Wool House History

A look back in time, our wonderful building has a very chequered past. Please read on for its fascinating story.

The following material has been collected from various sources, and is presented with permission granted. Thanks to all contributors for all these glimpses of the past.

14th Century

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 importer. Today, it is the only surviving freestanding medieval warehouse in Southampton.

15th Century

The building is used for storage of wool, supporting trade with Flanders and Italy.

16th Century

The Wool House is now referred to as Alum Ceilar and used as storage for alum, a double sulphate salt used for dyeing cloth.

18th Century

During the Napoleonic wars, the Wool House is used as prison for French sailors who used the Itchen River for their surprise attacks.

It was a brutal place. The names of some can still be seen today, carved on the beams of the roof. Check out the graffiti in the stone at the top of our stairs.

19th Century

Featured 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 Wool House, which at that time was still being used as a warehouse. Next door is the Royal Pier Hotel, built in 1830 and demolished in the Blitz. The entrance gates to the pier can be seen on the far left and remain to this day.

Drawn and engraved by Philip Brannon. Published by W. Sharland


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 was believed to be Spanish chestnut but carbon dating in 2016 determined it to actually be English oak.

Early 20th Century

1904 Rented by the cannon Iron Company

After this, the Wool House belongs to the moon family and is used for their boat building business.

Edwin Moon in Moonbeam II

Moonbeam Engineering Company Ltd is using the building 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 Moonbeam II, a monoplane. In 1910, the first successful flight is from the site which is now Southampton Airport.


Wool House & Royal Pier Hotel

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.

Warehouse of Scott & Co

From 1925 until 1940s the building was used by two haulage contractors, Allen Thomas and later Scott & Co.


In use by Itchen Transport Company

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.


The Wool House becomes a Grade I listed building on 14th July 1953.

Check out the following links for more information:

1966 to 2011

Building plays its part in the Titanic story: Southampton Maritime Museum. It documented the maritime heritage of Southampton & the Solent area.


Southampton Maritime Museum. Titanic.

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.

February 27th 2015

Opening of the Wool House as the

Dancing Man Brewery