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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The Mellish Estate in Northern Millwall
In 1780 the 16-acre field south of Tooke's estate was bought by the Commissioners for Victualling the Royal Navy, to relieve congestion at their Deptford yard. There had been a house and a windmill, but these had been pulled down some years before, and the land was used as pasture. Improvements at Deptford soon made the new ground superfluous, however, and nothing had been done with it when it was sold in 1784, at a loss, to Peter Mellish. (fn. 5)
Development began apace in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. In or shortly before 1800 a wharf and slips, cottage, shed and workshops, and a riverside public house called the King's Arms, had been built. South and west of the King's Arms was Mellish's Sufferance Wharf, later split into several wharves, where there stood a dwelling house and a range of oil warehouses, probably built in 1802 by Peter Mellish for his own use. (fn. 1) A small yard and workshop on the south side of the King's Arms were occupied by a blockmaker. (fn. 7)
The development of this section of the riverside followed the pattern found to the north: some flour milling from the late seventeenth century, the growth of maritime crafts in the early nineteenth century, followed by the arrival of a mixture of 'smoke-stack' and 'metal-bashing' industries, and the decline of industry and growth of wharfage in the twentieth century, with wharfage going into terminal decline in the 1960s and 1970s.
Topographically, the pattern which emerged in the early to mid-nineteenth century was the familiar one of narrow sites running from road to river and in course of time obliterating the marsh wall (fig. 161). Unlike many parts of Millwall, however, there were few houses and shops west of Westferry Road. Some early nineteenthcentury building was still standing at Mellish's Wharf in the 1930s, but most of the sites had been completely rebuilt by then. In 1994, apart from a disused 1920s house and offices at Mellish's Wharf, no pre-war buildings remain on any of the wharves. The only substantial building is the former citric-acid works at Atlas Wharf. The area to the north forms part of the Sir John McDougall Gardens and the remainder of the ground west of Westferry Road is vacant.
The development of the land east of Westferry Road was a different matter, not getting fully under way until the mid-century, and having a roughly equal balance of industrial and residential sites. While a number of houses remain, the industrial buildings have entirely vanished.
Union Iron Works (part of). No. 104 Westferry Road
That part of Union Iron Works south of Union Road was an amalgamation of premises let in the early nineteenth century to an anchor-smith and two boatbuilders. It was occupied by the same family firm of engineers, Samuel Hodge & Sons, from the 1850s to the mid-1920s. The premises were rebuilt in 1866 and largely rebuilt again after the First World War. (fn. 8)
After the Hodges' departure the works were disused for some time, but by the beginning of the Second World War were in the occupation of a firm of metal merchants (see page 430). The site now forms part of the Sir John McDougall Gardens (see below). (fn. 9)
Millwall Dry Dock (Glengall Dry Dock)
Millwall Dock, as it was originally known, was built c1810 by John Blackett (Plate 68a). Measuring 218ft by 60½ft, it was of brick and stone construction with two flights of stone steps, and a building slip at the end. (fn. 10) In the dockyard were a number of workshops and stores, mostly brick built, a house for the dockmaster, and three cottages fronting Westferry Road. (fn. 11)
The dock was much enlarged in the late 1850s. A few years later the cottages were pulled down to make way for new buildings, and further rebuilding took place about 1875 following a fire, when the dockmaster's house was reduced in size and turned into offices. (fn. 12)
Glengall Wharf, No. 106 Westferry Road
Glengall Wharf came into being in 1911, with the fillingin of Glengall Dry Dock. The wharf was laid out for oil storage by a former manager of the London Oil Storage Company Ltd, who also constructed a public way to the river, Glengall Causeway, along the south side of the site, replacing the path along the marsh wall from Union Road. He covered most of the wharf with 35 free-standing tanks, for oil and turpentine, of various capacities up to 100 tons each. The tanks were filled by electric pumps from a corrugated-iron shed containing sump-tanks fed by troughs into which barrels, unloaded from barges by electric crane, were emptied. A similar shed, containing three 1,500-gallon and two 450-gallon tanks, was used for barrel-filling. (fn. 13)
New tanks of up to 4,000-gallons capacity each were soon being installed. By 1913 the wharf was described as 'much congested'. Barrels of oil, resin, pitch and tar were stacked 15 high in the open, exposed to constant firerisk from forges at Union Iron Works. During the first World War, low concrete walls and clay banks were built, in accordance with LCC and Defence of the Realm Act requirements, to contain spillage in the event of tanks being damaged by aerial bombardment, but the work was never completed and the banks were not maintained. From the early 1930s the tanks, used mainly for mineral lubricating oils, were filled direct from bulk-carrying barges. (fn. 14)
The wharf closed in the 1950s and the site is now part of the Sir John McDougall Gardens. Glengall Causeway was closed in the early 1980s. (fn. 15)
Sir John McDougall Gardens
This is an open space of over six acres, between the river and Westferry Road. It was designed by Richard Suddell & Partners (Derek Breeze, project-leader) for the GLC. Clearance of the site and groundworks were executed by E. Doe & Sons (Contracts) Ltd of Ongar, at a tendered price of £81,918, while the buildings were erected by J. & J. Dean (Builders) Ltd of Waltham Forest, at a cost of £328,300. The gardens, which include a riverside promenade and two playgrounds, were opened in 1968, linked to the Barkantine Estate by a footbridge completed in 1969 (see page 446). (fn. 16)
Atlas Wharf, Nos 108–110 Westferry Road
Atlas Wharf was associated with two industrialists who carried out important work in their respective fields of manufacture: terracotta and fertilizer. It was an amalgamation of two principal sites first developed in the early nineteenth century as a boatbuilder's yard and a Roman cement and plaster of Paris factory.
