The Wool House

In the Middle Ages Southampton was already a busy international trading port. The Wool House was probably built in the late 13th century. According to some sources, the Wool House was built by the orders of the monks at Beaulieu for use as a secure wool store. It is also said the building and financing of the Wool House was enabled by Thomas Middleton, a prominent and wealthy merchant and mayor of Southampton. He also built a large crane next to it to lift heavy cargo. The Wool House was ideally located right on the quayside so the wool could be easily loaded onto the ships. Wool from all over England was transported to Southampton for shipment t to Flanders and Italy.

During the 16th century the export of wool and hides declined and finished cloth made by Huguenot weavers became more popular. Eventually the Wool House became a store for Alum, an anti-bacterial agent that was used as a fixative in dying fabric. It was also used in the process of tanning hides.

The Wool House was also used as prison for captives from the War of the Spanish Succession in the early 18th century. The names Francois Dries and Thomas Lasis and the date 1711 are engraved into a stone window surround on the upper floor. There are also other names carved into the wooden beams.

Later in the 18th century and early 19th century French prisoners from the Napoleonic Wars were held captive in the Wool House. Some of them carved their names into the beams of the roof. Some also spent their time carving model ships out of bleached meat bone and making the rigging out of their own hair. These magnificent works of art are also known as scrimshaws.

During the 1850s the building was used as a warehouse by John Bennett, a corn and seed merchant, who was a commission agent for the Hanoverian and Hanseatic Consul.

Around 1904 it was occupied by the Carron Company who were manufacturers for warship cannons but also produced household equipment by then.

From around 1908 to the mid1920s, the Wool House was turned into a workshop for a Marine Engineering Company owned by Edwin Moon senior.

His son Edwin Rowland Moon, an aviation pioneer who served in the Royal Naval Air Service and Royal Air Force during the First World War, built his famous monoplane, the Moonbeam in the Wool House.

From 1925 the Wool House was used as a warehouse by several hauling companies and the Itchen Transport Company.

In the early 1960s the building was restored by Southampton City Corporation and adapted to house the Southampton Maritime Museum, which opened in June 1966 and moved to the new SeaCity Museum in 2012.

The Wool House is a Grade I listed building. After extensive renovation and refurbishment it is now the home of the “Dancing Man Brewery”, which opened as a brew house and pub in February 2015.