Pier Head Cottages

In 1875, just a few years after the opening of the Millwall Docks, the dock company built a number of houses for dock employees (primarily lock workers and police) on their land north of the entrance lock at Kingsbridge.

The houses were designed by dock engineer F.E. Duckham, who was the father of Alexander Duckham, founder of Duckham’s Oil (whose first works were at Phoenix Wharf just south of the entrance lock, where Montcalm, Montrose and Michigan Houses were later built).

The houses were named Pier Head Cottages, and had the addresses Nos. 3-14 Pier Head (Nos. 1 and 2 were never built, possibly due to a lack of space when the lock entrance and machinery had to be extended to accommodate larger ships).



Year unknown, possibly c1900, click for full size.


1910, click for full size.


c1920, click for….(oh, you get it by now)


Date unknown



The easternmost cottage had a top room overlooking the docks and was probably occupied by the dockmaster, while the others went to the lock foreman and dock policemen. During World War II, the entrance lock was damaged by bombing and never repaired, which meant the houses lost their original purpose. Nos 3–10 were demolished in 1954–5.


Photo taken from the roof of McDougalls by Dave Chapman, c1980.

There was an attempt by a local housing association to refurbish the remaining four homes after the docks closed in 1979, but this was not a success and they became derelict and damaged.


Photo: Pat Jarvis

The LDDC demolished the last remaining Pier Cottages in 1986 and built affordable cottages for retired dockers on the riverside site (I might have made that last bit up).


Appendix. Some Residents Over The Years
According to Electoral Registers and other sources.

8. John Harvey Frederick, Stevedore

3. John Chaplin
4. Frederick Ballard
5. John Mills
6. William Miller
7. William Clark
8. John Howe
10. William Holmes
11. William Murry
12. Rev. Robert Smith
13. John Smith
14. Thomas Stollery, Henry White

6. Joseph John Harvey, Stevedore

?. John Lundy
3. John Smith
4. James Stapleton
6. George Shaw
7. William Clark
8. George Howard
9. Edrward William Hill
10. Harry Noyes
11. John William Plummer
12. George Belton
13. William Edwin Golding

?. Captain James Henry Wheeler, Assistant Dockmaster, Millwall Docks

3. Eliza Brewer, John Brewer
4. Albert Edward Francis, Alfred John Francis, Osborne William Francis
5. John Savill, Louisa Mary Savill
6. Albert Edward Stapleton, Annie Mary Stapleton, Henry Samuel Stapleton, Samuel Robert Stapleton
7. Arthur Clarence Collins, Edith Collins
9. Agnes Shaw, George Henry Shaw
8. Edith Constance Goddard, Edward William Goddard
10. Edward Humphrey, Peter Thomas, Todd
11. Edgar Gilham, Jessie Gilham
12. Frank Thomas Moynihan, Maria Moynihan
13. Henry Charles Osman, Elizabeth Wilcox, Frederick William Wilcox
14. Albert Steer, Annie Steer, William Henry Steer

3. Benjamin Horace Cater, Benjamin Jesse Horace Cater
4. Clarence Leslie Savill, George William Savill, James Rupert Savill, Mary Jane Savill, Ronald Weycott Savill
5. Frank Amos Conn, Sarah Mary Frances Conn
6. Annie Mary Stapleton, Robert Henry Stapleton, Elizabeth Margaret Stapleton
7. Robert Henry Harris, John Ernest Winch, May Rose Winch
8. Edith Goddard, Edith Constance Goddard, Edward William Reggie Goddard
9. Albert Henry Foster, Olive Lydia Foster
10. Edward Albert Bissell, Rose Emma Sarah Bissell
11. Elsie Agnes Haylett, Robert Charles Haylett Jr, Robert Charles Haylett Sr
12. Caroline Theresa Warwick, John Edward Warwick, Margaret Daisy Warwick
13. Bertram Richard Bragger, Eleanor Eliza Bragger
14. Albert Percy Newman, Hannah Catherine Newman

3. William Rappolt, Yolande Rappolt
4. Christina D. Myers, Raymond G. Myers
5. George Clark, lvy C. Clark
7. John Winch, May Winch
8. George F. Bragger, lvy Bragger
9. Albert Hilton, Winifred I. Hilton, Olive Foster
11. Elsie Haylett, Robert Haylett, Elizabeth Todd
12. Caroline Warrick, John E. Warrick
13. John George Wilcox, Mary Wilcox
14. James Steele, lrene Steele
??. John D. Williams, Rosetta E. Williams

12. John E. Warrick

13. JG Wilcox JG

14. WR Brooks

5. Capt. DJ Powell
11. Elsie Haylett
12. John Edward Warrick, Patricia Warrick
14. May Fulton Brooks, Walter Richard Brooks
13. John P. Wilcox, Mary Florence Wilcox

AE Bragger AE

Capt. DJ Powell

13. JG Wilcox


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17 Responses to Pier Head Cottages