The cement and plaster works were built c1809–12 on an 88-year lease at £230 per annum by James Grellier and John Passman of Basinghall Street. James Grellier& Company, later Greive, Grellier & Morgan, who also had premises at Old Swan Stairs, Blackfriars, occupied the works until about 1825, when they moved to Waterloo Bridge Wharf. However, in the mid-1830s the works were still producing Roman cement, under the proprietorship of F. D. Morgan, who also occupied a wharf in Belvedere Road, Lambeth. Morgan may have been producing the patent Roman cement called Atkinson's cement, whose inventor was also trading from the Lambeth wharf at this time. (fn. 17)
In 1838 or thereabouts the cement works closed, and was redeveloped by Robinson's Patent Parisian Bitumen Company, which also set up a tar and naphtha distillery in 'substantial' brick buildings nearby, probably on the site of John Walker's iron works (see page 441). Robinson's was one of many companies formed in the late 1830s in connection with asphalt paving and waterproofing. Although using English coal tar rather than the superior natural asphalt, it followed most of the companies in claiming a particular foreign connection. With the help of French bitumiers, Robinson intended to provide carriage- and foot-pavement after the manner of the paving of the Champs Elysees and elsewhere in Paris. Contracts carried out by Robinson's included the Royal Artillery parade ground at Woolwich and paving in front of old Northumberland House in the Strand. (fn. 18)
In 1843 both works, which were held on 16-year leases only, were put up for sale. The bitumen works then comprised a wharf and yard with workshops, mills, ovens, and steam-powered machinery, together with a dwellinghouse, coach-houses, stables, counting-houses and sheds. (fn. 19)
These riverside premises were acquired by Wyatt, Parker & Company, manufacturers of Roman cement, plaster, mastic, tiles and paving. They were the successors to Parker & Company, the original makers of the cement patented by the Rev. James Parker of Northfleet in 1796. Parker's cement, made by burning and grinding limestone nodules from the Thames estuary, was widely used from the early nineteenth century for stucco and other cement work, supplanting the older, oil-based, Liardet's cement, which had been made by the Adam brothers at the Adelphi. It was produced at a factory in Bankside until the move to Millwall. (fn. 20)
By the 1840s Wyatt, Parker & Company were also agents for Atkinson's cement, which had been invented by William Atkinson (c1773–1839), a pupil of the architect James Wyatt. Made from stone quarried at Lord Mulgrave's estate near Whitby, it was one of the most expensive cements of the day, used for ornaments and mouldings as well as stuccoing. In 1844 Wyatt, Parker& Company cut the price of Atkinson's cement considerably, and may later have stopped trading in it, introducing a new product, a slow-setting hydraulic cement or 'tarras' for stuccoing, casting or bonding. Atkinson's cement was subsequently supplied to London builders by William Wood, a Rotherhithe-based cement manufacturer, and from about 1849 it was made in London by J. B. White& Sons of Millbank. (fn. 21)
In 1845 John Marriott Blashfield part-purchased Wyatt, Parker & Company, with which he had been associated for some years, and took over the Millwall works, then known as Albion Wharf, from Walter Wyatt. There he produced plaster of Paris and a range of patent cements including Parker's, Keene's and Martin's (used principally as artificial stone for interior fittings such as chimneypieces), Portland (or Aspdin's) cement, tarras, and Hamelin's Patent Mastic; the last was an oil-based mixture of powdered brick, limestone and sand, used as a top coat on stuccoed walls. (fn. 22)
Buildings for which Blashfield supplied Parker's cement included the Army & Navy, Carlton and Reform Clubs, the Lyceum and St James's Theatres, the British Museum, the Houses of Parliament, the London Docks and the Winter Palace at St Petersburg. (fn. 23)
In 1848 Blashfield began manufacturing terracotta at Millwall. There is some doubt whether he had obtained moulds from the defunct Coade factory, as has been stated, but even if he did he cannot have made much use of them, and his work is not stylistically in the Coade tradition. (fn. 24)
The origins of Wyatt, Parker & Company's involvement with terracotta went back to c1815, when Charles Carter, a Soho plasterer, began making architectural ornaments in terracotta, and red tiles with Roman-cement inlays. Carter had some connection with Parker & Wyatt (as the firm then was), which, according to Charles Barry, acquired 'many of his things' on his retirement in the early 1830s. It was through Carter's work that Blashfield became interested in encaustic tiles, subsequently meeting Herbert Minton and becoming involved in tile design and manufacture. By 1842, when he published designs for ornamental paving by his friend Owen Jones, (fn. 25) Blashfield had begun to manufacture encaustic tiles using materials supplied by Minton. By 1846, however, he seems to have been acting as agent for Minton's tiles rather than as a manufacturer in his own right. (fn. 26)
Blashfield made a wide range of ornamental and architectural pieces, sold at showrooms in Praed Street, Paddington. Work was also done to order. (fn. 27) A notable item made at the works was the figure of 'Australia', one of a set of four colossal statues modelled by the sculptor John Bell (1812–95) for the Crystal Palace Terrace in 1853. Although, according to Blashfield, it was normal practice for artists to model the terracotta body directly, 'Australia' was modelled in clay and a plaster cast taken and filled, using a mixture of Devon and Dorset clay, ground flint and glass. Firing, in a reverbatory kiln, took three weeks. At 8½ft high, including the plinth, and weighing about 25cwt, it was said at the time to be 'probably the largest piece of pottery ever fired in an entire piece'. (fn. 28)
The works, as improved by Blashfield, comprised three parts, for plaster of Paris, cement, and terracotta. The plaster works, said to be the largest in the country, had seven plaster ovens, where Rouen and Newark gypsum was burned. There were two kilns each for production of Roman and Portland cement, together with washing mills and grinding and sifting plant. Storage vaults could hold 500 tons of ground material. (fn. 29)
The terracotta works contained three large kilns and an experimental kiln, pug mills, sifting and other machinery, and ten moulding and finishing workshops. Two kinds of terracotta were produced: a light sort, made from Devon and Dorset clay, used for statuary and architectural ornaments, and a hard, red terracotta, made using marble from near Bolton. Tiles of the red terracotta were made in 1853 for roofing the Alhambra Courts and Pompeian house (designed by Matthew Digby Wyatt) at the Crystal Palace. (fn. 30)
Blashfield relied heavily on the cement business to finance his ill-fated activities as a property developer in Kensington Palace Gardens from 1843 until his bankruptcy in 1847. (fn. 31) In 1858, after developing his terracotta business for ten years, he sold the Millwall works and moved the concern to Stamford, Lincolnshire.
