Morton’s employed hundreds of local men and women throughout the year and many more at certain seasons during the year. Morton’s was later swallowed up by the Unilever group and the name stopped being used on products in the 1970’s.

The island also was the home of other famous firms, McDougall’s (Self raising flour) and Duckhams (oil) as well as famous ship building firms such as Yarrow’s and John Scott Russells. Indeed the famous shipyards did reverse journey to Morton’s in moving to the Clyde just after the turn of the century.

The final myth is the Millwall club badge is derived from the Scottish Rampant Lion emblem. This can be scotched because Millwall were known as the Dockers until around the turn of the century when things African came into vogue due to the Boer war. With Millwall’s cup run to the Semi Finals in 1900, they were referred to as Lions for their acts of giant killing and the name stuck and was adopted as the clubs nickname and emblem. It did not appear on club shirts as a badge till the 1930’s. Indeed the first Millwall emblem in the we fear no foe badge bears no resemblance to the heraldic Scottish Lion used by the Scottish FA, indeed even the current badge bears only a passing resemblance to it.

The idea that the badge was modelled on Scottish Lion is down to the similarities of English and Scottish Heraldic symbols and also the wide use of the Rampant Lion symbol in both England and Scotland. In Scotland, the Red Lion is a common because when James I (1566-1625 known as James VI in Scotland) came of age on the throne in 1583 he ordered that a heraldic red lion should be displayed in public places.

In England, The Red Lion evolved because of John of Gaunt who, during the fourteenth century, was the most powerful man in the England. Born in Ghent in 1340, he was Duke of Lancaster and fourth son of Edward III. Gaunt is a corruption of his birthplace. He is most famous for his opposition to the clergy and his protection of Wycliffe. When Wat Tyler led an insurrection in 1381 it was John of Gaunt's palace, which was destroyed. He is mainly remembered in pub names, The Red Lion being the most popular name for pubs in England.

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