The original Burrell & Company, founded in 1852, were oil refiners and manufacturers of paints, varnishes and colours. They came to Millwall in the 1880s and took over existing buildings, including the Plate House, which dates from the 1850s when the shipbuilders, John Scott Russell & Co, occupied the site.
In the 1920s, colour making took over as the principal activity at Burrell's Wharf and this continued until closure of the factory in 1986. From 1981, the firm operated under the name of Blythe Burrell Colours Ltd, a subsidiary of A Johnson Matthey PLC.
The redevelopment of the site was begun in the late 1980s by Kentish Homes whose ambitious scheme included the retention of several existing buildings, including the Plate House, and the incorporation of substantial recreational, social and artistic amenities to serve the wider community. However, Kentish Homes went bust in 1989 and the original scheme was subsequently modified