Former Custom House, Cardiff Bay

Link to French translationFormer Custom House, Cardiff Bay

Pickfords removal lorries are famous for moving the contents of buildings, but in this case Pickfords moved the building itself!

The two-storey castellated stone building at the north end of the Waterguard pub was once the Customs and Excise office for Cardiff docks. It was later extended, with additional office accommodation provided behind the Victorian building.

In 1993, during redevelopment of the docklands, the building was placed onto a low-loader lorry and moved c.50 metres to its present site. Inside the pub you can see photos of the Custom House in its original position and on the removal lorry. The building is visible in the 1956 aerial photo on our page about Cardiff’s pleasure steamer terminal.

Taxes on goods imported and exported were originally controlled from a building in what is now the city centre, alongside the Glamorganshire Canal. That building survives – you can read about it on this page. Cardiff’s docks had developed rapidly after the Bute West Dock opened in 1839 but Customs payments still had to be made the canal-side offices for many decades – to the growing annoyance of merchants, shipowners and ship brokers.

In 1891 Cardiff Council petitioned for the Custom House to be relocated to the docks, and for Cardiff to be made a “wine-testing port” – which would boost imports of wines and spirits through Cardiff. The new Custom House opened in 1898, two years after Cardiff overtook New York to top the world rankings for the tonnage of registered ships dispatched overseas (6.9 million tons compared with New York’s 6.5 million tons). Cardiff’s trade was dominated by coal exports. For loads imported, Cardiff was second to London among British ports.

Cardiff’s success in achieving wine-testing status and getting the Customs House relocated was partly down to the support of Frederic Sothers Tolputt, HM Customs collector for Cardiff. He died just a year later, in 1897 at his home in Penarth. He was 64 years old.

In 1902 WL Massy was appointed Cardiff’s Customs collector. The press approved because Mr Massy was previously at Newport, and “while the coal-tax exists it is essential that a person who has a thorough knowledge of the coal trade should be at the head of the Customs”.

Postcode: CF10 4PA    View Location Map

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