London: volume 2

Knight, Charles.


L.-The Custom House.

L.-The Custom House.




It is by the Thames,

says a popular writer,[n.401.1] 

that the foreigner should enter London. The broad breast of this great river, black with the huge masses that float upon its crowded waters,--the tall fabrics, gaunt and drear, that line its melancholy shores,--the thick gloom through which you dimly catch the shadowy outline of these gigantic forms,--the marvellous quiet with which you glide by the dark phantoms of her power into the mart of nations,--the sadness, the silence, the vastness, the obscurity of all things around-prepare you for a grave and solemn magnificence ..... Behold St. Katharine's Docks, and Walker's Soap Manufactory, and

Hardy's Shades!

Lo! there is the strength, the industry, and the pleasure--the pleasure of the enterprising, the money-making, the dark-spirited people of England.

Such may probably be the reflections of the foreigner as some steam-vessel from the Elbe or the Rhine, from Boulogne, Calais, or Havre, sweeping past the


Tower, brings--to off the . Before the introduction of steam-ships the continental traveller generally landed at Harwich or Dover, and the page of his' diary was in praise


(if he praised us at all) of our horses and public vehicles, of the excellence of the roads, and the rapid travelling; the verdant appearance of English scenery, the prettiness of the cottages, and the air of neatness and comfort pervading the villages and small towns through which he passed on his journey to the metropolis. Now, however, he is thrown at once into the vortex of London, without the preparation which a journey of above miles affords.

The spacious and well-gravelled quay in front of the , the only quay in the port of London on which the public can walk, with the exception of a small in front of the Tower, is deserving of more commendation than it has generally received, though beaux and belles who seek for gratification in reciprocal glances of admiration will resort to the more congenial shades of Kensington Gardens or the promenades in the Parks. This is a place for enjoyment of another kind. Here at mid-day the rays of the winter's sun seem less feeble than elsewhere under the shelter of the great building on the north, and the aged and valetudinarian feel doubly grateful for the genial influence of its rays. Why might not a few benches be placed here and there for their accommodation, as this could probably be done without inconvenience or detriment to the public business? We are, however, thankful that the public are not altogether excluded; so let us on a fine summer's day resort hither and observe what is passing before us. At the western extremity of the quay is , the great fish-market of the metropolis, with the small dock for the craft of the fishermen. It is nearly high water, and while the flood lasts they continue to arrive, and, by a little seaman-like manoeuvring, are brought into the mooring-place provided for them. The size of the fishermen's boats is as various as their cargoes. Some have perhaps mackerel, which may either prove very valuable or be sold at a loss, according to the time at which it reaches the market; and if the tide did not serve, the steam-tug has been employed for the sake of despatch. Other boats are of smaller size, and we may see how eminently domestic is the employment of the fisherman. or of his boys, often at a very early age, assist him in the boat, while his wife and the remainder of the children are drying and mending the nets at home. The boats, which have already disposed of their cargoes, are got ready for leaving the dock; the sails are unfurled; and as soon as the tide turns, a number of them will pass in quick succession down the river. A little westward of dock are the wharfs for steam-boats for Greenwich, Woolwich, Gravesend, and other parts of the river. Their arrival and departure is incessant, and strains of music catch the ear as they rapidly pass the Quay, most of the boats being accompanied by or musicians, who doubtless enhance the enjoyment of--the innumerable persons who seek for relaxation by a trip to the above-mentioned places. Lighters laden with coal and every kind of merchandise and produce, and whose longest voyage does not extend below or much above the bridges, are passing ; country barges which come by the canals from places far inland; and small sloops which in summer do not fear a sea voyage to any part of the English coast, but in winter are employed on the canals. Then the light wherry lands its fare at the st.:irs or passes up and down the stream. On the right is the noble bridge with its throng of passengers, coaches, omnibuses, hackney-coaches, cabs, carts, drays, and waggons. On land and water the tide of life is flowing before us with full


volume, but here, while witnessing how rapidly it hastens along, the roar of the living torrent is blended and harmonised. The flickering lights which are reflected on the surface of the river at the same time delight the eye by their varied shades and tones. But a large steam-ship advances, heaving the wave all around in its impetuous course, its deck crowded with aliens, perhaps exiles, and English tourists who have spent various periods, from days to as many months or years, on the continent. It is curious to watch the countenance of each individual among the successive boat-loads which are brought from the steamship and landed at the ; and to speculate upon the feeling produced in the gay sons and daughters of France, the exciteable Italian, or more sober German, on touching English ground. In the large world of London there is an abiding place for them if they can bring the recommendation of superior aptitude and talent for whatever they undertake. The Steam Packet Baggage Warehouse is a department of the London rendered necessary by the increased passenger intercourse between the port of London and the continent; and here the duties upon articles contained in the baggage of travellers may be paid with the least possible delay. The articles upon which the duties are principally levied are books, china, musical instruments, millinery, eau de Cologne, prints, and shoes; and that from France, Holland, and Hamburg, the articles in passengers' luggage pay a duty of about a-year. The regulations of the Commissioners of Customs in respect to passengers are liberal and indulgent, and they are executed in the same spirit.

