Northern Millwall: Limehouse Entrance to Sufferance Wharf

Survey of London: Volumes 43 and 44, Poplar, Blackwall and Isle of Dogs. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1994.

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'Northern Millwall: Limehouse Entrance to Sufferance Wharf', Survey of London: Volumes 43 and 44, Poplar, Blackwall and Isle of Dogs, (London, 1994), pp. 409-411. British History Online [accessed 16 June 2024].

. "Northern Millwall: Limehouse Entrance to Sufferance Wharf", in Survey of London: Volumes 43 and 44, Poplar, Blackwall and Isle of Dogs, (London, 1994) 409-411. British History Online, accessed June 16, 2024,

. "Northern Millwall: Limehouse Entrance to Sufferance Wharf", Survey of London: Volumes 43 and 44, Poplar, Blackwall and Isle of Dogs, (London, 1994). 409-411. British History Online. Web. 16 June 2024,

In this section

CHAPTER XV - Northern Millwall

Early development on the Isle of Dogs was densest in northern Millwall, close to the West India Docks and the old-established centre of shipbuilding and maritime crafts at Limehouse. In the course of the nineteenth century development spread southwards, a process still discernible to some extent. Almost all of the original buildings in and around Cuba Street have disappeared, but an impression of the early nineteenth-century building pattern remains. Further south, in the area of Hutching's Street and Moiety Road, are some fragments of midnineteenth-century buildings near the riverside, on the former Tooke estate. Towards the former Millwall Dock entrance, the distinction between north and south Millwall has more or less disappeared along the riverside, but a number of terrace-houses from the turn of the century survive in Mellish Street.

Limehouse Entrance to Sufferance Wharf

The City Pride Public House and Montague Place

The City Pride stands on ground purchased by the Corporation of London for the City Canal and developed in 1811–17 with two short rows of houses, Ord Street and Montague Place (fig. 153). Six 61-year building leases for 30ft-wide plots on the east side of the street were granted in 1811. James Oughton, proprietor of the Gut House, took the northernmost plot, on which he built the City Arms and Canal Tavern, a simple block with a three-bay north entrance front. (fn. 2)

Plots south of the City Arms were taken by William Barton, pilot, Thomas Fossey, lighterman, and Matthew Warton, builder. (fn. 1) They erected eight two-up, two-down, houses, on frontages of 15ft. In addition, John Bryant built himself a house with a 30ft frontage, together with an ironmongers' and smiths' shop. (fn. 3)

The City Arms and the houses, variously altered with shop-fronts and rear additions, became Nos 1–19 (odd) Westferry Road. Nos 5–9 and 15, having become unsafe, were demolished in 1914–15. Bryant's shop (No. 11) was converted to two houses and then, in 1875, back to a shop with a sail loft, for William Westwater &; Company, who made sails here until 1905. From 1912 until 1944 the building was a workshop for E. &; G. Corderoy. It and the remaining houses to the south were demolished following bomb damage in the Second World War. (fn. 4)

In 1815–16 the City of London's Port Committee granted building leases to William Robert Fry, a timber merchant, and George Derby, of plots behind Ord Street, with frontages of 18ft to the canal entrance lock. By 1817 Fry had built two three-storey houses and Derby had erected a similar house with a workshop behind. This group was named Montague Place — James Mountague [sic] was the City Surveyor, and prominent local resident, instrumental in the creation of the parish of All Saints in 1817 (see page 184). Around the middle of the century a fourth house was built in front of the workshop and the eastern house was enlarged. (fn. 5) The houses in Montague Place (renamed Osborn Close in 1937) were pulled down in the 1940s, following bomb damage. (fn. 6)

In 1872 the City Arms was substantially altered and extended to accommodate visitors to the recently recon structed South Dock of the West India Docks. The work involved opening up the ground floor, adding a twostorey block on the east side, and ornamenting the north front with recessed pilasters. It was carried out for the lessee, Alfred Alexander Cole, by the builder Robert Abraham of North Street, Poplar, under the supervision of George Richardson, Clerk of Works to the East and West India Dock Company. In 1878–9 Cole further enlarged the pub by annexing No. 3 Westferry Road. (fn. 7)

