Customs House, Brisbane

The Moreton Bay district of what is now the state of Queensland was officially opened to free settlement in 1842 and growth of the Port of Brisbane quickly followed. The Colony of New South Wales declared Brisbane a 'Port of Entry and Clearance' in 1846. The original Custom House was built in 1849 at a bend in the Brisbane River known as Petrie's Bight. It was demolished in 1886 at the commencement of construction of the new Custom House, which was completed in 1889. This building was used for Customs operations in Brisbane for the next 100 years. Originally referred to as 'Custom House', it has been referred to as 'Customs House' since Federation in 1901.

The changing face of Customs House

The building has had minor changes and repairs over its life, with major internal alterations in the late 1940s and a major restoration in the early 1990s. The National Archives office in Brisbane holds a number of plans, files and photographs that document the changes in Customs House.

Plans and drawings

Selected series of plans detailing architectural work, siting, design, repairs, maintenance and alterations relating to Customs House are listed below. Digital copies of plans held in series BP 374/1 may be viewed on our RecordSearch database.

Collection references

Title or description of record Date range Series number
Architectural plans 1863–1948 J2774
Architectural plans 1878–1959 J2698
Architectural plans 1959–88 J344
Original drawings, prints, negatives, tracings and sketches of plans of works carried out for Commonwealth Departments in Queensland 1878–1971 BP227/1
Plans of customs buildings – Queensland 1896–1942 BP365/1
Plans of Brisbane Customs House 1950–72 BP374/1

Repairs and alterations

The Brisbane office holds correspondence files relating to the Department of Works, and the Property and Survey Branch. They document various works carried out on Commonwealth buildings and include specifications, alterations, improvements and repairs. The series below contain records relevant to the Brisbane Customs House.

Collection references

Title or description of record Date range Series number
Specification of works 1869–1913 BP269/1
Property correspondence files 1902–98 J56
Works files 1939–50 BP243/1
Director of Works job files 1949–76 BP881/1


Because of the prominent location and iconic status of Brisbane Customs House, photographs – including images of the original building – are found in a number of photographic collections held by the National Archives. Selected samples are listed below. 


Title or description of record Date range Series number
Photographs of Brisbane Customs House 1890–1976 J2218


Title or description of record Date range Series number
Historic photographs collected by the Postmaster-General's Department, Queensland 1846–1992 J3109
Photographic collection of postal and telegraphic services in Queensland 1880–1991 J2364