All the western nations appear to have inherited from the Romans the practice of exacting certain payments on the landing and embarkation of merchandise at each seaport, and the name of customs, or some equivalent term, shows that these payments were sanctioned by immemorial usage. These exactions aided the sovereign in his necessities, and induced him to encourage the commerce of his subjects. Stow observes that merchants and retailers do not only profit themselves and enrich the realm, but

bear a good fleece which the prince may shear when he seeth good ;

and this regard to the fleece rendered the interest of both parties in some measure identical. It appears from a letter to Offa, King of the Mercians, by Charlemagne, that the English pilgrims travelling to Rome frequently assumed the scrip and staff as a cloak for smuggling, introducing, as it is conjectured, articles of gold and silver without paying the customs, from which, as pilgrims, they were exempt. Charlemagne was desirous that persons who were truly on pilgrimage should

travel in peace, without any trouble;

but as to the pretenders, who are

not in the service of religion, but in the pursuit of gain, let them pay the established duties at the proper places.

Rather more than a century afterwards Ethelred II. (A.D. -), in a council held at Wantage, in Berkshire, fixed the toll or custom on ships and merchandise arriving at , which, at that time, appears to have been the principal landing-place in the port of London. It was declared that every smaller boat should pay halfpenny; a large boat with sails penny; a keel (a ship, we suppose) pennies; a vessel with wood to give piece of wood; a boat with fish coming to the bridge halfpenny or penny, according to its size. After the Conquest customs were exacted not only by the King, but, at the outports, by the lord under whose protection the town was.



The Queen's Hythe () appears to have been the most favoured landing-place after the Conquest. In Henry III. directed the officers of the Tower to arrest the ships of the Cinque Ports which arrived in the river, and to compel them to bring their corn to the Queen's Hythe only; and years afterwards the same officers were ordered to seize all fish offered for sale at any other place. The privileges of the Queen's Hythe extended from the Steelyard to Blackfriars. In the bailiffs of the Queen's Hythe complained of an infringement of their rights, foreign ships having arrived at with fish, instead of being brought to their landing-place. A penalty of was to be inflicted in future for this violation of their interests; but the ships belonging to the citizens of London might land their cargoes wherever the owners might appoint. In Richard Earl of Cromwell disposed of his rights, privileges, and customs in the Queen's Hythe to the city for an annual sum of , to be paid in instalments at Easter and Michaelmas. This landing-place was now under the charge of the Sheriffs of London, and was so much frequented in by vessels bringing fish, salt, fuel, and other merchandise, as to require the service of more than meters and porters. The principal meter had chief master-porters under him, each of whom employed underporters. The porters were to find horse and sacks under pain of losing their office; and notwithstanding these charges and the small stipend which they received, they

lived well of their labours.

In ships and vessels landing at Down Gate (Dowgate) were ordered to pay the same customs as if they rode at . A century afterwards it was ordered that if vessels came up at the same time, should go to ; if , were to land their cargoes at the Queen's Hythe, and the other at , but

always the more

at Queen Hythe. At length, however, asserted its preeminence. Situated east of the bridge, it was naturally more convenient for large vessels with topmasts than the other port. Fabyan, who wrote at the close of the century, says that the customs of Queen's Hythe had so fallen off in his time as to be worth but a-year. A century later Stow speaks of it as being then

almost forsaken.

He confirms the superiority of , which, he says,

is now the largest water-gate on the river of Thames, and therefore the most frequented.

Ships and boats arrived here with fish, both fresh and salt, shell fish, salt, onions, oranges and other fruits and roots, wheat, rye, and grain of divers sorts

for service of the city and the ports of this realm adjoining.

The meters and porters of the Queen's Hythe, who formerly each employed a horse for the delivery of corn and other articles in the city, no longer flourished in prosperity; and to add to their discouragement Stow informs us that

the bakers of London, and other citizens, travel into the countries and buy their corn of the farmers after the farmers' prices.