  1. Joan Fynn says:

    Thought you might be interested in the following information on the Pier Head. I was very familiar with this area from 1946-1950 as my friend lived in the first cottage (N0.14) with her parents James & Irene Steele. Her father was an inspector with the PLA police. I lived in a flat in Montrose House nearby. I spent most of my time playing on the Pier Head with her and her younger brother (plus dog who kept an eye on us when she wasn’t on duty in the docks).By then there were no railings there, obviously removed during the war, so the area was completely open to the river, but we were very aware of the dangers and would lie flat on our bellies to peer over the side to see the murky river running below. There was also a small area of shrubs and trees down a slope where I slipped one day and hurt my arm (I still have the scar 70 years on).
    The article states that N0.14 had a room overlooking the dock, but it wasn’t actually a room just a small attic area (more of a “look-out”), where the Steeles kept trunks/ suitcases etc.
    My happy days there ended when James left the PLA and the family moved to Devon, though we kept in touch for many years.

    • Thanks for those memories, Joan. I also thought it was a bit fanciful to imagine that little room with its little windows would be used by a dockmaster to keep an eye on things. Great to have a personal confirmation. Thanks again, regards, Mick.

    • Hello. My great-grandfather was Henry Smith White. He was the Dock Master at Millwall Docks and lived at 14 Pier Head Cottage from approximately 1872 to at least 1901.

      My grandmother, Ethel Ida Victoria White, was born there and lived in that residence until she was at least 13.

      Henry White had 12 children. I think most if not all lived at 14 Pier Head.

    • Steven says:

      Hi Joan, Thanks for your memories. Your friends Dad’s Father was my Great Great Grandad (George Edmund Steele). I have been trying to find 14 Pier Head Cottages since I acquired his death certificate 6 months ago. Thanks also to the person who found and uploaded the pictures of the houses.

  2. My great-grandfather Edward Humphrey lived at no. 10 Pierhead Cottages until at least 1932. I have his will he wrote in January 1932 leaving everything he possessed to his oldest daughter (spelled ‘dalter’ – as he would have said it!) Jane, my grandma. He was a diver in the docks, and I have a number of photos of him in his diving suit and helmet – I will try and post them on this site.

    I never knew my grandfather (maternal) Sidney Ede – my grandma and mum never talked about him much, and I suspect he came to a bad end from some of the hints they dropped…any information on him gratefully received, although I don’t know if he was from the Island.

    • Suzanne says:

      Edward Humphrey was also my great grandfather!!. We also have the pictures of him in his diving suit. My nan was Sarah Humphrey. Would be great to see and share info you have.

      • Terence Humphrey says:

        Edward Humphrey was my Great Grandfather too! His eldest son James Humphrey was my Grandfather, Edwards first wife Eliza Baker was my Grandad’s mother. James eldest son was William Humphrey (1915) and my father and I am Terence Humphrey (1946). II too have pictures of him in his Diving Suit. One seated with his personal assistant and the other in a group of divers. I have opened a file on him with The Historical Diving Society and sent them the pictures. |I would love to get in touch with all members of his extended family and I am intrigued to hear of other photos and would love to see them. I have an online family tree. If you would like to see it (and other photos of Edward) please contact me at terryhumphrey@hotmail.co.uk.

      • Terence Humphrey says:

        Are you a Quartermaine Suzanne? And if so then your Mum is Margaret May Stephens and I have you on my tree.

    • Terence Humphrey says:

      I too am the Great Grandson of Edward the diver and have various photos of him, two in his diving suit. I would love to see your pictures but more importantly the copy of his will. Please write to me at
      and I will give you access to my Family Tree containing a lot of information about Edward Humphrey.
      Really looking forward to hearing from you.

      Terry Humphrey

  3. Dave Whiting says:

    Hi – I know this is a rather perepheral question, but please could you tell me where you got the information about ’14. Albert Steer, Annie Steer, William Henry Steer’ from 1923? I suspect these are relatives that i am researching. Thanks.

  4. Lupin Pooter says:

    Thought I’d share the following:

    The Stapleton’s who resided at No 6 lost two sons in the Great War. Their eldest James William Strange Stapleton died as a Prisoner of War in a Turkish Hospital and a younger son George Frederick Stapleton was killed in Belguim on the 7th June 1917.
    George Frederick is recorded as an Iron Worker in the 1911 Census age 15. He went on to join the 11th (Lewisham) Battalion, the Royal West Kent Regiment and lost his life at the Battle of Menin Ridge. His body was lost or never identified and today he is commemorated upon the Menin Gate in Ypres.

    • John Simmons says:

      Thank you very much for this, these were my maternal Grandfather Alfred Alexander Stapleton’s brothers. We have their war medals. My Grandfather, Great Uncle Robert and his son Robert all worked on the tugs.I had no idea the some of the cottages remained until the 1980’s. As the group photograph seems to be outside No6, i assume some in the picture are my ancestors. Amazing!

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