Docklands Football: Millwall

11 December 2011 at 18:29 | Posted in Docklands past, Docklands present, Football, Maps and plans, Photos | Leave a comment
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There is a long history of football in the Docklands area, which has spawned some famous football clubs over the years. In this short series I’ll briefly profile the clubs which grew up around Docklands (before in some cases moving away); however this is by definition only a brief overview I’ll provide links to more comprehensive information. I am not focussing on the clubs’ honours and achievements which are well documented elsewhere but on their links to Docklands.

Millwall feature in this first post as they are perhaps the club most closely associated with Docklands; indeed their nickname started out as The Dockers, and the east stand in the current ground is now known as the Dockers Stand.

They were formed, as Millwall Rovers, in the Millwall area of the Isle of Dogs, in the heart of Docklands, in 1885. It was formed by workers of JT Morton’s, a Scottish firm which employed a number of Scottish workers in their Millwall factory; Millwall’s colours of navy blue and white reflect the Scottish heritage of the club.

In 1899, the ‘Rovers’ in the name was replaced by ‘Athletic’, and Millwall Athletic were founder members of the Southern League. The club played in a number of grounds in the Millwall area of the Isle of Dogs, starting in Glengall Road (now Tiller Road), with other grounds following in East Ferry Road (one, shown on the left behind the still-standing Lord Nelson pub at the corner of Manchester Road, was then sold and became home to Manchester Grove), but the growing club needed a new ground to call their own, and wanted to locate in a more densely populated area.

In 1910 the club made the move across the River Thames to a new ground, The Den, in Cold Blow Lane, SE14, between New Cross/Deptford and Bermondsey, and a few years later dropped the word ‘Athletic’ from their name. The plan on the left shows the area in 1914, with The Den towards the bottom left (click for larger image). The pitch of the New Den (see below) is outlined in blue towards the top left of the map.

Ten years after moving into The Den, the Football League expanded with a new Third Division, and Millwall moved, with much of the Southern League, into the Football League. Playing in the national leagues, Millwall drew crowds of over 48,000 to The Den, which became known for its intimidating atmosphere and partisan Lions Roar from the crowd. This atmosphere intensified in the 1970s and 1980s, when hooliganism spread through English football, and Millwall gained a reputation which the club has struggled to entirely throw off.

As the 1990s arrived, the Den had changed little over the decades, and in a post-Hillsborough era was in need of complete overhaul, with terraces on three sides and the main stand past its sell-by date.

In 1993 Millwall made the leap from The Den to a new ground a few hundred metres away in Zampa Road, SE16, the New Den (the ‘New’ now having been dropped over time).

I was standing on the north terrace for that last game at the old Den. For all the inadequacies of the facilities, including the open air toilets, it was a ground full of character, and I sincerely miss the terraces of old; I think the game’s administrators have never understood terrace culture, and would love to see safe standing areas return to England’s football grounds.

Regrettably I didn’t have my camera on me for that final game, but I did return over the following months as the old ground gave way to the New Den. The site of the old Den is now a residential development called John Williams Close. Hover for captions and click for larger images.

For more detailed information, visit fan history site Millwall History and of course the usual suspects of the official club site and Wikipedia, and Simon Inglis’s superb football grounds books.

Canary Wharf, 1983

5 November 2011 at 15:56 | Posted in Docklands past, Photos | 1 Comment
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In 1983, Canary Wharf was a very different place from today, as the aerial photo below illustrates (click for larger version).

The view is looking approximately north-east, with the Thames in the foreground and Poplar at the top of the picture. The three visible docks are the former West India Docks, which occupied the northern part of the Isle of Dogs.

Just above and to the left of the top dock are the warehouses now known as West India Quay, and home to the excellent and now free Museum of London in Docklands. At the end of that terrace is the old ledger building, now a Wetherspoon pub called the Ledger Building.

Within the docks, two wharves jut out into the West India Docks; the larger of the two was Canary Wharf.

The view below from shows the staggering change in the course of a quarter of a century; the last large site which is as-yet unbuilt can be seen by the Thames in the foreground, just below the two-level Westferry Circus roundabout. This is the site of Riverside South, a mammoth development of new offices up to 236 metres high, owned by and planned for JP Morgan. The basement levels are under construction at the moment, although it is unclear as yet whether JPM will go through with the full build, given the financial pressures on the financial sector at the present time.