All along the northern bank of the river, in , there were landing-places, warehouses, arid cellars belonging to the merchants, who had their houses in the streets leading from the river. A few years before Stow wrote, the number of householders in the ward of who were aliens was , although years earlier there were but Netherlanders. These aliens inhabited the best houses in the ward, and willingly paid a-year rent for houses which had before let only for . The rent was highest for those


houses nearest the water-side. At this period the foreign trade of the country was still almost entirely in the hands of aliens. They are described in an Act passed in as not only trading in the goods imported by themselves from abroad, but also as buying in the ports where they were established and elsewhere,--at their free will, the various commodities which were the produce of this realm, and selling them again at their pleasure within the country as generally and freely as any of the King's subjects. At the end of the century England was passing through the stage of commercial progress of a country.


, its poverty and barbarism invite only the occasional resort of foreigners, without offering any temptation to them to take up their residence within it: then, as its wealth increases, foreigners find even its home-trade an object worth their attention, and


which they easily secure by the application of their superior skill and resources; lastly, in the height of its civilization, and when the energies of its inhabitants have been fully developed--in a great measure revived by the impulse received from these stranger residents-its traffic of all kinds, as well as all the other businesses carried on in it, naturally falls into almost the exclusive possession of its own people.

[n.405.1]  In the early part of the century acts were passed (in and ) prohibiting the circulation of silver coin, known as galley halfpence, which was brought by the Genoese, who came to London in their galleys with wine and other merchandize. Stow says that in his youth he had seen this foreign coin pass current, though with some difficulty. Galley Quay, the name of which is still preserved, was the place where the galleys of Italy and other parts discharged their cargoes; and some buildings, which were dilapidated in Stow's time, and were let out for stabling of horses and as tippling-houses for beer, are supposed by him to have been the houses and storehouses of these merchants, as those of Bordeaux were licensed to build in the Vintry. , in those days, must have been thronged with foreigners from all the countries which had intercourse with England; and a tippling and victualling house near Galley Quay, described by Stow, doubtless often witnessed the drinking-bouts of sailors from the Hanse Towns, Venice, Genoa, and other parts. It was kept by


Mother Mampudding, as they termed her;

and the hall of the house had apparently been built by shipwrights, the roof resembling'a galley with the keel upwards, and being otherwise more like a ship than a house.

Before the foreign commerce of the country was in the hands of native merchants, the king, the nobility, and the higher clergy engaged in mercantile pursuits. Licences were not unfrequently obtained from the kings of England by popes, cardinals, and other foreign ecclesiastical dignitaries to export wool and other commodities without the payment of duties, from which the religious persons of all kinds resident in the country were exempt. The Cistercian monks had become the greatest wool merchants in England; and though the Parliament interfered in , neither ecclesiastical communities nor individuals were driven from the pursuit of trade by its edicts. The exemption of laymen from the payment of duties was, on the other hand, a great favour. In , by writ of privy seal, Aylner de Valence was allowed to export sacks of wool free of duty,

so that the same was done with as much privacy as could be, that other persons might not take example thereby to desire the like permission.


There were custodes or customers at the different ports, and the barons of the exchequer were in the habit of directing inquisitions to be taken respecting the defrauding of the king's customs on wool, &c. The


were not to be owners ships. Merchants who attempted to evade the customs forfeited their cargo. In the mayor and citizens of London, in obedience to the king's orders, caused a scale to be made for weighing of wools, similar to the used for the same purpose in London; and after being examined at , it was sent to Lynn. The place where this scale was kept, and the wharf where the wool was shipped, was, in every sense of the word, a custom-house. In John Churchman, a grocer or wholesale merchant of London,

for the quiet of merchants,

says Stow, built a house upon a quay called Wool Wharf. It was to serve

for. troynage or weighing of wools in the port of London;

and we are told that

whereupon the king granted that, during the life of the said John, the aforesaid troynage should be held and kept in the same house, with easements there for the balances and weights, and a counting-place for the customer, comptrollers, clerks, and other officers of the said troynage, together with ingress and egress to and fro the same, even as was had in other places where the said troynage was wont to be kept.

The king was to pay

yearly to the said John during his life

forty shillings

, at the terms of St. Michael and Easter, by even portions, by the hand of his customer, without any other payment to the said John.

This is said to have been the in the port of London; but a wharf for shipping wool and other articles, and scales for weighing them, must have been established at some fixed place from the earliest time when they were subject to customs; and officers appointed by the king, to see that he was not defrauded of his dues, would necessarily be stationed at such wharf when shipments were made. In Arnold's


written probably at the close of the century, there is a curious table entitled,

Thoos things that longith to Tronage and Pouidage of our Soueraine Lord the Kynge in the Cite of London.

