Heritage Buildings: The Dublin Custom House

Situated on Custom House Quay in Dublin the Custom House was completed on 7 November 1791.

Custom House image by Nol Aders.

The Palladian-style Custom House was designed by the English architect James Gandon. Gandon, who first came to Dublin in 1781, also designed the Dublin Four Courts and King’s Inns as well as Emo Court, Co. Laois, the home of the earl of Portarlington. The new Custom House was built on reclaimed land and replaced the old building that was situated to the west on Essex Quay. The interior of the building was destroyed during the War of Independence in May 1921. After the war the building interior and dome were reconstructed. Conservation worked continued through the 1980s. Today the building is used as the offices of the Department of the Environment.

The Custom House was built from Portland stone and has four differing facades linked by pavilions at each corner. The formal south entrance with its pediment supported by four columns below a narrow dome is in the projecting central block that faces the River Liffey. Over the pillars of the portico are statues of Neptune, Plenty, Industry and Mercury and within the pediment are the figures of England and Ireland with Neptune driving away famine and despair. This is linked to the projecting corner pavilions, which echo the design of the central block, by two-storey arcaded wings that originally had alternating windows and blind niches on the upper floor. The north entrance is a portico of four columns with no pediment but there are statues of Europe, Asia, Africa and America. The building is decorated with a series of sculptures symbolising the rivers Bann, Barrow, Blackwater, Boyne, Erne, Foyle, Lagan, Lee, Liffey, Nore, Shannon, Slaney and Suir as well as the coats of arms of the Kingdom of Ireland and the figure of Commerce stands on top of the dome resting on her anchor.

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