History: South Western House

Did you know many of our serviced houses and apartments are steeped in history? Each week check out a property you could be staying in.

South Western House

We hold a little soft spot for this gorgeous contemporary building. Standing grand at the edge of Southampton docks our Grade II listed former hotel not only is home to our stunning serviced apartments but standing the test of time through history.

At the peak of Victorian high life buildings such as this were being erected at the end of railway lines, the terminus during the golden age of steam. SWH bears similar DNA to that of London’s Charring Cross station. With Southampton the gateway to transatlantic crossings it was clear the dock terminus station needed a monument that would attract big business through the city.

John Norton of London was awarded the contract to develop what originally was the Imperial hotel opening before it was finished in 1867. After bankruptcy the development was taken over by LSWR Company, completed, and renamed the South Western Hotel in 1871. Shortly after the town council took over the deeds turning this elegant structure into a mental health asylum.

Six stories high and with the upper two floors in the mansard roof the construction is of brick there are stunning elaborate window surrounds and portholes paying homage to the seafaring theme of the city. Many guests comment on the entrance concourse that reeks pillars of marble and granite with many images sculpted across the high ceiling.

SWH house was the final stop for passengers who were to embark across the Atlantic on the Titanic. Indeed part of the building was closed for filming for the 1997 classic film Titanic in which we see the original lift and dome glass ceiling used.


After WW2 British Railways moved in before the shipping line Cunard created an office complex there. The BBC’s 30 year association with South Western House started in 1961. The original news programme ‘South at Six’ was presented by Martin Muncaster. It was later renamed ‘South Today’, with long serving anchor-man Bruce Parker. Great events within the docks were witnessed and reported from the building; the 1966 Seaman’s strike; the final sailing of the Queen Mary in 1967; and ships departing and arriving back from the Falklands war. With Southampton Terminus falling to the axe of Dr Beeching in his attempt to ‘save the railway’ developers moved in on precious land that already was becoming scarce in the city.

In 1997, after falling into devastating neglect, a property developer converted SWH into luxury apartments. The railway lines have since been dug up (all accept a single line into the docks for freight and specials) but the terminus building with it’s platform still stands. Now a car park for guests many of the original features can still be located and seen.

South Western Hotel Southampton (1)

Our modern spacious Imperial serviced properties come in a variety of layouts, including duplex that are popular with those who wish to relax after a long day. The Grand Cafe is the latest to attach itself below the apartments making sure that this magnificent building stays true to the history and grand design that it was purposely built for.


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