Before the century London had not established its commercial supremacy on a scale so greatly exceeding that of any other port. The quinzieme, a duty of the nature of which no very definite explanation has been given further than that it was an impost on foreign commerce, produced in a sum of /. for the port of London, !. at Boston, at Lynn, and /. at Southampton. Apparently, therefore, these places did not differ much from each other in the scale of mercantile rank; and though there may be difficulties in this view of the case, yet undoubtedly the inferior means which London then possessed for the internal distribution of merchandise which arrived by the river must have checked its career, and given to other ports in different parts of the country a larger comparative share of trade than they have since possessed. By the end of the century, however, these out-ports had fallen into decay, and the commerce of London was in a state of prosperity which it had never before experienced. The general complaint was that London had drawn from them

traffic by sea and retailing by land, and exercise of manual arts also;

and Stow, in answer to this, confesses that navigation

is apparently decayed in many port-towns, and flourisheth only or chiefly at London.

The decay of the staple was also very favourable to the commercial progress of the capital. In


the staple was fixed at different cities and towns in England, and here all merchandise for exportation was compelled either to be sold or brought for shipment; and native merchants were prohibited on pain of felony from exporting the staple commodities, which consisted of wool, woolfells (sheepskins), leather, lead, and tin--in fact, the chief exportable articles which the country produced. The object of the staple was the convenience of foreign merchants, and the more secure collection of the duties on exportation. In the customs of the port of London amounted to , and those of the out-ports only to ; and we shall subsequently see the proportion still further increased in favour of London.

In , in the year of the reign of Elizabeth, important steps were taken which may be said to have been the commencement of the present system of collecting the customs. It was ordered that

all creeks, wharfs, keys, lading and discharging places in Gravesend, Woolwich, Barking, Greenwich, Deptford,




, Ratcliffe,


, St. Katherine's,

Tower Hill






London Bridge

, and every of them, and all and singular keys, wharfs, and other places within the city of London and the suburbs of the same, or elsewhere within the said port of London (the several keys, wharfs, stairs, and places before limited and appointed only except), shall be from henceforth no more used as lading or discharging places for merchandises, but be utterly debarred and abolished from the same for ever.


the better answering of the revenues of the queen,

quays and wharfs were appointed within the port of London, where alone merchandise and produce could be shipped or landed. Some were for all manner of merchandise; others for wine and oils; for corn only; and was for fish, corn, salt, victuals, and fruit, but groceries were excepted. The owners of these quays were required to give security that no goods should be laid on or shipped from their wharfs until the queen's duties were paid, and that all ships were laden and unladen in the presence of the proper officers. The quays on the list are Old Wool Quay, New Wool Quay, and Galley Quay. Wool Wharf or Customers' Quay is applied by Stow to landing-place, which, he says,

is now of late most beautifully enlarged and built.

The quays appointed as above are still known as the legal wharfs. They are all between the Tower and . As the commerce of London increased other wharfs were appointed called

Sufferance Wharfs,

of which were east of the Tower and eighteen on the Surrey side of the river.

The London establishment of consisted of principal officers, each of whom had from to others under him, but the principal


had subordinates. Until the duties were farmed for a-year, but on the Queen's government taking the collection of the duties in its own hand they yielded about a-year. The control of the Government necessarily led to many improvements in the Customs establishment. The formation of the East India and other great trading companies during the latter half of the century, and the growth of colonial commerce, augmented the trade of London and rendered the customs a much more profitable source of revenue than they had yet been. Little attention, however, was paid to the policy at that time pursued in Holland, by which, as Sir Walter


Raleigh remarked, they drew all nations to trade with them. From to , according to D«Avenant, the inspector-general of imports and exports, the customs of England averaged a-year.

The old destroyed during the Great Fire was replaced by of rather more pretensions, which is said to have cost , and was at least of more dignified appearance than the adjoining warehouses. In the years after its erection the trade of the country had greatly increased, and from to the customs for England averaged each year. In the was burnt down, doubtless not before it had been found very inconvenient for the transaction of the increased mass of business which had arisen out of a more wide and active commerce.