Figure 153:

Ord Street area. Based on the Ordnance Survey of 1868–73

Sold by the dock company in 1887, the City Arms passed into the hands of the brewers Mann, Crossman & Paulin, who in 1926 acquired the vacant sites of Nos 5–9 Westferry Road, enabling them to rebuild on a larger scale. The new City Arms, a spacious bay-windowed building of rendered brick, was built in 1936–7 by Holliday &; Greenwood to the designs of William Stewart. (fn. 8) The grounds were enlarged in 1950 with the acquisition of the sites of Nos 11–15 Westferry Road. In 1986–7 the pub was remodelled and a full-height extension, in similar style, was built over the site of Montague Place. The name was then changed to the City Pride. (fn. 9)

The Canal Iron Works, No. 2 Westferry Road (demolished)

The building of the City Canal left a large area of surplus land between the west entrance lock and the marsh wall. The City was quick to exploit this valuable though as yet unembanked property, letting it in 1807 in three plots, each with river frontages of 95ft. The two plots nearer the canal were taken by John Henry Pelly for himself, Jukes Coulson and Paul Malin, iron manufacturers of Upper Thames Street, the southern plot going to Thomas Hall of Brick Lane, Spitalfields. By 1809 Coulson &; Company had built an iron foundry, reputedly London's largest, called the Canal Iron Works.

Open sheds were built over much of the wharf; their 14ft-tall hollow circular columns of cast iron were placed at 17ft centres to carry five roofs of about 34ft span. Rolling mills, worked by two steam-engines of 60 hp and 20 hp, were set up. Other buildings were a house and offices and an anchor-smiths' shop on the north side of the wharf. Hall's plot, meanwhile, remained undeveloped, but by 1819, when George Green bought the freehold of the whole site, it had been let in two parts, the northernmost as a wharf and smithy, the remainder as a shipbreaker's yard. The original brick river wall of c1807, fronting the three plots, survives. (fn. 10)

Around 1824 John Seaward (1786–1858), a mechanical engineer, took the Canal Iron Works for the manufacture of marine steam-engines. He, his brother Samuel (1800– 42), and James Capel gained renown for their introduction of the direct-acting paddle-engine. They fitted warships as well as Thames steamers, and also made swing-bridges and cranes. In 1834–5 Seaward &; Capel built a shed along the north side of the wharf, as covered sawpits and a warehouse for castings. This building later became an erecting-shop. The wharf to the south was let as a stone wharf until 1838, when Seaward &; Capel incorporated it into the Canal Iron Works, building a smithy along its south side. The main works buildings were extended southwards, remaining in use as a foundry and mill with associated shops, and served by sheer-legs and cranes of up to 20 tons capacity on the wharf. (fn. 11)

Seaward &; Company and the Canal Works were taken over in 1860 by William Jackson and Richard Watkins; the partnership later became Richard Watkins and Edward Rutter. Marine engines continued to be made at the works until 1882, when the site was sold to J. T. Morton, the preserved-provisions manufacturer, for redevelopment as part of his Sufferance Wharf (see below). (fn. 12) The site is now covered by the Cascades development (see page 697).

Price's Oil Works (demolished)

Sir Charles Price, bart, who died in 1818, established an oil works south of the Canal Iron Works in 1805, erecting a complex of buildings for crushing rapeseed and linseed, and the production and storage of tar, oils, turpentine and varnish. An old windmill on the site, long used for seed-crushing, was converted to an oil-refining house. (fn. 13)

Later expanded to cover the riverside portion of Joad and Curling's rope-ground (cut off from the main site by the formation of Westferry Road), the works closed about 1872, and the site was acquired by J. T. Morton (see below). Although Prices did not leave Millwall altogether, retaining premises for storage at Regent Wharf, they moved their main manufacturing and refining operations to Erith.

