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Visiting the Custom House, Dublin, Ireland: historic, neo-Classical building by James Gandon, dating from 1781

Updated on February 27, 2016
Flag of the Republic of Ireland
Flag of the Republic of Ireland | Source
The Custom House and Matt Talbot Memorial Bridge from City Quay, Dublin
The Custom House and Matt Talbot Memorial Bridge from City Quay, Dublin | Source
Dublin Custom House from south
Dublin Custom House from south | Source
Map location of Dublin, Ireland Source: 'User:Bastique', GNU / Creative Commons A-SA 3.0,
Map location of Dublin, Ireland Source: 'User:Bastique', GNU / Creative Commons A-SA 3.0, | Source

Developing symbolism of a fine structure overlooking the Liffey

This Custom House (Irish: Teach an Chustaim ) building in Dublin (Baile Átha Cliath ), Ireland, will doubtless be counted among the most impressive and elegant of the city's examples of architectural heritage.

Some history and features

The building overlooks the Liffey River (Irish: An Life ); its original purpose, as its name suggests, was to collect custom from the port of Dublin.

Dating from 1781, its architect was James Gandon, (1743-1823)(1), also responsible for other well-known buildings in Ireland's capital. The architect worked in the familiar, neo-Classical style particularly popular during the Georgian period. Originally the building was executed in Portland stone, but later, restoration work on the building used an Irish limestone.

The Custom House's setting by the Liffey River makes its southern elevation especially striking. Its crowning feature is the dome, topped by a statue by Henry Banks, with the four pillared portico beneath. Over many years the stone became discoloured by exposure to the elements, but some two decades ago the building underwent a thorough program of cleaning, and in recent years its almost pristine appearance has confirmed this structure in Downtown Dublin as one of the city's principal visitor attractions (2).

During the Irish War of Independence in 1921, the Custom House was badly damaged (and many historical records — stored there because the building was by then being used for local government purposes were destroyed). The building, with its ornate features and as an administrative centre, then symbolized British rule.

Today, however, the Custom House is the seat of the Republic of Ireland's Revenue Commissioners, and a stylized logo representing the building has been adopted by the Commissioners.

Thus, a building which was once a symbol of British rule has become somewhat symbolic of the Republic itself.

The Custom House is located at an aptly named street: Custom House Quay.


(1) Other buildings in the Dublin area for which Architect Gandon is well-known include the Four Courts and Kinsealy (former residence of Charles Haughey).

(2) Many visitors arrive in Dublin at the Bus Station (Irish: Busárus ; this word is widely used) adjacent to the Custom House, and thus the domed, neo-Classical features of the building are among the first of the sights of the city that many visitors experience. It must be said, however, that the southern elevation of the building facing the Liffey, is probably regarded as providing the most impressive view.)

Also worth seeing

Among Dublin 's many visitor attractions are included: Leinster House (Irish: Teach Laighean ), Government Buildings (Irish: Tithe an Rialtais ), Dublin Castle (Irish: Caisleán Bhaile Átha Cliath ), Trinity College (Irish: Coláiste na Tríonóide ), the General Post Office (Irish: Ard-Oifig an Phoist ) on O'Connell Street (Irish: Sráid Uí Chonaill ), the Ha'penny — or: Halfpenny — Bridge; (Irish: Droichead na Leathphingine ), Merrion Square (Irish: Cearnóg Mhuirfean ), and many others.


How to get there: Aer Lingus flies from New York and Boston to Dublin Airport (Irish: Aerfort Bhaile Átha Cliath ), from where car rental is available. Car parking can be difficult in Dublin City centre and a good way to get around the city is by Dublin Bus (Irish: Bus Átha Cliath ). Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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