Famous Custome House-Dublin
Please view in LARGE much better,
The Custom House is often considered architecturally the most important building in Dublin and is sited on the river front with Beresford Place to the rear. The Custom House was the first major public building built in Dublin as an isolated structure with four monumental façades. The previous Custom House by Thomas Burgh and built in 1707 was sited up river at Essex Quay and was judged as unsafe just seventy years later. The site chosen for the new Custom House met with much opposition from city merchants who feared that its move down river would lessen the value of their properties while making the property owners to the east wealthier. The decision to built further down river was forced by the Rt. Hon. John Beresford (1738-1805) who was appointed Chief Commissioner from 1780 onwards and was instrumental in bringing James Gandon to Ireland. He favoured shifting the city centre eastwards from the Capel - Parliament Street axis towards a new axis on College Green with Drogheda Street and the construction of a new bridge linking the two sides. The building was built on slob land reclaimed from the estuary of the Liffey when the Wide Streets Commissioners constructed the Quays. The line of the crescent Beresford Place that surrounds the Custom House follows roughly the line of the old North Strand along the estuary before the construction of the Quays.
Started in 1781, the new Custom House was finished ten years later at a cost of over £200,000. The finished external design consisted of four façades each different but consistent and linked by corner pavilions. The exterior of the building is richly adorned with sculptures and coats-of-arms by Thomas Banks, Agnostino Carlini and Edward Smyth who carved a series of sculpted keystones symbolising the rivers of Ireland.
In the Irish Civil War of 1921-1922 the interior of the Custom House was destroyed when the building was completely engulfed by fire lit by the IRA. The fire blazed for five days, destroying a huge quantity of public records. The heat was so intense that the dome melted and the stonework was still cracking because of cooling five months later and Gandon's interior was completely destroyed.
The building underwent serious reconstruction and the dome and drum were completely rebuilt in Ardbraccan limestone as opposed to the original Portland stone. The limestone is a much darker colour and this can be seen in the illustrations. The building was further restored by the Office of Public Works in the 1980s after it was discovered that the large cornice was in danger of collapsing from the damage caused by the fire and the rusting of the ironwork braces holding the stonework together. The fine sculptures and coats-of-arms that adorn the building were restored and a new Portland Stone cornice fitted to replace the sub standard one fitted after the fire.