One Canada Square, 1992

29 August 2011 at 19:52 | Posted in Docklands past, Docklands present, Photos | 2 Comments
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In 1991, One Canada Square in Canary Wharf was completed, the pinnacle of London’s new Docklands, and now a potent symbol of the financial sector, making regular appearances in every news article about the banking crisis, and of course during The Apprentice. It wasn’t always so, though, with its initial completion occurring as Britain struggled with the end of the 1980s boom and slipped into recession, leaving the developers in significant financial difficulty at the time.

One Canada Square – often known simply as Canary Wharf – is 244 metres and 50 stories high, and held the position as the UK’s tallest building until the last year when it was pipped by the Shard at London Bridge. I took the picture on the left in about 1990, shortly after it reached its full height but before the cladding had been completed; the blue colour was a plastic wrap which protected the silver facade during construction and was in the process of being removed at the time of the picture.

The picture on the left, which I took in 1992, shows how isolated the tower was after its completion, with the surrounding skyscrapers put on the back-burner as the developers struggled to create the envisaged financial district which eventually came to pass.

Sadly beyond the basement retail areas, the tower itself if not accessible to the public, but for a brief time in 1992 it was open to visitors during the weekend, until a failed IRA bomb attack put a sudden end to it, and led to the security checks on entry which still keep tabs on movements into the wharf. I loved visiting; you took the lift to the 50th floor, letting your ears pop on the way up, and stepped out onto a huge, empty floor, busy around the windows but otherwise strangely empty. I have some photos I took from up there, nearly 20 years ago now, and when I visited a high floor for a meeting just a few weeks ago, I wish I’d had the temerity to take a camera along to do a before and after of the views!

I took the picture on left from the same spot as the one above, but 13 years later, in 2005 (the drain and the fire hydrant are good location markers!) and the place has changed significantly. The then-new library (sorry, “Ideas Store”) has been built in the foreground and sports the London 2012 bid logo; the lifting bridge has been replaced by a smarter bridge now out of sight; the pair of 200 metre towers for HSBC and Citigroup now frame One Canada Square; the traffic lights are now green (admittedly, that may have been luck) and of course the sun’s come out.

Still, it’s interesting to see how rapidly the view’s changed in little over a decade.

The picture on the left shows the return view from the 50th floor towards Blackwall Basin, and the location of the previous pictures. Somewhere down there on Trafalgar Way is my mate Mark’s mini, which took us to the wharf that day. In the centre of the shot is Blackwall Basin, the area to the left of which has since been developed into housing. To the right is Wood Wharf, which hasn’t changed quite so much, although it will do in the future if the masterplan for this land comes to fruition, with high-rise commercial and residential buildings planned.

The next image looks west, towards Westferry Circus, with Rotherhithe in the distance. The Thames-side site to the right (north) of the Westferry Circus landscaped roundabout has since been developed with a hotel, apartments and assorted restaurants etc. The Limehouse Link tunnel construction site can be seen far right. The site on the left is due to be home to Riverside South, now owned by JP Morgan.

If I knew then that I’d be living in Rotherhithe a few years later I’d have tried to zoom in closer, but sadly I’ve just chopped off my house at the top of the shot!

Isle of Dogs map, 1984

24 August 2011 at 18:17 | Posted in Docklands past, Maps and plans | Leave a comment
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The map below comes from a 1984 GLC book, Docklands History Survey. In it the GLC listed the buildings within the Docklands area worthy of future protection or conservation following the winding-up of the GLC in two years’ time. (Click the map for a larger version.)

The map shows the derelict West India Docks, with Canary Wharf home only to some old warehouses. The DLR has yet to arrive on the scene, although some of its future alignment can be seen on the map around Westferry, Poplar and Island Gardens.

It’s striking looking at this how separate each side of the Isle of Dogs were from each other, let alone the rest of London; indeed in 1970 a local Councillor famously declared independence, claiming a new Republic in the Isle of Dogs. Needless to say this adventure didn’t last long, but highlighted the need to pay attention to the area following the rapid decline of the area’s industry.

Published according to Ordnance Survey’s Fair Dealing policy.

Reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO.
© Crown Copyright. All rights reserved.

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