Woolston is believed to originate from Olafs tun, a fortified tun on the East bank of the River Itchen established by the Viking leader Olaf I of Norway in the 10th Century.
In the Domesday Book of 1086, the area is recorded as Olvestune.The area now known as Woolston is certain to have received consignments of wool to be ferried across the River Itchen, Hampshire by the inhabitants of Itchen Ferry village. The evolution of Olvestune into "Woolston" is a result of that trade.
Woolston railway station is on the West Coastway Line, situated at the end of the Itchen Bridge and operated by South West Trains. The line from Southampton to Woolston was opened on 5 March 1866, accessible from Bridge Road, with an extension opened in November 1867 to serve the Royal Victoria Military Hospital at Netley, where it originally terminated. The line was extended to Fareham on 2 September 1889, whereupon it became possible to run through trains to Portsmouth via a separate line that had been built to link Eastleigh and Gosport in 1841.
The ancient hamlet grew as new industries, roads and railways came to the area in the Victorian era with Woolston being formally incorporated into the borough of Southampton in 1920.
Development of the Itchen Bridge in the 1970s, to link Woolston with the Southampton City Centre, required significant changes. Old terraces had to be demolished to make room for the new structure. However, as the station that served passengers boarding and departing the Woolston ferry was no longer required, it was demolished and made way for many new townhouses to be built.
Now, at the start of the 21st century, Woolston is again experiencing a period of major change, with the closure of the Vosper Thorneycroft shipyard and the start of construction on Centenary Quay on the site.