A new soon arose on the site of the old building, in which the inconveniences formerly experienced were for a time remedied. The apartments for the different officers were better arranged, and accommodation was provided for a greater number of clerks, so that the delays of which the merchants had before complained were obviated. The length of the building was feet, and the centre was feet deep. The edifice was constructed of brick and stone, and the wings had a passage colonnade of the Tuscan order towards the river, the upper story being relieved with Ionic pilasters and pediments. But the most striking feature of the building was the

Long Room,

extending nearly the whole length of the centre, being feet long. wide, and high. Here were a number of officers and clerks attached to various departments, and the general business of the room was superintended by the Commissioners themselves, but they were then more numerous than at present, their number in being . In the customs of the port of London produced nearly , being more than the whole customs revenue of England between and . At the close of the century the revenue collected in the port of London exceeded The building was now becoming, like its predecessor, too small for the mass of business required to be transacted, when, on the , it was also totally destroyed by fire, being the whose destruction was caused by this element. But in the present case a new had been commenced before the old had become a heap of ruins. The flames spread to the houses on the northern side of , and in a short time were destroyed. Besides the loss of valuable property in the cellars and warehouses, the destruction of documents and papers was also to be regretted. The inconvenience to the shipping and mercantile interests was of course very great. Ships which were ready for sailing were delayed for want of the necessary papers, and the delivery of goods for home consumption and exportation, and the discharge of cargoes, was suspended. The fire occurred on Saturday, and by Monday morning temporary arrangements were made for conducting the public business in the Commercial Sale Rooms, .

Several years before the occurrence of this fire the enlargement of the old had been contemplated, and it was at proposed to build an additional wing, but, on a survey of the edifice, it was found too much decayed and dilapidated to warrant a large expenditure in its renovation and extension. The Lords of the Treasury therefore directed designs and estimates to be prepared for an entirely new structure; and those by Mr. Laing were finally


selected. Between the old and there were quays, measuring feet in length; but the site now fixed upon was immediately east of Dock, with only the intervention of the landing-stairs of the plans projected by Mr. Laing was to have placed the north of , with the quay extending over the site occupied by the present building, thus dispensing with the necessity of encroaching upon the river by embankment. This plan would also have induced the widening of the narrow and crooked streets in the neighbourhood, and the formation of a dock at the eastern and western extremities of the quay. It was found, however, that the plan would prove too expensive, and it was therefore abandoned. The estimates of the new building were by public tender, and for , exclusive of the formation of the foundation- ground and some other contingencies, was accepted. The owners of private property whose interests were invaded by the adoption of a fresh site demanded in the aggregate a sum of /., and, by amicable arrangements and the finding of juries, they were paid The materials of the old building were sold for

It became, of course, an object of the consideration to ascertain the nature of the substratum on which so large a pile was to be raised, and augers from eighteen to feet in length were employed to bring up the soil. In the instance the successive borings indicated a stratum of compact gravel, and in the bed of the river, in parts adjacent, it was found of the same description. As the soil above the lower stratum was apparently more artificial and had less compactness, it was determined to drive piles over the whole surface of the foundation, and this process was commenced in . On trenches being made, preparatory to the foundation, the favourable appearances which had at presented themselves were found to be wholly deceptive, the compact bed which had been met with proving altogether artificial. Mr. Laing describes the character of the ground:--

Rising from the level of the river to the south side of

Thames Street

, the whole of the extent was discovered to have been formerly a part of the bed of the Thames. Quantities of rushes were found mixed with chrysalids of water-insects; mussel-shells were found in different stages of decomposition; those lying at the south-east corner of the quay presented a greenish hue, inclining to the colour of verdigris, while those which were brought up from the depth of


feet below the surface of

Thames Street

were nearly reduced to earth. It deserves remark,

observes Mr. Laing,

that on this occasion


distinct lines of wooden embankments were found at the several distances of




, and


feet within the range of the existing wharfs; and about


feet from the campshot, or under-edge of the wharf wall, a wall was discovered running east and west: it was built with chalk and rubble, and faced with Purbeck stone. This wall was supposed to be either part of the ancient defences of the city of London, or of some outwork, bastion, or barbican extending westward from the Tower.

It was so strongly built, that even with iron wedges it was not broken without great difficulty; but it was necessary to effect this in order to form a sound foundation. The river, then, in ancient times, had been repeatedly contracted in this place, and coins and other objects of human art were found in its old bed, on which the and its quay now stand.[n.409.1] 



The architect, after having caused the removal of the old embankments and foundations, which had created such formidable difficulties, proceeded to strengthen the site with piles. The following account of the manner in which this process was managed is rendered interesting by subsequent results. Mr. Laing says--

Piles were prepared of the length of


feet and


feet, and then were driven in those places whence the old walls, &c., had been removed. These piles were placed in triple rows under each wall,


feet apart longitudinally. They were shod and hooped with iron, and they were driven till the rammer of the engine recoiled. But, after much power and considerable time had been spent in driving, it was found necessary to draw many of them up again, in consequence of having been forced into an oblique direction by the resistance of some intervening portion of the old foundations. Sleepers of beech, measuring


inches by


inches, were laid on the heads of the piles, filled in with brickwork, and a tier of beech planking was laid on these sleepers.

