Former Custom House, Cardiff

Former Custom House, Cardiff

This building was erected in 1845 for Customs and Excise officers, who kept an eagle eye on boats passing along the Glamorganshire Canal. The main entrance to the building was at the western end, facing East Wharf. The ornate front doorway, with the words “Custom House” above, still survives.

The cardiff_custom_housephoto of the frontage – courtesy of Cardiff Libraries – was taken c.1890. The canal and wharf are out of sight below the image. The railings on the left led up to Custom House Bridge, which you can see on this web page.

Soon after the Custom House was built, Isambard Kingdom Brunel drew up plans for the South Wales Railway to run east-west through Cardiff. There was too little space for a station between the canal and river Taff. The canal and wharves were too important to be relocated, so Brunel diverted the river instead, as you can read on our page about Cardiff Central station.

Today this might seem a strange location for Customs inspections, but from the 1790s it was a transport hub. Narrow boats arrived from Merthyr Tydfil and other points along the canal, sea-going vessels came here from the sea lock at today’s Hamadryad Park, and carts collected goods for distribution around Cardiff.

Most of the wharves were south of the railway bridge, accessible to the larger vessels which used the southern end of the canal (wider and deeper than the rest). The Custom House was extended eastwards in the 1860s but the wharves were already being eclipsed by Cardiff docks, which had developed rapidly since the first dock opened in 1839.

A new Custom House opened near the Pierhead in 1898. It’s now part of a pub on the Cardiff Bay waterfront. The old Custom House was no longer needed, and in 1899 it was sold for £7,800 to local solicitor Edgar David.

Postcode: CF10 1AP    View Location Map

Website of Cardiff Libraries