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Historic Custom House open again to visitors

Published: 14 September 2020

Custom House Exeter Custom House

Exeter’s historic Custom House is open to the public once again down on the quayside.

The historic building is now a visitor centre and this week is taking part in the Heritage Open Days initiative.

The Custom House Visitor Centre is open from 11am until 4pm, seven days a week.

This week there will be a chance to see a camera obscura at the Custom House and view a series of large scale photographic prints of the quayside, along with a video film of the process, that were captured in recent weeks.

The images have been taken by photographer Brendan Barry and the exhibition, which has been funded by the Exeter Canal and Quay Trust is part of Heritage Open Days running across the city.

The Custom House was built in 1680 and was the first one of its kind in England. It was built in response to the increasing trade in wool within the city and materials arriving at the quayside via the Exeter Ship Canal. It was operated by HM Customs until 1989 and recently became a visitor centre.

Closed during the Coronavirus pandemic, the historic building is one again open to the public but with a number of restrictions in place.

Social gathering rules apply and only a limited number of people are allowed in the building at one time. Visitors are required to wear face coverings when inside the building and there is a one-way system in place.

The building houses lively displays and illustrations and artefacts bring the history and development of Exeter’s Quayside to life. As well as models and items from the cloth industry such as tenter hooks and tillet blocks, there is an audiovisual presentation ‘Exeter, 2000 years of history’ highlighting Exeter’s history from Roman times until today.

The centre provides tourist information and interesting souvenirs of Exeter, including replica maps and local pottery.

To find out more about Heritage Open Days and the programme of events, visit the website at

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