The preliminary difficulties having been overcome, the stone of the new building was laid at the south-west corner by Lord Liverpool, then Lord of the Treasury, on the , and it was opened for business on the . The northern elevation, fronting , was plain and simple, but the south front, towards the river, assumed a more ornamental character, the central compartment projecting forward, and the wings having a hexastyle detached colonnade of the Ionic order. The attic of the central part of the building, comprising the exterior of the Long Room, was decorated with alto and basso relievos, in panels feet inches in height, representing in a series of allegorical figures the Arts and Sciences, Commerce and Industry, and characteristic figures of the principal nations with which Great Britain holds commercial intercourse. The dial-plate, feet in diameter, was supported by colossal figures of Industry and Plenty, and the royal arms were sustained by figures of Ocean and Commerce. The Long Room was feet by . Unfortunately, the foundation of the edifice gave way, notwithstanding the pains which had been taken to render it secure. In the Report of a Parliamentary Committee in , on the duties connected with the Office of Works and Public Buildings, the failure of the building is somewhat harshly noticed. It is said that

the fraudulent and scandalous manner in which the foundation of the New

Custom House

was laid, occasioned, by its total failure in


, a charge of no less than




, in addition to the original expenditure of



The total cost of the edifice has therefore amounted altogether to nearly half a million sterling. The Long Room and the central part of the building were taken down and the foundations relaid, but the other parts remain as built by Mr. Laing. The figures just described, which decorated the principal front, were removed; but though there is greater plainness, the simplicity is pleasing. if not majestic. As the breadth of the quay is not equal


to the height of the building, it is not seen to advantage from that point, but the bridge or the middle of the river affords a better view. The river front is feet in length, or feet longer than the Post Office, and exceeding by feet the .
At the present time nearly -half of the customs of the United Kingdom are collected in the port of London; and or years ago the proportion exceeded -half. The amount collected in was , and the total collection of the United Kingdom was The nearest approach to London are the customs at Liverpool, which in were The total expenses of collection are above a million sterling for the customs of Great Britain, and above a quarter of a million for those of Ireland, being about per cent. for the former and rather more than per cent. for the latter. The expense of collecting the excise duties is above per cent. for Great Britain. About -half of the persons employed in the civil service of the country are in the customs, the number in this department in being about , and at present above a million sterling is paid in salaries. Not only is the immense business of its own port conducted at the London , but the Board of Commissioners which sits there has all the out-ports in the United Kingdom under its superintendence. From them it receives reports, and instructions from this central board are issued to them in return. The is of the oldest sources of statistical information; and under the inspector-general of imports and exports clerks are continually engaged in recording the facts and figures which illustrate the commercial movement of the


country, the result of their labours being frequently printed and made public by order of Parliament. In the reign of Charles II. the Privy Council for Trade urged the Commissioners of Customs

to enter the several commodities which formed the exports and imports; to affix to each its usual price, and to form a general total by calculating the value of the whole.

The official persons on the establishment thought that such a task was impossible, and it was not executed until , when the office of inspector-general of imports and exports was established; and the ledger, which records their value, was kept. The


rates of valuation still in use were adopted at the same time. The Act of rendered it imperative for all goods exported and imported to be entered in the books, whether by tale, weight, or measure, &c., with the prices affixed. From that date, when any article came to be exported or imported for the time, the price presumed to be the then current value was entered in the books, which price ever after remained invariable. For example, when cotton goods were exported for the time, the price they then bore was entered in the books, and that price is still attached to all goods exported of the same description. This is what is denominated the official value; but it soon became no measure of the current value of the articles, although it continued without any check until . In that year the government of the time imposed a convoy duty of per cent., , upon all mercantile commodities exported; and, to do this equitably, every shipper of goods was compelled to make a declaration of their then actual value. This is what is denominated the

declared or real value.

There is at present a daily publication, called the

Bill of Entry,

which is prepared and issued at the for the purpose of affording information respecting the quantity of imports and exports, and of the arrival and clearance of ships.

