A team closely associated with South London these days though originally they hail from north of the river in East London. In fact they had 4 different homes on the Isle of Dogs before moving south to the London Borough of Lewisham.
Millwall Rovers were formed in the summer of 1885 by workers at Morton’s Jam Factory on the Isle of Dogs. “The majority of the workers at the factory were of Scottish extraction and consequently blue and white became the club’s colours” (according to the Millwall FC websit
Millwall’s first ground was on Glengall Road near West Ferry Road & is quite hard to pinpoint these days as Glengall Road no longer exists due to heavy wartime bombing and redevelopment. The team’s nickname was initially “The Dockers” after the occupation of their majority fanbase.
The team played behind The Lord Nelson pub on East Ferry Road, before being forced to leave by the landlady, who (apparently) received a better offer for its use. The team used the pub as a HQ and changing room. The pub still exists though the area where the pitch would have been is now housing.
They moved to their third home, The Athletic Ground, East Ferry Rd, in 1890. The club planned to convert their new ground to a major sports complex with running track & tennis courts and ambitiously changed their name from Millwall Rovers to Millwall Athletic in 1889. The ground had a grandstand that seated 600 people and an overall capacity of between 10,000 and 15,000. In Ed Glinert’s London Football Companion it states that the new stadium was one of the best in southern England but the smell of reclaimed Thames mud (from adjacent Mudchute) was nauseous. England International Fred Pelly, after playing here for Corinthians, remarked: ” I don’t mind taking a tumble or two there, but when I fell to the ground I couldn’t get rid of the smell for weeks”In 1900 the club made it to the FA Cup semi-final and the press headline was ‘Lions of the South’. The Lions nickname is used to this day.The club was forced to move on again though, this time by the Millwall Dock Company who wanted to use it as a timber yard. The site is now a large Asda Supermarket.
They relocated in 1901 to a location near their second home, which became known as North Greenwich.Confusingly though these days its known as Millwall Park and the name North Greenwich is given to the peninusular housing the 02 Arena (Millenium Dome)south of the river.This was originally an open field where cattle grazed & was one of the few bits of land available at the time when the club took it over. the rough, water logged grass had to be steam-rollered to make a decent playing surface for the first match, a game against Aston Villa. The North Greenwich ground once accommodated 15,000 for the visit of West Ham United in 1910,They remained an east London club for a further nine years, with the last game played on the Isle of Dogs on 8 October 1910 against Portsmouth, which Millwall won 3–1. The ground is now a public park – the steps are could be clues to old terracing that once stood on this spot.
The Den was a move to south of the river. Situated in Cold Blow Lane, New Cross. The ground opened in 1910 and was the home of Millwall for 83 years. It boasted a record attendance of 48,672 (v Derby County in 1937).By the late 1970s, The Den had fallen into disrepair and there was proposals to build a “Super-Den” on the existing sites of The Den and the adjacent New Cross Stadium, with an anticipated all-seater capacity between 25,000 and 30,000. However, the club could not raise sufficient funds to pay for the ambitious project and it eventually fell through.The club eventually relocated in 1993 to a new 20,000+ all seater stadium (The New Den) at the nearby Senegal Fields.Fairview Homes purchased The Den at a cost of £6.5million & promptly demolished the stadium. The site is now occupied by new houses and flats however the site and surrounding area are now known to locals as “Little Millwall”.No team liked to play at The Den because the crowd and the place itself created such an intimidating atmosphere.The Den was considered one of the most hostile grounds in the whole of Britain for visiting teams and was closed a record 5 times by the FA.“I remember running on to the pitch at The Den when I was a youngster with Leicester in the fifth round of the FA Cup. The place resembled a huge trap, and the venom that hit us from the Millwall fans was unbelievable. I remember thinking to myself, maybe it would be a good idea not to score at this place!” Gary Lineker.These days the modern housing development may come across somewhat calmer than its predecessor but not so. In 2007 a care assistant at an old people’s home within the development was killed when she was caught in the crossfire of a gun battle between gangs. The young Polish woman was hit in the head by a stray bullet as two 17 year olds exchanged shots across a car bonnet. One of the youths, Armel Gnango, received a life sentence as a result.A plaque on the site remembers The Den, some old concrete fencing remains as does some loose lumps of concrete in the undergrowth on the overgrown banks of the development which could be remains of old terracing of The Den (or that of the demolished New Cross Stadium which was adjacent). A mystery old brick structure with a “To Let” sign also sits on this bank.