The Story of Enterprise House
Sarah Brackpool, Customer Service Manager at UBC's Enterprise House Business Centre in Southampton, has researched the story behind the building and its role in a number of landmark moments in history.
Over the years the area surrounding Enterprise House has been demolished and completely transformed, but we are lucky that this beautiful building was left untouched - save for a careful renovation project last year which has brought Enterprise House back to its former glory.
Southampton has always been known for its ports, docks and the cruise ships which leave from them. Enterprise House was built in the 1800’s when Ocean Village was the first of the docks built in anticipation of the railway terminus which arrived shortly afterwards. It was originally known as the outer dock and thanks to the deep water could take in boats of relatively large sizes and these boats could load their cargo straight onto the trains which passed through. (You can see in the picture called Inner Dock 1890 Enterprise House alongside the trains which called through and then later on the Inner dock 1903 picture the boats came up right against Enterprise House). In 1854 when the Crimean war broke out, troops came through these docks to climb aboard the requisitioned P&O liners to make their way to action.
The docks were mainly used for imports of fruit, timber and grains. One of the pictures we have found in our research seems to suggest that Enterprise House was used for storing grain and as a bottle washing and bonded warehouse. (Which you can see in the picture called Enterprise House and in the picture called Inner Dock map 1886 Enterprise House is labelled as bonded and corn warehouse). Through time the ships got larger and larger and so other docks such as Empress Dock and the Ocean Terminals were built to allow them in, leaving the only boats to come into the outer dock to be cross channel steamers.
Canute chambers which is located just across from Enterprise House was famously the office for the White Star company and was where anxious relatives of crew members gathered after the sinking of the Titanic.
By the 1960’s the inner dock was filled to provide car transit space for the ferries. This was in fact the UK’s first roll-on-roll-off car ferry service, however these services gradually moved to Portsmouth as the channel crossing is shorter which left Ocean Village on hard times.
In the 1980’s the site was taken over by Ocean Village Marina Development who spent £75 million on a mixed use development, the only building which survived was Enterprise House. Some of the developments from the 1980’s have gone now, Canute Pavilion retail centre which had shops, arcades, bars and restaurants closed and was then demolished in 2008 to make way for the new development of housing at Admirals Quay.
Throughout all of these changes, Enterprise House remained a fixture in Ocean Village and when Forrelle Estates bought the building, they worked in partnership with UBC to provide a contemporary work place and support services to local businesses on the 3 floors we now occupy. The character features such as the original beams and the pillars have all been maintained alongside the high quality fit out and latest in telecoms and I.T. Enterprise House has now received the TLC it so desperately needed and deserved and can continue to remain in Ocean Village and be part of its colourful history for many more years to come.