The Millwall works continued briefly as the Lion cement works, but about 1867 they were taken over by the agrochemicals pioneer, John Bennet Lawes of Rothamsted (1814–1900, baronet 1882). Lawes helped to revolutionize agriculture through the use of superphosphate fertilizer, which he began manufacturing in 1841, setting up factories at Deptford and Barking. The Millwall works, however, called the Atlas Chemical Works, were used for another branch of his business, the manufacture of citric acid, tartaric acid and cream of tartar. Carbon dioxide was also being produced by the mid-1920s. (fn. 32)
Another activity was rubber manufacture, carried out from 1908 by an associated enterprise, the Millwall Rubber Company Ltd. Curiously, in view of the works' previous sculptural associations, the business was now owned by a sculptor of some note, Lawes's son Sir Charles Lawes-Wittewronge (1843–1911). (fn. 33)
In 1925–6 John Bennet Lawes & Company Ltd moved nearly all their manufacturing activities away from Millwall, the decommissioned buildings being taken over by a wharfage subsidiary. In the early 1960s the site was acquired by Pfizer Ltd, and again became largely a citricacid plant. In about 1971 Pfizer closed the works, and another citric acid factory in Bromley, transferring production to a new plant in Eire. (fn. 34)
Most of the buildings standing in Blashfield's day appear to have been demolished or altered at various times in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but the basement-level storage vaults, which dated back to 1847 or earlier, were still in existence during the Second World War, when they were used as air-raid shelters. The five main vaults were each 47ft long by 11ft wide. (fn. 35)
The principal building left on the site is the early 1960s former citric-acid factory, a monstrous pale-brick block of six storeys. In 1983–4 it was converted into workshop and office units by the Moledene Group of Companies, and renamed the River Park Trading Estate. The project was one of the first speculative schemes to result from the creation of the Isle of Dogs Enterprise Zone. (fn. 36)
Timothy's Wharf, No. 116 Westferry Road
In 1865 A. F. Timothy, a wharfinger, took a lease on the former Mill Wall Smelting Works. This had been a separate site since at least 1831, when it was leased to some shipowners, at which time it contained a house and workshop on the marsh wall (fig. 162). (fn. 37)
The smelting works, which incorporated these earlier buildings, were laid out in 1852 by Percival Norton Johnson, FRS (1792–1866), and George Matthey, of the Hatton Garden assaying and refining firm Johnson& Matthey. Their aim was the exploitation of what seemed a great potential in handling and processing foreign gold and silver ores coming into the Port of London. (fn. 38)
Towards the end of 1852 Johnson began to sell off the bulk of his extensive interests in Cornish tin and copper mines to concentrate his efforts on the new venture. In February 1853 (after an unsuccessful attempt to obtain a royal charter) the British & Colonial Smelting& Reduction Company was provisionally registered under the Companies Act, with a nominal capital of £250,000 and power to double that amount. The company took over the Millwall works, together with the Tamar Smelting Works at Bere Ferrers near Tavistock, also set up by Johnson. Production of silver at Millwall began that August. (fn. 39)
Johnson's biographer suspected that there had been a rift between Johnson and Matthey over the whole undertaking, and Matthey seems not to have had any involvement in the new company (although members of his family took shares). As well as Johnson, the board of directors included Philip Augustus Browne and Richard Fownes Wingrove, sole melters to the Bank of England, and John Garnett Tyrie, a merchant, who was a large shareholder in Tincroft, one of the Cornish mining concerns of which Johnson was a director. The chairman and largest shareholder was James Garrard, of the famous firm of jewellers and goldsmiths. (fn. 40)
It was a short-lived enterprise. Rising costs for wages, coal and freight were blamed for poor performance, but the main problem seems to have been that the volume of ore imports (especially of South American silver ore) had been over-estimated. No gold ores on any scale seem to have been handled, although early advertisements had specifically referred to gold quartz. Johnson's ill health at this time cannot have helped matters. By February 1855 the company was in liquidation, the Millwall works had closed and the ore stocks had been sent to the Tamar Works for smelting. Johnson & Matthey continued to grind and sample ores at Hatton Garden, using some of the plant from Millwall. (fn. 41)
Symonds, Fell & Company, ore smelters, ran the works for a time in the mid-1850s. (fn. 42) Then in 1859 the site was acquired by the Asphaltum Company Ltd, another confident venture, which had in view 'a huge profit' from the importation and processing of Cuban asphalt. The founders and main shareholders included Thomas Beale of the music publishers Cramer, Beale & Chappell, and Samuel Arthur Chappell of Chappell & Company, music publishers to the Queen. It was not a success and was wound up after a couple of years. (fn. 43)
Following his acquisition of the lease, Timothy began storing hazardous products including tar and kerosene, but after a few years began to change to fibres. From then until the closure of the wharf for public storage in 1925, jute and other fibres, mostly destined for the London rope-making trade, alternated with grain as the main goods held. (fn. 44)
Among the safety measures carried out in the late 1860s were the concreting of the pitch-sodden surface of the wharf and the raising of the party wall alongside Atlas Chemical Works. Most of the open space fronting the road was built over in the mid-1870s and there was some later rebuilding. In 1874–5 new jute-storage sheds were built, and the former King's Arms public house near the riverside was incorporated into the wharf and gutted to provide more storage space. The wharf was becoming increasingly crowded, rambling and dangerous, and in 1877 two sheds burned down. But there was no attempt at systematic rebuilding. (fn. 45)
