Pictorial History of the Millwall Docks. Part 4: Post-World War II

Survey of London:

After the war the PLA could not afford more than urgent repairs and the reinstatement of some warehousing with prefabricated sheds. It was 1958 before redevelopment of the Millwall Dock quays could recommence, by which time mechanization had made the old sheds even more inconvenient, and greatly altered priorities for shed building. The PLA Engineering Department was given an opportunity to redesign virtually the entire quayside accommodation at the Millwall Docks. To limit disruption to shipping, redevelopment was phased, moving from the north and west quays in 1959–65, to the east quay in 1965–9, culminating with the Fred Olsen Terminal for ‘high throughput palletized unit cargo’. Various huge single-storey sheds were erected, many with structurally innovative tubularsteel frames, all with large clear unobstructed floors, high clearances and large doorways for fork-lift trucks and mobile cranes. Associated with the sheds was a new network of roads around the quays, which were themselves rebuilt to allow deepening of the docks. A further proposal, which was nearly carried through in 1966, was the development of part of the Mudchute with a new branch dock.

The redeveloped berths at the Millwall Docks were among the most efficient in the world, but although they were in demand until closure in 1980, this could not prevent the Port’s decline during the 1970s.

Railway sidings east of the buildings that were the Western Granaries (just off Alpha Rd, largely destroyed during WWII). West India Docks are in the background.

The view from the Central Granary. Millwall Cutting and West India Docks on the left.

Repair of the unreliable Glengall Road Bridge was interrupted by WWII. After the war, a ‘barge bridge’ was employed to allow passenger access across Millwall Inner Dock (site of the later Glass Bridge and current bridge in Pepper Street). The barge bridge was pulled to one side if a ship needed to pass. In this photo, courtesy of the Island History Trust, Skeggs House is visible in the background.

Central Granary on the left

Cutty Sark sailing to the dry dock for refitting, c1952

The last ship to unload wood in Millwall Docks

Fred Olsen’s staff parking area

Gate 14 was at Kingsbridge, the entrance to Montague Myers.

Survey of London:

The barge-bridge and the knuckles in the dock impeded the PLA’s post-war modernization plans. Their replacement with an elevated walkway came under consideration from 1950, but before accepting this as necessary, the PLA sought Poplar Borough Council’s agreement to the displacement of the right of way. There was strong local opposition, however, and so in 1958 the PLA asked Parliament for power to close the route. The Council, the LCC and Charles Key, the local MP, forced the PLA to reconsider and prepare schemes for adapting the pedestrian crossing. In 1960 the PLA suggested either high-level footways with a double bascule bridge which would cost over £100,000, a tunnel under the dock for about £400,000, or a 180ft-high aerial cable-car for about £50,000. The bridge option emerged as favourite, the tunnel being too expensive for the PLA and the cablecar unpopular with the Council. A high-level bridge would keep the public out of the docks and allow barges to pass, opening only for ships.

The plans for the high-level bridge and walkway were developed in 1961–2 and amended to include a single opening span pivoting on a trunnion. John Mowlem & Company built the bridge in 1963–4, but the opening span and machinery, separately contracted to Head Wrightson, of Thornaby-on-Tees, were not operational until 1965. The bridge, which cost £256,198, comprised a walkway that was 1,140ft long, 30ft above the ground, 7ft 6in. wide at foot level, and 8ft high, with a hollowrectangular-section steel frame, aluminium roof and translucent glass sides. It was carried on nine precast- and prestressed-concrete supports, T-columns with upper sections enclosing the walkway, with support from the canopy linking F and G Sheds Lift towers at the estate boundaries and the operating tower for the 113ft-long opening section were built of reinforced-concrete with facings of Fletton brick. The bridge operated with oil hydraulic machinery.

The Glengall Grove high-level bridge gave the public the dubious privilege of a walk high over the Millwall Docks in an enclosed glazed tube. The ‘glass bridge’ immediately became a prime target for vandals, and pedestrians were so intimidated that few used it. The PLA had to spend about £20,000 on repairs. Severe damage to the glass and the lifts in 1975–6 caused the bridge to be closed, and it was demolished by the LDDC in 1983. It was temporarily replaced by a girder bridge across the knuckles, and then, from 1987, by a steel footbridge across the Inner Dock. A double drawbridge of a Dutch type opened in 1990 as part of the Glengall Bridge development.

Glassbridge not long after opening.

Fred Olsen’s


Wood ship

Fred Olsen (still) deliver the Christmas Tree gift from the people of Norway in recognition of the role of the British in freeing them from the Nazis. Until their closure, the tree was unloaded at Millwall Docks. Lorry driver Jim Howe (whose son shared this photo), then transported it to Trafalgar Square.

The view from the Mudchute over East Ferry Road and a very much operational incinerator.

A glimpse of the ship repair works at Millwall Dry (aka Graving) Dock, with East Ferry Road in the background.

Fred Olsen’s


Demolition of the Central Granary in 1970

Labour Party Leader (and one-time PM) James Callaghan – in furry hat – and to his left, local MP Peter Shore, visit Millwall Docks shortly after the PLA stated their intention to close the docks.

Montague Myer’s wood sheds next to McDougalls. Only one ship to be seen in the docks. Probably around the time of the closure, 1980.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Pictorial History of the Millwall Docks. Part 4: Post-World War II

  1. Silvia Colloseus says:

    Wonderful assortment of some truly outstanding photographs. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.