The River Wall

A section of the river wall built at Price's works in 1848 is shown in fig. 154. Typical of mid-nineteenth-century river walling, it was designed by, and built under the superintendence of, the architect John Morris. 'Nothing can be more excellent of its kind', wrote William Hosking, official referee to the Metropolitan Board of Works, in praise of the wall and its construction. (fn. 14)

Morton's Factory, Nos 2–4 (even) and 17–23 (odd) Westferry Road (demolished)

John Thomas Morton went into business as a provision merchant in Aberdeen in 1849, subsequently building up a large trade in the export of canned and other preserved foods. The Millwall factory was opened about 1872 at the former oil works of Price &; Company; later expansion included the opening of a herring cannery at Lowestoft and a depot in Cubitt Town (see page 535). After Morton's death in 1897, the business was run by his sons. C. &; E. Morton Ltd, as the firm became, was for many years among the largest local employers. Millwall Football Club originated with a team formed by workers at Mortons in 1885 (see page 512). The company's main trade was overseas. It supplied food to the Polar expeditions led by Shackleton and Scott, and was one of the principal suppliers of canned food to the armed forces during the First World War. After the war Mortons lost ground to foreign and colonial competitors and had to turn to the home market. (fn. 15)

Figure 154:

River wall at Price's oil works, section and plan in 1848

From the late 1870s various additions, including stores, warehouses and packing rooms, were made to the works, now known as Morton's Sufferance Wharf, under the superintendence of William Eve, architect. A manager's house (No. 17 Westferry Road) was also built. (fn. 16) Around 1883 the riverside site was cleared; the recently closed Canal Iron Works was acquired at this time, and the entire premises were almost wholly rebuilt during the next ten years. The redevelopment included the reconstruction of the river wall alongside the Canal Iron Works site and the laying down of a barge-bed to facilitate loading and unloading. It was mostly undertaken by the Limehouse builders Harris &; Wardrop, with Eve as architect. By the 1890s the riverside works comprised two groups of one-, two- and three-storey warehouses parallel to the river, and between them sheds or warehouses running from road to river (Plates 70c, 70d, 71a, 71b, 71c). (fn. 17)

The central range was rebuilt in 1907, when two parallel blocks of six-storey warehouses were built by G. Munday &; Sons (Plates 69b , 70a, 70b). That on the riverfront, built of yellow brick with glazed-brick dressings, had a giant pilaster order and a high central pediment with a clock. With this slightly ornamental exception, the buildings at Mortons were drably utilitarian. (fn. 18)

Best known for jam, the factory also produced a variety of processed foods and confections, including jelly, caramel, chocolate, custard, marsh mallow, liquorice and fondants, as well as Seidlitz powder, magnesia and Epsom salts. In 1945 the company was taken over by the Beecham Group and the Mortons business was concentrated at Lowestoft, producing canned vegetables and fruit fillings. The Millwall works were gradually run down. Waterways Ltd, wharfingers, an associated company of Mortons, occupied the riverside buildings for some years after the Second World War. A food and soft drinks distribution depot, with a north-light concreteshell roof, built in the 1950s on the corner of Westferry Road and Cuba Street, remained in use into the 1980s (Plate 71d), but by that tFime most of the riverside part of the works had been derelict for some years. The former Dockside Preserving Factory on the east side of Westferry Road (which remains in industrial use) had been sold. The northern part of the site is now occupied by the Cascades development and the site of the depot by The Anchorage (see page 697). (fn. 19)

West India Dock Pier

The original pier was constructed in 1874–5 to facilitate access for merchants to the East and West India Dock Company's new wool warehouses at the South Dock of the West India Docks. One of 17 piers taken over from the Thames Conservancy by the LCC for the 'Penny Steamer' service, it was reopened on 22 July 1905, a few weeks after the inauguration of the venture. After the scrapping of the service in 1908, the pier was used by private steamboat operators before being transferred to the new Port of London Authority (PLA) in 1909. (fn. 20)

Destroyed by enemy action on 19 March 1941, the pier was rebuilt in 1949–50, incorporating the pontoon from the redundant Brunswick Pier at Blackwall. A steel pontoon was supplied by the Bay Wharf Construction Company, the restoration of the dolphins and fixed brow of the pier being carried out by John Mowlem & Company. (fn. 21)

It was reopened in time to serve trippers visiting the 1951 Live Architecture Exhibition at Lansbury (see Chapter IX), (fn. 22) and was used by the Docklands River Bus in 1987–91, until the service was diverted to the Canary Wharf Pier. (fn. 23)