In 1907 the inevitable blaze occurred, started from a public right of way where the marsh wall path remained. Having been warned against smoking, a local youth put a match to a bale of hemp in an open shed, to show that the fear of fire was exaggerated. He was later gaoled. (fn. 46)
The rebuilding scheme took into account how the fibres, swollen by water from the firemen's pumps, had burst the walls and so made the fire hard to contain. The new warehouses, built of brick, with wood-lined slated roofs on steel trusses, had concrete floors laid with a fall towards 7ft-wide open ways between the buildings, with scuppers provided to carry off water in the event of another fire. The work was completed in early 1910. (fn. 47)
In 1933 the West Ferry Wharfage Company Ltd began using some of the sheds, which had been empty for years, later taking the whole wharf and expanding into the former tank works adjoining. Storage included fruit juice, acetic acid, tallow, oils and cork. In 1940 the wharf was damaged by bombing, although the surviving sheds were patched up and remained in use throughout the war. (fn. 48)
Timothy's Wharf continued to be used by general wharfingers until the mid-1960s, when it was taken over by the Arnhem Timber Company Ltd, timber importers. By then it had long been used together with the site of Burney & Company's tank works. In the 1970s Mellish's Wharf was also annexed. The amalgamated site, known for some years as Arnhem Wharf, was disused from the mid-1980s. (fn. 49)
Burney & Company's Tank Works, No. 118 Westferry Road
The irregularly shaped site between Timothy's Wharf and Mellish's Wharf was occupied from the mid-1840s firstly by Stanislas de Sussex, a chemical manufacturer, and then by William Tindall, oil merchant; at that time the premises comprised a wharf with a house, laboratory and warehouse. George Burney and Edward Bellamy took over the premises (then known as Glengall Wharf) in about 1850. (fn. 50)
Burney & Bellamy originally made iron water-tanks for ships, becoming the sole makers for the Royal Navy. By the end of the century they were producing a wide range of galvanized or painted sheet-metal, cast-iron, wire and brass products, including cisterns, hoppers, barrows, cattle-troughs, guttering, ventilators and cowls, boilers, plumbing fittings and netting. Burney& Company Ltd, as the firm became in 1900, ceased trading in 1932. (fn. 51)
The tank-works buildings, which were a mixture of corrugated-iron and brick construction, were damaged by bombing in the Second World War, and in 1943 the cleared site was taken over by the wharfingers at Timothy's Wharf next door and used for storage of chemicals. After the war it was merged with Timothy's and Mellish's Wharves to form Arnhem Wharf. (fn. 52)
Mellish's Wharf, No. 120 Westferry Road
The southernmost portion of Mellish's Sufferance Wharf, known as Mellish's or Mellish Wharf, was used for oil storage in the early nineteenth century, becoming an oil wharf again in the 1860s after a period as the railway wheel and spring works of Messrs Swayne & Bovill. (fn. 53)
George Swayne, a wine merchant of Abchurch Lane, and George Cottam of Oxford Street, who no doubt had some connection with the Oxford Street firm of engineers and founders, Cottam & Hallen, set up a patent railwaywheel business in 1839–40 under the name Cottam& Swayne, with offices in Abchurch Lane and works at Mellish's Wharf. By 1844 the firm had become Swayne& Bovill. The works closed in the late 1850s. (fn. 54)
By the 1860s Mellish's Wharf was largely covered by buildings 'of bad construction but chiefly ground floor only', with a narrow central way leading to the quay. It was very overcrowded. For a time only petroleum was stored, but from about 1864 rosin, tar, paraffin wax, turpentine and vegetable oils were kept, and one of the main warehouses was used as a granary. In the early twentieth century storage included gums, dry colours, varnish, sulphur and linseed, but petroleum remained the most important material held. (fn. 55)
Liquids other than petroleum (which was stored in barrels) were taken from the quay to the upper floor of a two-storey warehouse and the barrels emptied into a trough connected by piping to partly buried iron tanks in the other warehouses. For the reverse process there was a simple barrel-filling apparatus on the wharf front, served by pumps. (fn. 56)
In 1885 the business was acquired by the London Oil Storage Company Ltd, which also ran Dudgeon's Wharf in Cubitt Town (see page 532) and Palmer's Wharf in Bow, and in 1918 the company became part of the London & Thames Haven Oil Wharves Ltd. These changes were not accompanied by any great improvements to the premises. From time to time buildings were altered or replaced in an ad hoc manner, although complete redevelopment of the site must have been desirable. In the early 1920s buildings at the Westferry Road end were replaced by a single large earth-floored shed, consisting of brick side walls with ends and roof of corrugated-asbestic sheeting and glass. It held tanks for kerosene and turpentine. A house and offices were built fronting Westferry Road at about the same time. An early nineteenth-century dwelling house on the marsh wall, probably built by Peter Mellish, was not pulled down until 1930. At least one warehouse of about the same date remained, probably until the wharf was bombed in July 1941. After the war Mellish's Wharf was occupied by wharfingers and a firm of food canners, acquiring the new name Maydon Wharf. In the 1970s Maydon Wharf was amalgamated with Timothy's Wharf and the site of Burney & Company's tank works to form the Arnhem Timber Company's Arnhem Wharf. (fn. 57)
The Mellish Street and Tiller Road Area
This part of the former Mellish Estate was bordered on the west by Westferry Road and on the east and south by the Millwall Docks. The district also contains a small area to the south-west formerly belonging to the Byng Estate (fig. 163).
