Customs House designed by Sir Charles Lanyon (1813-1889). 1856. Belfast, Ulster, Northern Ireland. Although most online sources in Northern Ireland attribute the building to Lanyon, one credits Samuel Ferris. Both 1856 and 1857 are given as the building's date. The Customs House in the High Italian Renaissance or "Palazzo" style is the finest neoclassical building in Belfast.

On the side facing the river are carved angels and classical deities representing Manufacture, Commerce, Industry and Peace, while the central figures in the pediment are Britannia, Neptune and Mercury. This elegant building conveys the power of the British Empire under Victoria and the commercial success of Belfast as it expanded rapidly in the 19th century. The steps of the Customs House formerly distinguished themselves as the chosen forum for public debate and for many years religious, political and social speakers addressed audiences here up to the 1950s. []

Left: Detail of the front elevation. Right: Front elevation (with skateboarders). [Click on images to enlarge them.]

The Customs House has literary associations with novelist Anthony Trollope, who worked here briefly before being transferred to Dublin. When working in the Post Office in Ireland, Trollope was promoted to the position of Surveyor in 1853 and spent the next eighteen months as an administrator of the postal system in the island's northern counties. He and his family probably lived on the Lisburn Road, south of the town's centre, and then moved to White-abbey, north of Belfast. Here he completed the first of his Barsetshire Novels, The Warden, in 1855.

T. Fitzpatrick's Pediment: Britannia, Neptune, and Mercury. The three figures represent the U. K., the oceans it rules, and commerce.

Photographs and text by Philip V. Allingham 2006. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


"Customs House: One of Belfast's Finest Buildings.""30 August 2006.

Last modified 7 September 2006