Canute Chambers is a red-brick building standing on Canute Road in Southampton, within sight of the South Western Hotel and a short walk from Dock Gate 4, which led down to the White Star Dock. The building served as the company offices for the Liverpool-based White Star Line, owners of the Titanic. The offices housed the White Star Line's administrative functions, provided ticket sales and assisted with customer enquiries about travel aboard the White Star Line fleet. The building was constructed in 1893, originally for the American Line. The White Star Line took over the building in 1907 when they switched the British base for its express transatlantic service from Liverpool to Southampton. In 1931 the White Star Line vacated the building and it was then occupied by the United States Line until 1969. Today, Canute Chambers is still used as offices, but not by a shipping line.
With the breaking news of the sinking of the Titanic emerging the White Star Line offices in Southampton, her home port, were besieged by anxious relatives searching for news of their loved ones, determined journalists and curious onlookers. The offices had been since 2am on 16 April trying to obtain news with the growing crowds outside. As news of the survivors filtered through from New York, the names of those saved were posted on hand-written listed hung outside the office. Frustratingly for those waiting some names were incorrectly transcribed and scrambled and only later were these corrected as the list of survivors was updated.
Canute Chambers is a red-brick building in the Dutch Renaissance style. The two-storey main block has a large brick-faced attic cross-gable facing on to Canute Road. The ground-floor is of red-brick with Portland stone banding. The main block has two large arched windows with prominent keystones, set beneath a cornice and Portland stone frieze.
Above, the first-floor has two pairs of rectangular windows set within a surrounding brick architrave, beneath a projecting cornice. The attic gable has two rectangular windows, with a surrounding brick architrave and projecting keystone. Above is a blind arcade formed of two arches, topped with a semi-circular pediment with an inset date-stone engraved with the date 1893.
The eastern range is a single storey, with the same Portland stone banding, with a Portland stone and brick bay window and outer arched window, with three sash-windows set within the arch. Above is a tiled, pitched roof with a dormer window with a semi-circular pediment. The roof is pierced by a tall, red-brick chimney.
The building has a projecting porch, with double doors set beneath three-arched windows executed in Portland stone, topped with a scrolled pediment. The building is fronted by railings either side of two brick piers. The western-pier carries a commemorative plaque unveiled at noon on 15 April 2002, the 90th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. The inscription on the plaque reads:
City of Southampton
This building housed the offices of the White Star shipping company, owners of RMS Titanic which sank on April 15th 1912 after striking an iceberg off Newfoundland on her maiden voyage
It was here that hundreds of local people waited for news of their loved ones
549 Southampton people died in the disaster