Customs House, Sydney – Fact sheet 23

Customs House on Alfred Street, Circular Quay, built between 1844 and 1855 in Sydney, New South Wales
Customs House - Sydney NSW (A6180, 11/8/76/6)

There has been a customs house in Sydney since 1800 when Governor King first established that revenue from imported goods should be collected. However, it was not until 1885 that the building we know today as Customs House, Sydney was built. It opened in 1887 to commence over 100 years of service as the head office of the Collector of Customs in New South Wales.

When the Commonwealth Government took over the function of customs in 1901, Customs House, Sydney, continued to operate as the head office of New South Wales operations until 1988. It was finally closed down on 15 June 1990.

The changing face of Customs House

The National Archives office in Sydney holds a number of photographs, plans, and albums of newspaper cuttings which document the changes in Customs House and its place in the growth of Sydney in general.

Photographs, plans and newspaper cuttings

Documenting Customs House

Correspondence files relating to Customs House are also held. The information in these files documents the transfer of Customs House from State to Commonwealth ownership, work on the building, and the different uses to which the building was put. During its years of service a number of departments occupied Customs House, including the Department of Taxation and the Royal Australian Air Force.

Correspondence files

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesSpecifications, Director of Works1895–1950SP155/1
ItemSpecifications for interior alterations1908SP155/1, NSW1192 MISC
ItemSpecifications for demolition and removal of air aid shelters1946Sp155/1, MISC19566H
SeriesCorrespondence – acquisition and sale of land and property by Commonwealth in NSW1901–48SP394/1
ItemCustoms House, Sydney – construction1901–02SP394/1, 1902/16972
ItemCustoms House, Sydney – ownership1905SP394/1, 1905/00168
ItemCustoms House, Sydney – accommodation for departments1902–07SP394/1, B1907/685
ItemCustoms House – accommodation for departments1903–09SP394/1, B1909/2296
ItemCustoms House – accommodation for departments1910–12SP394/1, NL1912/2899
SeriesCorrespondence Files of the Chief Property Officer1920–57SP228/1
ItemNSW Customs House accommodation1915–59SP228/1, CL10526
SeriesCorrespondence re General Departmental Property1924–59SP857/10
ItemRearrangement of accommodation1940–42SP857/10, PR/41/303
ItemEastern Area RAAF Map Section accommodation: 4th floor Customs House1942SP857/10, PR/42/675
ItemProposed accommodation, Newspaper and Paper Control Section of Division of Import Procurement1944SP857/10, PR/44/1186
ItemCustoms House: parking on square1944–59SP857/10, PR/44/1229
SeriesSpecifications, Director of works1947–53SP277/1
ItemInstallation of electric light and power1953SP277/1, MISC22265/16
ItemCompressed air and vacuum services in laboratories1953SP277/1,MISC22292/16
ItemHeating and ventilation systems in laboratories1953SP277/1,MISC22301/16
SeriesFiles created by the Australian Customs Service1920–91C4359
ItemCustoms House – proposals for future use1960–73C4359, N73/14435

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019