The Wool House
This wonderful building has a lot of history, documented with images and photos early on.
Let us share this house’s memories with you.
A look back in time
The following material has been collected from various sources, permission granted. Thanks to all contributors for all these glimpses of the past.
The Wool House is built after the French raid of 1338 by Cistercian Monks from Beaulieu Abbey. It stands with two storeys of stone rubble with angle quoins and a tiled roof. It is used as storehouse for wool exports to Europe.
During Southampton’s time as a leading wool port it is one of several wool houses. Today, it is the only surviving freestanding medieval warehouse in Southampton.
source: English Heritage & PortCities Southampton
15th - 18th Century
The Wool House is now referred to as Alum Cellar and used as storage for alum (※), a double sulfate salt used for dyeing cloth.
During the Napoleonic wars the Wool House is used as prison for French prisoners of war. The names of some can still be seen today, carved on the beams of the roof.
source: English Heritage
Featured in the centre left is the Royal Southern Yacht Club, built in 1846 by T.S. Hack. Pevsner and Lloyd called it “the finest piece of early Victorian architecture in the city”. Built in stuccoed Italianate Classical style with Tuscan colonnades. In the centre right is the Woolhouse, which at that time was still being used as a warehouse. Next door is the Royal Pier Hotel, built in c1830 and demolished in the Blitz. The entrance gates to the pier can be seen on the far left.
Drawn and engraved by Philip Brannon. Published by W. Sharland.
© Soton Council
Pevsner and Lloyd argued that the 14th century arched collar-braced roof was the best feature of the Wool House. It is essentially unaltered except for the hipped front part, which was reconstructed in the 18th century. The wood is Spanish chestnut.
early 20th Century
After this, the Wool House belongs to the Moon family and is used for their boat building business.
Moonbeam Engineering Company Ltd is using the buidling for construction of motor launches, expanding to include wrought iron propellers and marine engines that are soon exported around the world.
Rowland Moon occupies one corner of the workshop to work on realising his dream of designing, constructing and flying an aircraft. After experiments and test with Moonbeam I, a second aircraft is built.
The result is Monbeam II, a monoplane. In 1910, the first successful flight is from the site which is now Southampton Airport.
source: Hampshire County Council
[…] the Wool House has had a varied history. It is the only survivor of several medieval wool houses which date from when Southampton was a leading wool port. According to one expert, it was the only medieval building in Europe that had the sole purpose of storing wool: in this case prior to shipment. Much of the wool came from the Cotswolds. For much of its history, the building was a warehouse or corn store. Bugle Street can be seen on the left.
The building used by Itchen Transport on the right is the historic Wool House of 1415, used in more recent times as the Maritime Museum. The structure’s chequered history included a spell as a gaol during the 1700s and 1800s, when Spanish and French prisoners of war carved inscriptions into the roof timbers. Flush-sided Pullman car 32 sits in the distance of this December 1948 scene.
photo taken by Fred Ward, courtesy of the Lightmoor Press Archive
The Wool House becomes a Grade I listed building on 14th July 1953.
Check out the following links for more informatin:
• Listing with English Heritage
• Heritage Explorer
1966 to 2011
Building plays its part in the Titanic story: Southampton Maritime Museum. It documented the maritime heritage of Southampton & the Solent area.
In June 2013, with permission from Southampton City Council, the Wool House is opened up by element arts, a pop-up arts organisation.
In September 2013, the Dancing Man Brewery first lodges proposals to turn the Grade I listed building into a brew house.
Plans are approved for the Dancing Man Brewery to open the building as tourist centre, microbrewery and restaurant.