Millwall's Previous Grounds

 Millwall have had five previous grounds, four on the Isles Dogs, prior to the 1910 move to Cold Blow Lane, South of the River Thames.

Millwall's Birthplace was in the plant of JT Morton on West Ferry Road (Nos 2-4 on the river side of the road and Nos 17-23) where a group of Tin Smiths decided to form a football club, Millwall Rovers, to take on other clubs. Their first base was The Islander's Public House 3-5 Took Street. The pub was built around 1858. Apart from the HQ and social centre for Millwall's players, it was also used as the changing rooms for matches. 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: Morton's riverside plant Circa 1907, run by John Thomas' sons Charles and Edward since 1897. Below: a map showing the area in the late 1870s to early 1880s printed in 1885

1) Gengall Road 1885/86

The Islander's pub was close to Morton's, but a short walk from the scrap of waste land that was to serve as Millwall's first ground on the Western end of Glengall Road near West Ferry Road. The area was heavily bombed in World War II and since heavily redeveloped so that no trace of the Millwall's first ground remains. Indeed it has proved hard to firmly locate the exact position of the ground. I hope to narrow down the site to within a few yards, by showing what was standing in 1885.

The fields in the above map were swallowed up in new roads laid out prior to 1885.  The Universe Rope works took up the whole of the North Side of Glengall Road with its long rope walk. Houses had been built along Mellish Street and on the West Ferry Road. For a short while a plot of un-utilised land lay to the South of Glengall Road.

The 1894 Ordnance Survey map excerpt above shows the new street layout in Millwall and the development that had taken place in the 1880s.  The Map to the left from the same series is dated 1869-1875. The Universe Rope Works long rope walk appears unchanged, the houses on the corner of West Ferry Road and Glengall Road are still there and identical to the 1875 map. The Jute Works appears to have gone, while the buildings of the Chemical works to the South of the Jute works are still there.

The comparison below shows these changes.

Green Circles: Universe Rope Works and South side of Mellish Street.  

The top map shows a shorter Mellish Street with 4 houses on its South side and a path into the Rope works and an empty plot behind, with fields in use for agriculture beyond.

The later map shows Mellish Street extended, Houses for the full length on the South Side of the Street and the Rope works unchanged at its Western end.

The Universe Rope Works was set up on an 80-year lease in 1859 by the Birmingham-based firm of John & Edwin Wright. Buildings of one and two storeys covered most of the ground. Products included wire- and hemp ropes and cables, twine, tarpaulins, rick-cloths and brushes. The first two houses on Mellish Street were built in 1861, two more followed in the late 1860s, the remainder were built between 1870 and 1884. No. 25, built for Wrights the ropemakers incorporated a cartway into the ropeworks. It was built over for Housing in 1926.

The line above running up to Jane/Janet Street is the Boundary between the Tooke Estate and the land owned by Peter Mellish, hence the cut off gardens of the Eastern houses on the Street.

Blue Circles: West Ferry Road and corner with Glengall Road. 

The two maps here appear almost identical, with an additional building or two on the South end.

The earliest houses were just north of Glengall Road, five two-storey dwellings (Nos 199–207, odd) in a terrace built in 1840 on a 65-year lease. Similar houses (Nos 183–197, odd) followed in 1846, on leases to local people, including a carpenter, a grocer, a baker and a timber merchant. Several were built as, or became, shops. By the late nineteenth century these included three cafes, a grocer's, a tobacconist's and an oilman's. A few shops lingered into the 1960s— the grocer's, a greengrocer's and a baker's— but by the early 1970s only a betting office was left.

No date is given for construction of Nos 209-217, just South of Glengall Road, but these are shown in both maps, as well as the 1875 map which clearly shows they are identical, so we can assume that they were in existence prior to 1885, probably prior to 1875.

Red Circles: Walkers Iron Works and Glengall Iron Works. 

The top map shows The Jute Works set back from a row of houses and shops on West Ferry Road, with an empty plot further along Glengall Road. A path extended eastwards onto the Millwall Docks and a Rolling Bridge where a right of way to cross the dockyard existed.

The later map shows the Jute Works replaced by new buildings, a new side turning, now called Millwall Dock Road and the Glengall Iron Works.

The South side of Glengall Road was made up of industrial and municipal sites. At the Western end of Glengall Road, behind the small row of houses and shops on West Ferry Road was Walker's Iron Works.

John Walker moved to Millwall c1851 setting up the Walker Iron Works on the South side of Glengall Road. By 1853 the Millwall works employed more than 400 men in the production of corrugated and galvanized-iron roofing, prefabricated buildings including houses for settlers in Australia, girders, and Nasmyth's patent fireproof flooring. The works were sold on behalf of Walker's creditors in 1858 and remained disused for some time. 

The site was later acquired by George Burney, the Millwall tank manufacturer. Part of the premises, later known as Carlton Works, flourished briefly in the depressed late 1860s as the Millwall Jute Works, producing tow for the Dundee jute spinners.