Redevelopment has obliterated much of the nineteenthcentury building pattern, which was divided by the Universe Rope Works into broadly residential and industrial zones. The earliest development was along Westferry Road, where houses were built in the 1840s. Industrialists took land with frontages to the road at about this time.
Development spread slowly eastwards from the 1860s. Mellish Street and Tiller Road were laid out as fairly short returns, and were not extended to their present length until 1882. (fn. 58) It took more than 40 years for Mellish Street to fill with houses. Most of the south side of Tiller Road remained vacant until the late nineteenth century, reflecting the low demand for industrial premises without river frontage. It proved to be an inconvenient place even for a school.
By the time of its completion, Mellish Street was one of the 'best' Millwall streets, with generally superior houses and tenants— a street that might have belonged to any nondescript late-Victorian suburb. South of the ropeworks there was a mixed area, with engineering, metal and chemical works, builders', hauliers' and scrapmetal yards, a council depot (opened in 1898 for the Poplar Board of Works), small shops and cafes.
Houses and Shops. The earliest houses were five twostorey dwellings (Nos 199–207, odd) in a terrace built in 1840 on a 65-year lease granted to John Perry, builder, of Bethnal Green. 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. (fn. 59)
There was some later building of small houses along the street frontages to the south, in connection with businesses there. Nos 227A-C were built in 1900 by F. & T. Thorne for George Middleditch, a bus proprietor, in front of whose premises they stood (Plate 78b). (fn. 60) Single-fronted and ornamented with the plainest of moulded dressings, they had narrow round-arched doorways opening straight off the pavement. Each house accommodated two families. (fn. 61) They were demolished c1987.
Millwall Cinema, No. 221 Westferry Road (demolished). The only cinema ever opened on the Isle of Dogs was converted from an engineering workshop of c1870 in 1912–13 by Frank E. Harris, architect and surveyor of Mile End Road. Built of 14in.-thick brick walls with a corrugated-iron roof, it had at first more than 1,000 seats and standing room for at least 100. Alterations in 1915 shortened the auditorium, cut the seating by a third (while nearly doubling the standing room), replaced the pianist's stand with an orchestra platform, enlarged the foyer, and brought the ticket kiosk inside. It closed in that year. (fn. 62)
From c1920 to c1963 the building was used by G. Robinson & Sons, nut and bolt makers, later iron and steel stockholders. The company had been established at No. 223 since c1881. (fn. 63)
Millwall Dock Hotel, No. 233 Westferry Road (demolished). The Millwall Dock Hotel ('Tavern' from c1938) was opened in 1869 by Taylor, Walker & Company on ground which had been acquired by the Millwall Canal, Wharfs and Graving Docks Company in 1866 from the Earl of Strafford. There were four ground-floor bars, a taproom and bar parlours, first-floor billiards room, spirit-room, dining-room, kitchen and parlour, and seven bedrooms above. The building was destroyed by bombing c1941. (fn. 64)
At the rear of the hotel, No. 229 Westferry Road remained part of the Strafford (Byng) Estate, and was used principally as a farriery and, after the First World War, as garages. Plans to let ground east of the hotel for house building came to nothing, and in 1877 part of this site was let to Halcomb & Company, sack contractors. (fn. 65)
Millwall Seamen's Rest (demolished). Nearly 1,500 vessels entered the Millwall Docks in 1890, crewed by an average of perhaps ten per vessel. The Millwall Seamen's Rest was built in 1891 by the British and Foreign Sailors' Society— now the British Sailors' Society (at Home and Abroad)— to provide sailors with an alternative to public houses. Prominently sited on a traffic island at the dock gates, it stood in challenging opposition to the Millwall Dock Hotel across the road. (fn. 66)
Designed in a rugged Queen Anne style by J. T. Newman and William Jacques, and built by J. Holland of Bromley, the Seamen's Rest was largely paid for by Louisa, Lady Ashburton, a leading patron of the society. The site was provided on a 99-year lease by the dock company, rent free, for a £300 premium. The stone-laying was carried out by Lady Brassey (wife of the president of the society) and Mrs Arbuthnot on 24 July 1891, and the finished building was opened by HRH Princess Mary Adelaide, the Duchess of Teck, on 14 July 1892. (fn. 67)
Comprising two floors and an attic storey, the institute provided overnight accommodation and rooms for reading and recreation, in an atmosphere of evangelism and temperance. The building remained open until the mid1930s, when it was demolished. (fn. 68)
Building on the north side of the new street was begun in 1862–3 by George Limn. By 1880 the street as far as Alpha Grove was built up. Limn was the lessee for most of these houses, the other lessees including John Rowe, foreman shipwright of Rotherhithe, and Joseph Davis, master caulker of East India Dock Road. They were flush-fronted houses of six rooms. (fn. 69)
East of Alpha Grove, Nos 64–78 (even) were built in 1883, the lessee being Thomas Grundy, builder, of Sydenham. Nos 80–118 (even) were built in 1900 (the lessee was Christopher Robinson, builder and contractor, of Bromley-by-Bow) and Nos 120–134 (even) in 1903 (lessee George Sharpe, builder, of Stratford). These later houses had bay windows at the front and to the sides of the rear extensions. (fn. 70)
Grundy's houses, excepting the corner shop at No. 64, were described as 'inferior' and in very poor repair only 30 years after they were built. They were let as halfhouses. The rest of the houses on the north side were well maintained, with 'good class' tenants. (fn. 71) Nos 96–126 (even) survive.