Besides the warehouses and cellars, there are about distinct apartments in the , in which the officers of each department transact their business. The object to be accomplished by the architect, and which, as he tells us, he kept constantly in view, was a judicious classification and combination of offices and departments so as to ensure contiguity and convenience, and at the same time to present such accommodation as was demanded by the peculiar purposes for which each was required. All the rooms are perfectly plain, with the exception of the Board Room, which is slightly decorated, and contains paintings of George III. and George IV., the latter by Sir Thomas Lawrence. The Long Room is of course the principal object of interest, being probably the largest apartment in Europe of the kind. The length is feet, width feet, and height between and feet. It is not a gallery, where the eye embraces at once the whole width and length, but here, as the architect has pointed out, the eye cannot take in both the length and width at the same time, and consequently is at fault as to the comparative dimensions. The present room is not so handsome as the taken down after the failure of the foundation. The walls and ceiling are tinted to resemble stone, and the floor is of wood. The room is warmed by very handsome stoves on Dr. Arnot's principle. The cellars in the basement form a groined crypt or undercroft, built in the most substantial manner and fire-proof; the walls are of extraordinary thickness; and a temperature is constantly maintained which is most suitable for wines and spirits, those


which are seized by the officers of the being kept here. The King's Warehouse is on the ground-floor, and of great extent, and with its diagonal-ribbed arches presents a fine appearance in the interior. The public entrance to the is on the northern front, and leads to a double flight of steps. On the southern side there is an entrance for the officers and clerks from the quay and river.
The number of officers and clerks for whom accommodation is provided in the is about , and there are as many more whose business is chiefly out of doors, and who are in daily communication with the establishment. The inspectors of the river superintend the tide-surveyors, tide-waiters, and watermen, and appoint them to their respective duties for, the day; and each of these inspectors attends in rotation at Gravesend. The tide-surveyors visit ships reported inwards, or which are proceeding outwards, to see that the tide-waiters who are put on board discharge their duty in a proper manner. The tide-waiters remain on board until the cargo is discharged, if the vessel is entering inwards; and in those outward bound they continue until they are cleared at Gravesend. The landing officers, under the superintendence of the landing surveyors, attend the quays and docks, and take an account of goods as they are landed; and on the receipt of warrants showing that the duties are paid, they permit the delivery of goods for home consumption. The officers of the coast department attend to the arrival and departure of vessels between the port of London and the outports; and give permits for landing their cargoes, and take


bonds for the delivery, at the place of destination, of goods sent coastwise. They appoint the coast-waiters to attend the shipping and discharging of all coastwise goods. The searchers superintend the shipping of goods intended for foreign export, the entries for which, after being passed in the Long Room, are placed in their hands, and they examine the packages at their discretion, to ascertain if they correspond. The number of supernumeraries is very large, as the amount of business is dependent on the season or on the weather. When the wind blows from a particular quarter, and the arrival of ships is very large, there are sometimes as many as persons employed in the business of the between Gravesend and . The principal officers for the collection of the revenues are collectors, inwards and outwards; comptrollers in each of these departments, and also surveyors. The duties are computed by their deputies or assistants, and the heads of the department administer the various oaths. The business of the in-door department of the , so far as relates to the importation and exportation of goods, is all transacted in the Long Room. The officers and clerks of the Long Room, about in number, may be said to form divisions :--the inward department, with its collector, clerks of rates, clerks of ships' entries, computers of duties, receivers of plantation duties, wine duties, &c.; the outward department, with its cocket writers, &c.; and the coast department. An officer of the Trinity House is accommodated in the Long Room with a desk and counter for the more convenient collection of lighthouse dues. The class of persons to be seen in the Long Room are shipbrokers and shipowners, and their clerks, who report arrivals and obtain clearances; the skippers themselves are frequently seen for the same object; and wholesale merchants, who have goods to import or export, to place in bond or to re-export. The officers of the room occupy a space extending along each side of the sides, within which they have their desks. On the whole, it is a place which. every person should visit at least once in their lives.

The progress of an article of foreign merchandise through the Customs to the warehouse or shop of the dealer is briefly as follows:--, on the arrival of the ship at Gravesend tide-waiters are put on board and remain until she reaches the appointed landing-place. The goods are reported and entered at the , and a warrant is transmitted to the landing-waiters, who superintend the unloading of the cargo. A landing-waiter is specially appointed to each ship. Officers under him, some of whom are gaugers, examine, weigh, and ascertain the contents of the several packages, and enter an account of them. These operations are subject to the daily inspection of superior officers. When warehoused the goods are in charge of a locker, who is under the warehouse-keeper. When goods are delivered for home consumption the locker receives a warrant from the certifying that the duties have been paid; he then looks out the goods and the warehouse-keeper signs the warrant. When foreign or colonial goods are exported the process is more complicated. The warehouse-keeper makes out a

re-weighing slip;

a landing-waiter examines the goods, which continue in charge of the locker, and a cocket, with a certificate from the proper officers at the , is his authority for their delivery. The warehouse-keeper signs this document, and a counterpart of the cocket, called a

shipping bill,

is prepared by the exporting merchant. The goods pass from


the warehouse-keeper into the hands of the searcher, who directs a tide-waiter to receive them at the water-side and to attend their shipment, taking an account of the articles; and he remains on board until the vessel reaches Gravesend, when she is visited by a searcher stationed there; the tide-waiter is discharged and the vessel proceeds; but before her final clearance the master delivers to the searcher a document called