The cotton shortage caused by the American Civil War (1861-65) gave a considerable boost to the jute trade. Jute 'cuttings' (root, previously regarded as rubbish) fetched high prices from spinners desperate for any raw material, but, without weeks of soaking in oil and water, the cuttings were impossible to heckle and card. At Millwall a newly devised process reportedly enabled cuttings to be washed, treated in vats, rolled, and shredded into workable tow in just four hours. 

The old ironworks subsequently broke up into various factories and yards. Clarence Yard was used at various times for stabling, farriery, garaging and as a builder's yard. No. 219 Westferry Road was used by a succession of shipwrights and engineers, and from the 1890s until the First World War was the engineering works of the shipwrights, sailmakers and chandlers, Coubro & Scrutton. No. 221 Westferry Road, an engineering works, was briefly converted into a cinema.

The Carlton Works (so named by the short-lived Carlton Engineering Company Ltd, incorporated in 1888) became the chemical works of Walter Voss & Company (incorporated in 1904), manufacturers of acids, disinfectants, weed-killer, soldering fluid and lacquer. Part of the works was also used by another firm for tent making during the First World War. After Voss's departure, in the 1950s and 1960s the partially cleared site was used as a haulage depot.

South of the Carlton Works was a yard used between 1888 and 1909 by the Patent Indurated Stone Company Ltd, manufacturers of artificial stone made from crushed granite or slag. Their contracts included the supply of paving slabs to several London Borough Councils and architectural work to the London United Tramways Company and the builders Holloway Brothers.

The name Silex Works was adopted (after the Latin silex, a flint or pebble) c1907, when the Excavator Company Ltd took over the old stone-yard. The company, incorporated in 1898 and previously based in Limehouse, worked dredging and excavating patents taken out by George Fountaine Weare Hope, an inventor and South Africa merchant. Hope, a close friend of the novelist Joseph Conrad, was managing director of the concern, which catered principally to the poultry trade, producing flint grits, shell meal, and water-glass for preserving eggs, as well as supplying all kinds of bird seed.  Hope's Patent Ltd, silica merchants, ran Silex Works briefly after the demise of the Excavator Company. Conrad was among the shareholders in this company, which soon followed the Excavator Company into liquidation. Silex Works was subsequently used for a few years as a depot of the London Bottle Company, and was occupied from 1926 until 1977 by William Garner& Sons, for magnesite-grinding and the manufacture of millstones. 

Apart from a small house, the buildings, erected at various times, were sheds largely constructed of corrugated iron or asbestos cement. An extension to the main yard, belonging to the Millwall Docks, was occupied by the various tenants from the late 1880s, and was used during the Second World War for a decontamination centre. 

Glengall Iron Works. The site was used briefly c1870 as the gas engineering works of Fletcher, Speck& Company. No permanent buildings seem to have been erected until the mid-1870s, however, when the site was acquired by the Glengall Iron Works Ltd, newly incorporated by a group of Scottish engineers.

The principal buildings were a tall top-lit foundry, offices, storage sheds, and a small house which seems originally to have been intended as a residence for the works' manager. As the business developed, riverside premises at the Regent Dry Dock and Millwall Dry Dock were acquired for ship-repairing, while the original works were also used by a much larger associated concern, the British Arc Welding Company Ltd. Founded in 1910, this was also associated with the shipbuilding company R. & H. Green & Silley Weir.

The side turning, Millwall Dock Road that appears on the 1894 map between the Walker's Iorn Works and the Glengall Iron works fits the eastern boundary of the old Jute Works and so would appear to be a pre-1885 feature. It ran down to the boundary of the Millwall Dock where there was a small earthwork embankment.

This would seem to indicate the First Millwall pitch would be to the West of Millwall Dock Road on the site of the former Jute Works, extending Southwards over the Silex works site up to the Millwall Dock Boundary where there is a kink a boundary, where the embankment works stopped.

This would leave a small plot that was unused except for flytipping which could be cleared and prepared as a pitch. How small was this pitch?

A typical modern sized pitch would not fit, but a pitch around the later specified minimum size would just fit, with the distance from Glengall to the embankment being 90 yards and a width across the site from the back of existing houses gardens to Millwall Dock Road of around 70 yards. A reputed crowd of 2,000 watched one of Millwall's games that season. It would be assumed they would have stood along Glengall Road and Millwall Dock Road.

The current site is occupied by The Docklands Business Centre and a housing development with a court yard called Caravel Close. Glengall Road has undergone two name changes, first to Glengall Grove and then to Tiller Road. In the aerial photographs below Millwall's ground would be just above the bottom left to the right of West Ferry Road in the first photo and top right hand corner of the 2nd photo. The side on view in the third shows a closer view and in the fourth I have superimposed the position of the pitch.

Below: Various photos of Millwall Dock Road, Tiller Road Caravel Close and West Ferry Road.

Millwall Dock Road 2011

Tiller Road 2011

Tiller Road 2011

West Ferry Road 2011

Caravel Close 2011 Caravel Close 2011
Tiller Road 2011 Tiller Road 2011
Millwall Dock Road 2011 Millwall Dock Road 2011

West Ferry Road 1973

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