The development of the south side of the street also proceeded eastwards, although rather more intermittently (Plate 78c). All except the first three houses had bay windows. The first two were built in 1861 (lessee Richard Walter, baker, of Millwall), two more followed in the late 1860s (lessees George Barnes, wheelwright, and John Stevens, blacksmith, both of Millwall). With the exception of No. 25, built for Wrights the ropemakers and incorporating a cartway into the ropeworks, Limn was the lessee for the remainder of the street up to and including No. 91. These houses were built in blocks between 1870 and 1884. (fn. 72)
In 1890 leases were granted to Charles Walter, baker, of Westferry Road, and George Leverett, barge-builder, of Canning Town, of Nos 93–95 (odd) and 97–105 (odd) respectively. Nos 107–129 (odd) were built in 1901–2 by F. & T. Thorne of East Ferry Road, and they were the lessees for most of them. The other lessees were also local: Arthur Flint of Gaverick Street, mercantile clerk, and James Knowles of Westferry Road, engineer. Nos 131–155 (odd) were built en bloc in 1903 by their lessee, George Sharpe of Stratford, and the street was completed with the building in 1905 of Nos 157 and 159 and a ground-floor building at the rear, comprising a restaurant and separate accommodation (the lessee was Albert Ricks, coffee-house keeper, of No. 92 Mellish Street). (fn. 73)
Tiller Road (formerly Glengall Grove)
In 1963 the western part of Glengall Grove (Glengall Road until 1940) was renamed Tiller Road. The change of name marked the separation of the eastern and western parts of Glengall Grove by the closure of vehicular access over the Millwall Docks. Pedestrian access was restored in 1965 with the opening of a high-level walkway known locally as the 'Glass Bridge'. This was demolished in 1983, but was replaced, firstly by a temporary girderbridge, then by a steel foot-bridge, and in 1990 by a double drawbridge (see page 371).
Tiller Road is now almost wholly residential, with council-built flats on the north side, and a mixture of public and private housing on the south side, together with the Island Baths and the derelict electricity-transformer house behind them. But from the 1850s until the 1930s the character of the road was predominantly industrial. There were no houses, apart from a schoolkeeper's house and one or two on industrial sites. As the factories closed, they were supplanted by scrap-yards, garages and haulage depots before permanent redevelopment.
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. (fn. 74)
After their closure in 1914 (Wright's Ropes Ltd continued in business in the Midlands) the works became a sailmaker's, and in 1925 the site was acquired for housing by Poplar Borough Council; part remained in use as an engineering works until 1937. (fn. 75)
Walker's Iron Works and its Successors. John Walker was the son of Richard Walker, the first manufacturer of corrugated iron for building, whose factory in Grange Road, Bermondsey, began production in 1829, under the first patent concerning corrugated iron, taken out that year by a civil engineer, Henry R. Palmer. Richard and John were in partnership in Grange Road until the late 1840s, when John went into business on his own in Shoreditch, moving to Millwall c1851. 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. In 1853 a 40-ton office and residential building was constructed for the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, for their pier at Chagres, France. Largely of galvanized iron and incorporating an iron strong-room, it had wooden floors, staircases and window-frames and was lined with fire-resistant felt. (fn. 76)
The works were sold on behalf of Walker's creditors in 1858 and remained disused for some time. They were later acquired by George Burney, the Millwall tank manufacturer (see page 438). (fn. 77) 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 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. (fn. 78)
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 (see above). (fn. 79)
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 tentmaking during the First World War. After Voss's departure, in the 1950s and 1960s the partially cleared site was used as a haulage depot. (fn. 80)
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. (fn. 81)
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. (fn. 2) 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 liqui dation. 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. (fn. 83)
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. (fn. 84)
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. (fn. 85)
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. In 1928–9 the old company was wound up, British Arc Welding moved to Plaistow and the works closed, subsequently becoming a vehicle repair depot for Northern Motor Utilities Ltd, a Yorkbased road-haulage company. (fn. 86) After the Second World War the site was used as a scrap-metal yard. The buildings were semi-derelict or ruinous by the mid-1950s. (fn. 87)
Millwall Glengall Road Council School (demolished). A couple of iron buildings were put up by the London School Board in Glengall Road in 1895, providing temporary accommodation for 240 pupils. A permanent school, designed by T. J. Bailey, was built in 1896–7 at a cost of about £22,500, nearly a quarter of which was accounted for by the site, and more than £850 for extra foundations. (fn. 88)
Planned for low cost, the new school comprised a single storey with classrooms surrounding a central hall. There was some concern on the part of the Education Department at the hall being used by both infants and older children, but it was proposed that any future enlargement should include a separate infants' department. In the event a new infants' school was not acquired until the 1930s, when the former special school in Janet Street was taken over. (fn. 89)
In 1911 the premises were extensively reorganized to provide a Higher Elementary school— in addition to the junior school— for teaching metalwork, science and domestic economy to pupils from several local schools. Such training facilities existed at Cubitt Town, but the frequent opening of the dock bridge in Glengall Road made this an impracticable destination for Millwall children. The rationale behind the change was to give a suitably industrial bias to the education of boys who would probably take jobs with local engineering or manufacturing firms on leaving school. (fn. 90)
The Higher Elementary school became a 'central' school in 1911, closing in 1928 on the opening of a new central school in Janet Street. Millwall Glengall Road Council School was renamed Millwall Isle of Dogs Council School in 1929. By then the premises were obsolete and in need of replacement, while the roar of traffic made the site unsuitable. Extensively damaged by bombing in the Second World War, the school was not rebuilt.