a content,

being a list of the goods on board, and which is compared with the cocket. It is then only that the cargo can be fairly said to be out of the hands of the officers. When British produce and manufactures are exported the course pursued is somewhat similar, the chief difference being that they are not, as in the case of foreign merchandise, exported from the bonding warehouse. The description and value of the merchandise is set forth, together with a declaration of its value. In cases where any export duty is payable, this declaration becomes the foundation upon which its amount is levied; and correctness in this matter is provided for, since, on the hand, the merchant is interested in not over-valuing his shipment: while, on the other, it is the duty of the revenue officers to prevent any under valuation being affixed, and if, in this respect, the correctness of the merchant is suspected, to subject the goods to seizure, by tendering him the value which he himself puts upon them. In cases where no export duty is payable, the declaration of value is equally required, and, as the party is then without any temptation to give false returns, it is reasonable to believe that none such are made. In every case the goods themselves are subjected to proper examination, and their quantities accurately taken, either by weight, or tale, or measure, according to their nature. In addition to this, a document is prepared, technically called a cocket, for which the previous bill of entry is the foundation, and on the back of this cocket the fullest particulars of the transaction are recorded, while any unintentional errors of the merchant are rectified; so that this document, a copy of which remains in the , becomes, in all respects, a full and authentic register of the shipment.

Previous to the statutes relating to the customs had accumulated from the reign of Edward I. to the number of ; and were, as might be expected, a mass of contradiction and confusion which puzzled the most experienced, and were highly injurious to the interests of commerce. The country is indebted to Mr. Huskisson, and to the late Mr. J. D. Hume of the , and afterwards of the Board of Trade, for a comprehensive revision of these statutes, and their consolidation into acts. The acts for the regulation and management of the customs were still further simplified by several statutes passed in ; and at the present time it is probable that further steps are about to be taken in the same direction, though rather with reference to the duties than to the means by which they are collected. of the acts passed in enumerates not fewer than different rates of duty chargeable on imported articles, while the main source of revenue is derived from a very small number of articles. For example, the duty on articles produced, in , about per cent. of the total revenue of customs, the duties on other articles being not only comparatively unproductive, but vexatious, and a hindrance to the merchants, shipowners, and others. In the above year, articles were productive of / per cent. of the total customs revenue.



The occasional importation of articles which are not enumerated in the tariff of duties is often productive of amusing perplexity. Mr. Huskisson mentioned a case of this nature when he brought forward the plans of consolidation already mentioned. A gentleman had imported a mummy from Egypt, and the officers of customs were not a little puzzled by this non-enumerated article. These remains of mortality, muscles and sinews, pickled and preserved years ago, could not be deemed a raw material, and therefore, upon deliberation, it was determined to tax them as a manufactured article. The importer, anxious that his mummy should not be seized, stated its value at ; and the declaration cost him , being at the rate of per cent. on the manufactured merchandise which he was about to import. Mr. Huskisson reduced the duties on non-enumerated manufactured articles from to per cent., and of non-enumerated unmanufactured articles from to per cent. A: somewhat similar case has been recently mentioned in Parliament, relating to an importation of ice from Norway. A doubt was started what duty it ought to pay, and the point was referred from the to the Treasury, and from the Treasury to the Board of Trade; and it was ultimately decided that the ice might be introduced on the payment of the duty on dry goods; but, as of the speakers remarked,

The ice was dissolved before the question was solved.



[n.401.1] France, by H. L. Bulwer.

[n.405.1] Pictorial History of England, vol. ii. p. i I.

[n.409.1] Mr. Laing remarks in a note- These distinct lines of walling, with the distances at which they were respectively found, and the different levels implied by these distances, suggest important reflections on the ancient state of the river, and on the levels to which the water rose, at high tide, anciently. It is evident that, if it rose fifteen or twenty feet higher at the Custom House, it would rise proportionably higher at Dowgate, and into the sinus formed by the liver Fleet, where it would naturally constitute a considerable lock or body of water and mud, extending much beyond Holborn Bridge northward, and up much of the present Fleet street westward. It would follow that Lud-Gate, when first built, though high on the ascent, was but at a convenient distance, as a gate of entrance, from the water in the river Fleet; and that the city walls, following the course of the ground, though the water has now removed from them, were placed, with the utmost propriety and good judgment, in the most advantageous position for defence. Mr. Laing's work was published in 1818.

[n.416.1] Debate in the House of Lords, Feb. 15, 1842.