The New Custom House, Mumbai, India, by George Wittet (1878-1926), Consulting Architect to the Government of Bombay. Source: Kamath 69. A new custom house was needed for "the transaction of Custom business on completion of new [Alexandra] Docks" which were then under construction ("Historical Background"). The foundation stone was laid in 1913, and the building finally opened in 1924. It was built with reinforced concrete, a pioneering use of this material in India (see Basu) and stands on the reclaimed foreshore filled during the excavations for the docks.

It is worth noting that Wittet laid out the whole of the Ballard Estate on this reclaimed land, an enormous project which provided a grand total of "forty three blocks of handsome office buildings, all designed in keeping, and broad, well-kept thoroughfare" (Kamath 99). This made the area a particularly impressive part of town, a testimony to its status as the economic hub of India.

The New Custom House itself was "one of the most striking of Bombay's public buildings of that period" (Kamath 99). According to Alok Jha, it "drew elements from native Indo-Islamic and Indian architecture, and combined it with the Gothic revival and Neo-Classical styles favoured in Victorian Britain." However, the predominant style is that of the neo-classicism which predominated in Edwardian England. Basu adds, very fairly: "Public and Government buildings were often rendered on an intentionally grand scale, reflecting and promoting a notion of an unassailable and invincible British Empire. New Custom House bears testimony to this invincibility."

The photograph in Kamath comes from the archives of the Mumbai Port Trust, which kindly allows material on its website to be reproduced free of charge without requiring specific permission. Image download and text by Jacqueline Banerjee.


"Historical Background of Mumbai Customs and Mumbai Port." Mumbai Customs Zone — 1. Web. 14 March 2018.

Jha, Alok. "New Custom House, Mumbai: 1913-2013." The Free Press Journal. Web. 14 March 2018.

Kamath, M. V. Tides of Time (History of Bombay Port). Mumbiai: Mumbai Port Trust, 2000. Available as a pdf from Mumbai Port Trust website. Web. 14 March 2018.

Sheppard, Samuel T. Bombay. Bombay: Times of India Press, 1932. Internet Archive. Digital Library of India. Web. 14 March 2018.

Created 14 March 2018