The site is now occupied by part of the Glengall Place housing project (see page 700). (fn. 91)
Island Baths. The present building occupies the site of the original baths, opened in 1900. Difficulties of finding somewhere convenient for both Millwall and Cubitt Town residents were great, and in the end cheapness largely dictated the choice of site, which proved far from ideal. Completed at a cost of almost £14,500 (including a little over £1,800 for the ground), the old baths, designed by William Clarkson and built by F. & T. Thorne, comprised a swimming pool, slipper baths and a hand laundry. The pool was 75ft by 35ft, was 3½ft deep, galleried all round, with wooden changing cubicles. Of 40 slipper baths, five were for the use of women, while nine of the men's were accorded 'first-class' status. Heating was supplied by two coal-fired Cornish boilers, made by the local firm Stephens, Smith & Company, which remained in service until the baths were demolished. (fn. 92)
Plans in the early 1920s to rebuild the baths elsewhere, because they were under-used, came to nothing, no better site being available. Instead, the laundry was improved by the installation of washing and drying machines, and additional swimming facilities were made available with a new open-air pool at Millwall recreation ground (see page 509). From 1930–1, however, the Island Baths pool was closed for the winter, when it was converted, by means of a demountable floor, into a dance hall. (fn. 93)
A filtration plant installed in 1930–1 was a welcome improvement, but the building had fundamental shortcomings. Partial reconstruction, carried out in 1934–6, involved the replacement of the front portion of the building, providing new slipper baths (21 for men and 18 for women), waiting rooms, a pay office, committee room and accommodation for the superintendent, together with hot-water storage and a reinforced-concrete water-tower. (fn. 94)
In the early part of the Second World War the baths were used as a first-aid post, and blast walls were built along the road frontage, replacing the old 6ft-high railings. Severe bomb damage was sustained in 1941, wrecking the swimming pool, but after repair the laundry and slipper baths continued in use. (fn. 95)
Complete replacement of the blitzed and patched building got under way in 1959–60. Adams, Holden& Pearson of Gordon Square, architects of the swimming pool in the University of London Students' Union building (completed in 1957), were commissioned, and in 1963 the contractors Tersons began work on site. The new baths, completed at a cost in excess of £350,000, were opened in 1966 (fig. 164). (fn. 96)
Although use of the slipper baths and, to a lesser extent, the laundry, had been declining steadily for years, both facilities were included so that payment from the War Damage Commission was maximized. (fn. 97)
The building has a reinforced-concrete frame, brickclad in grey-brown with darker panels. The pool, 82½ft by 35ft, has galleries alongside seating 200. Originally, a removable floor allowed it to be adapted for use as a hall during the winter months, but this practice ceased with the opening in 1976 of the community hall at George Green's Centre in Manchester Road (see page 528). (fn. 98) The roof over the pool is made up of steel box-sections, covered with copper.
The slipper baths on the first floor, anachronistic from the start, were so little used by the mid-1970s that they were removed and the space adapted as an Art Resource Centre and recreation room, opened in 1980. The skills practised by the users of the centre were put to effective use in the painting of a mural in the foyer in 1985. Another mural, of whales, was painted alongside the swimming pool in 1991 by Will Adams, who worked in consultation with local primary schoolchildren to develop the design. (fn. 99)
Borough of Poplar Electricity Sub-Station, Starboard Way. A transformer-house, or sub-station, for the Isle of Dogs was proposed in May 1901, seven months after the start of mains electricity in Poplar. (fn. 100) At first a building of only 20 sq.ft was envisaged, but rapidly increasing demand made it obvious that something much larger was needed. (fn. 101) Constructed in 1902 under the direction of the newly appointed Borough Surveyor and Works Manager, Harley Heckford, (fn. 102) (fn. 3) the transformerhouse, measuring 39ft by 33ft, was designed to allow for future enlargement. Built of stock brick with red-brick dressings and a part-glazed slated roof, it was finished internally with white glazed tiles and a parquet floor. (fn. 103) A platform at one end contained the switchboard and there was a gantry carrying an overhead traveller. (fn. 104)
An extension, larger and higher than the original structure, was added in 1904–5 at a cost of £3,335 (fig. 165). The ground storey, 25ft high, was equipped with dynamo-beds, a switchboard platform and gantry with overhead traveller. The floor was laid in mosaic, and the walls were coloured above a glazed-tile dado. Access to the battery floor above was by means of an outside spiral staircase. (fn. 105)
In 1946 the sub-station was automated, but, becoming redundant in 1967, it was decommissioned by the London Electricity Board and acquired by the Borough of Tower Hamlets. Despite various suggestions for re-use, and repeated proposals for demolition, in 1994 the building remained derelict. (fn. 106)
Stuart's Granolithic Works. The large site between Island Baths and the Capewell Horse Nail Factory remained vacant until 1899–1900, when it was acquired on a 60-year lease as the London works of Stuart's Granolithic Stone Company Ltd. (fn. 107) (Stuart's Granolithic Company Ltd from 1909; now Stuart's Industrial Flooring Ltd.)
