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Dublin: 7°C Wednesday 26 January 2022

One of Dublin's most iconic buildings is taking a trip down memory lane

A new exhibition explores the role Custom House played while Ireland fought for independence.

Flewett Collection Kilmainham Gaol Archive The Custom House Source: Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs

CUSTOM HOUSE’S VISITOR Centre is once again open to members of the public.

The re-opening of the centre last Thursday is part of a longer term project to provide public access to one of Dublin’s most iconic buildings.

The Custom House was designed by renowned architect James Gandon and was completed in 1791 after a 10-year construction period.

As part of the Decade of Centenaries initiative – which marks a hugely significant period in Irish history – an exhibition running at the centre describes events in the building during Easter Week 1916.

It explores the history of the Custom House and its occupants from then until 1921, when the building was completely destroyed by a fire during the War of Independence.

The Custom House stands directly across from Liberty Hall, which was the base of the Irish Citizen Army during the Rising, and beside Butt Bridge, the then last crossing-point of the River Liffey, and is fewer than 400 metres from the GPO itself. Despite this, the building didn’t play a huge role in the Easter Rising.

The exhibition considers this and explores other links between Custom House and historical events of the period.

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90363903 The Custom House today Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

The four main elements of the exhibition are:

  • Telling the story of the architect James Gandon and the construction of the Custom House, with his desk as part of the exhibition
  • 1916, including the stories of some local government staff who were dismissed for participating in the Rising, Bureau of Military History statements of prisoners held in the Custom House after the Rising, and other activity in the area
  • Met Éireann’s weather-themed room looks at the development of scientific meteorology in Ireland with a special focus on the weather of Easter Week 1916 and on 25 May 1921, when the Custom House was attacked
  • The fire of 1921 and subsequent restoration

Some of the well-known former staff of the Custom House include entertainer Percy French who was an inspector of drainage schemes under the Board of Works; novelist and humourist Brian O’Nolan aka Myles na gCopaleen or Flann O’Brien, and novelist Maurice Walsh whose short story The Quiet Man was the plot for the classic John Ford film.

Admission is free and more information can be read here.

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Órla Ryan

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