Custom House Quay
This location is particularly appropriate as one of the first voyages of the Famine period was on the 'Perserverance' which sailed from Custom House Quay on St. Patrick's Day 1846. Captain William Scott, a native of the Shetland Isles, was a veteran of the Atlantic crossing, gave up his office job to take the 'Perserverance' out of Dublin. He was 74 years old. The Steerage fare on the ship was £3 and 210 passengers made the historical journey. They landed in New York on the 18th May 1846. All passengers and crew survived the journey.
The Custom House, one of Dublin's major landmarks on Custom House Quay, was completed in 1791. It cost the then not inconsiderable sum of £200,000. Initially the building was exclusively the headquarters of the Commissioners of Custom and Excise; however by the beginning of the twentieth century, the dominant role of the Custom House was in relation to local government. The building was burnt to the ground on 25 May, 1921 during the Irish War of Independence; restoration work was completed by 1928.
The exterior of the Custom House is often considered the most architecturally important builing in the country. It is richly adorned with sculptures, carved keystones and coats-of-arms.
There is a strong Irish theme to the sculpture with the Irish rivers being symbolised and Hibernia in the main pediment sculpture. Bearing in mind that that there was an Irish Parliament at this time – the building is a demonstration of the aspirations of the Irishmen who were responsible for running the country at this time. On the main pediment, Hibernia is seen embracing Britannia while Neptune drives away famine and despair. Above the pediment stand four more figures symbolising Neptune, Mercury, Industry and Plenty. Atop the dome stands a large figure of Commerce.
Unusually as might be expected on a crown property the roof line coats of arms are not that of King George III but of the Kingdom of Ireland with a Lion and a Unicorn either side of the Irish Harp.
On the north face at Beresford Place are personifications of the four continents of world trade – Africa, America, Asia, and Europe. This mirrors the four statues on the south façade. The sculptures that most associate with the Custom House are the keystones of riverine heads personifying the Atlantic, and the rivers Bann, Barrow, Blackwater, Boyne, Erne, Foyle, Lagan, Lee, Liffey, Nore, Shannon, Slaney and the Suir. The heads of the rivers are laden with the fruits of their basins.
It’s also rather cruelly rumoured to have been built back to front; with the pavilions intended to sweep towards the Liffey.
Admission is free, and it is open for visitors Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 2pm to 5pm.