Stuart's, manufacturers of artificial stone made from cement and crushed granite, originated in Peterhead, Scotland, in 1840. (fn. 4) It was incorporated as Stuart's Granolithic Paving Company Ltd in 1887, with offices in Church Row, Limehouse, and works at Regent's Dock Wharf, Commercial Road. Stuart's moved to Regent's Dock, Limehouse, in 1896, but the rapidly expanding business soon made larger premises necessary. (fn. 108)
At this time Stuart's— with branches throughout Britain, and in North America and Europe— was best known for paving: the Building News said in 1890 that granolithic stone 'has revolutionised footpath paving, and become the paving of the world'. From the late 1880s, however, the production of reinforced-concrete had become an increasingly important part of the business. Stuart's first ferro-concrete building was put up in 1888: by 1906 the firm claimed to have been engaged on nearly a thousand 'Buildings of Magnitude'. Those in England included Lyle's sugar refineries at Silvertown, Wills's tobacco factory at Bristol, Royal Holloway College at Egham, and Selwyn College, Cambridge. (fn. 109)
Stuart's ferro-concrete was on the 'Wells system', named after its inventor, E. P. Wells. The reinforcements, made from rolled rods of½in.,3/8in. and¼in. diameter, were used in pairs, linked by double collars, 'making a section which somewhat resembles a pair of dumbbells'. (fn. 110) These twin rods were set near the bottom of the concrete, either side by side, or, to avoid overly wide beams, one above the other. The system was described fully by the Building News in 1906 with reference to a large contract undertaken by the Glengall Road works, the structural work for the Royal Engineers' Electrical Schools, Chatham. (fn. 111)
The company's Scottish origins were not forgotten. Bagpipes accompanied the house-warming at the works in 1902, and in 1903 the managing director, Peter Stuart— who had planned the layout— was preceded by a tartanclad piper as he led members of the Sanitary Inspectors' Association on a tour. The buildings, mostly of Fletton bricks with corrugated-iron roofs and granolithic floors, were erected in 1900–6 at a cost of about £10,500. (fn. 112) They included a 45ft-high chimney shaft, designed by Stock, Page & Stock, and built by the company's own workmen (Plate 77a). Constructed entirely of granolithic blocks and rising without any taper, it required a special licence from the LCC, waiving the normal requirement for chimneys to be of brickwork throughout with a taper of 2½in. in every 10ft. A four-square Classical tower with heavy rusticated detail, the shaft was an attempt to show that granolithic 'could be rapidly and economically used for stonework of a decorative character'. (fn. 113) Another building by the same architects was a single-storey timber store. It was 87ft by 70ft, built largely of granolithic reinforced-concrete, with the roof, except for a central skylight, being made up of 4½in.-thick panels, each 17ft square, supported on granolithic pillars and beams. (fn. 114)
As well as paving and reinforced-concrete, Stuarts produced a range of moulded ornaments and architectural details. Production was largely mechanized, using electrically powered plant. Granite arrived at Millwall from the firm's own quarries in New Brunswick. It was pulverized, further crushed by successive pairs of rollers, sifted in a rotating riddle and discharged into wagons on an elevated platform, ready for mixing with cement from the firm's works near Strood in Kent. Extractor fans drew off the dust into water-filled settling tanks. Mixing was done by hand, oxide pigments being added to produce a range of colours, 'from the cool greys of Portland cement to the reds and yellows of terracotta'. After a final sieving, the dry concrete was mixed with water and put into wooden moulds, together with any reinforcing bars. The moulds were then mechanically vibrated to expel any air and left to set. (fn. 115)
Stuart's head office remained at the works until 1958, when it was transferred to Harrow. The works closed in 1962. The site was briefly a road-haulage depot and was then redeveloped for public housing. (fn. 116)
Victory Oil & Cake Mills. The coconut-processing industry underwent rapid growth in the years immediately before the First World War, coconut oil being used increasingly in the manufacture of fats, margarine, soap, candles and cosmetics. The copra residue from crushing found a ready market as oilcake for animal and poultry feed. Germany soon established itself as the world leader in the field and half the coconut oil imported into Britain by 1913 was of German origin. (fn. 117)
All coconut-palm kernels and most of the copra coming into the Port of London were unloaded at the Millwall Docks. From about 1912 part of Stuart's Granolithic Works, which was served by a private railway siding from the docks, was used by a coconut merchanting and processing concern, the British & Foreign Fibre Company Ltd. (fn. 118) Soon after the outbreak of hostilities in 1914, the eastern end of the granolithic works was transformed into oil mills by the British Coconut Oil Producers Ltd, set up for the purpose by the Coconut Exploitation Agency. The Leeds engineers, Robert Middleton & Company (who had supplied several European firms with copramilling machinery), were contracted to provide plant able to deal with 60 tons of copra a week. (fn. 119)
The modest project proved a failure, but at the end of the war the Victory Oil & Cake Mills Ltd was formed to take over and extend the mills. Chemical-extraction plant— which produced a higher oil yield than crushing— was installed alongside the original rotary press, enabling the works to cope with 500 tons of copra weekly. After the company went into liquidation in 1922, the North Greenwich wharfinger, J. Calder, then tried to make a go of the mills, but apparently without success. (fn. 120)
The Capewell Horse Nail Works (Dunbar's Cooperage). In 1890–3 the Capewell Horse Nail Company Ltd set up a factory on a 60-year lease on what is now a children's playground, a roughly square site bordering the Millwall Dock Company's land at the end of Tiller Road. The founder of the company was George Joseph Capewell, an engineer of Hartford, Connecticut, who had taken out British patents concerning horse-nail manufacture a few years previously. (fn. 121)
The buildings comprised a warehouse, 20ft high with an open timber roof and toplights, built by G. Stephenson of Bishopsgate, and a forge with an 80ft-high chimney, built by a Kentish Town firm, C. A. & H. Wall. (fn. 122)
Capewells moved to Trench, Shropshire, in 1905, and in 1929 became Metalline Products Ltd, having abandoned nail-making in favour of metal-spinning. (fn. 123)
From 1911 to 1928 the works were known as Dunbar's Cooperage. Alexander Dunbar, a barrister, from Guelph, Ontario, took out patents in the mid-1880s for manufacturing timber casks and barrels on the Canadian or Guelph system. His Liverpool-based company, Dunbar's Patent Cask Machinery Company Ltd, collapsed in 1910, following the failure of a London licensee concern, the royalties from which provided most of its income. However, the newly incorporated Dunbar's Cooperage Ltd (and its sister company, Dunbar's Process Ltd), continued the business at Glengall Road from 1911. The companies had strong links with Scotland, one of the directors being W. H. Lindsay of the Canonmills Cooperage, Edinburgh, whose firm was the largest shareholder. Dunbar's Cooperage Ltd was wound up in 1929, bringing to an end the short industrial history of the site, which was later used for public housing (see below). (fn. 124)