  • 1. Warton later acted as surveyor to the Poplar and Greenwich Ferry Roads Company (see Chapter XIII).
  • 2. CLRO, 404B, i, f.90; Drawer 1, Plan 7a: MDR 1820/6/735–7.
  • 3. CLRO, 404B, ii, ff.2–6: MiD, EWIDC Deeds, schedule III, bundle 1: GLRO, PCS/PR2: IHG, SS48: RB.
  • 4. MiD, EWIDC Deeds, schedule xix: MiDS 721: LIDC 259, p.178: PLA Mins, iii, p.235; vi, p.250; xxxvi, p.71; xxxviii, p.25; xlii, p. 181: VFB, 1935, No.6, p.31.
  • 5. CLRO, 404B, ii, ff.22–3, 31: MiD, EWIDC, schedule III bundle I; schedule xix: MiDS 173: OS 1868.
  • 6. PLA Mins, xxx, p.290; xxxvi, p.267.
  • 7. EWIDC 452, p.232; 455, p.271: MiDS 173: MiD, EWIDC Deeds, schedule xix: DSR 1872/241; 1878/221; 1879/168, 205–9: J.R.Casey, 'Memorial of the Visit of the Shah of Persia; to the South West India Docks — June 25th, 1873', lithograph.
  • 8. EWIDC 464, pp.270, 278: PLA Mins, xviii, p.266: DSR 1936/1054: DA S/007780–3.
  • 9. PLA Mins, xlii, p.236.
  • 10. CLRO, 404B, i, ff.69–71, 80, 83; ii, f.54; Drawer 1, Plan 7j: GLRO, PCS/PR2: TH 7295: RB: D.Lysons, The Environs of London, 11, pt 2, 1811, p.710: ILN, 7 Feb 1863.
  • 11. TH 7295–7, 7301: RB: MiD, TC Plan no. 1100347: MiDS 3437: Philip Banbury, Shipbuilders of the Thames and Medway, 1971, pp.260–1.
  • 12. TH 7298–7301: EWIDC 456, p.478; 460, p. 181: MiD, EWIDC Deeds, schedule xiv.
  • 13. MDR 1807/6/475: CLRO, Drawer 1 Plan 7a: J.Norris Brewer, London and Middlesex, iv, 1816, p.311.
  • 14. MBO 86, Case 329.
  • 15. Beecham Group plc, press release, 2 Dec 1986: Island History Newsletter, Dec 1985: Chris Ellmers and Alex Werner, London's Lost Riverscape, 1988, p.41.
  • 16. DSR 1878 pt 11/366; 1879/103–5, 180; 1880/62, 579; 1881/534; 1882/557: BN, 12 April 1878, p.ix; 10 Jan 1879, p.ix; 14 March 1879, p.xi; 12 Dec 1879, p.xv; 14 Oct 1881, p.514.
  • 17. GLRO, MBW 2734: MiD, TC Plan no.1100462: OS 1895: Goad, 1957 series, vol.xii, p.356: VFB, 1935, No.6, pp.1–24: BN, 25 July 1884, p.xx; 27 April 1885, p.xx; 31 July 1885, p.xviii; 16 May 1890, p.xvi: DSR 1883/138–9; 1884/211–14, 259–61; 1885/119– 200, 223; 1888/150–3; 1890/79–83, 155–63; 1891/104, 149; 1892/20.
  • 18. DSR 1907/204: Ellmers and Werner, op.cit.: VFB, 1935, No.6, pp. 1–24.
  • 19. Beecham Group plc, press release, 2 Dec 1986: Island History Newsletter, Dec 1985: Ellmers and Werner, op.cit., p.41: GL., MS 14,944/43, p.249: POD: Information kindly supplied by Mr J.Pitchers of Beecham Products.
  • 20. LCC Mins, 1905, pp.677, 886; 1909, ii, p.857.
  • 21. EWIDC 454, p.220: PLA Mins, xxxviii, p.288, xxxix, p.412, xli, pp.178, 201.
  • 22. GLRO, GLC/AR/G/22/5.
  • 23. Evening Standard, 3 May 1988, p.14: City Recorder, 8 Aug 1991.