Customs House History

A rare survivor from Middlesbrough’s early days and pre-Victorian in design, this dignified property in St. Hilda’s area has served a wide variety of purposes during its long lifetime in defiance of the winds of change. Middlesbrough Exchange Association held their first meeting on Wednesday 9th September 1835, at the Fleece Inn, Darlington.

Their new premises in Middlesbrough, designed by G. Burlison of Darlington in Greek Revival style, is a two-story building of brick faced on its north and east sides with sandstone ashlar, with a Welsh slate roof.

Costing £4,500 to build, it originally opened in August 1837 as a Coal Exchange compromising offices, public rooms and a residential hotel. Known as the Exchange Hotel, at the corner of North Street and Commercial Street, the venture proved unprofitable and was sold in 1853 to the newly formed Middlesbrough Borough Council.

Among its distinguishing guests as an hotel, Middlesbrough’s first royal visitor, H.R.H. the Duke of Sussex, an uncle of Queen Victoria, attended a banquet there in October, 1838.

Acquisitioned by the Council, the premises became known as Corporation Hall and were adapted to accommodate the Council Chamber, justices’ rooms, the residence of the Superintendent of Police and eight lock-up cells.

The building’s longest lasting change in use came when on 29th October 1881 it was sold to H.M. Customs and Excise to become their local headquarters. Pressure brought to bear on the Council caused them to move in September, 1886, followed in the next month by the Police, into the new Municipal Buildings, then still unfinished.

For about ninety years it served as a Custom House until becoming a Community and Recreation Centre early in 1981 when £120,000 was spent on cleaning and renovating this grade two listed building.

Taken from Central Middlesbrough Part 1 by Paul Stephenson, page 21 & 22

Below is a list of the key dates relating to the Customs House, the wonderful home of Myplace-Middlesbrough.

1836 Designed as a Coal Exchange and Hotel
1837 Opened
1838 First exchange meeting
First Royal Visitor, H. R. H. the Duke of Sussex
1840 Public dinner to Celebrate the marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
1854 Purchased by Corporation, become Corporation Hall Council Chamber, Justices Rooms and Police / Lock-up cells
1857 First Petty Sessional Court held
1881 Purchased by H M Customs and Excise
1886 Council and Police move out
1972 Grade II Listed Building
1981 Becomes a Community and Recreation Centre
Late 80s / Early 90s Disability rights and Training organisation Ce Demp move in
Mid 90s St Hilda’s Partnership move in
2001 St Hilda’s Partnership move out – building falls into disrepair
2009 Middlesbrough Council successful in getting a £4.3 million bid from the Lottery in making Customs House into a World Class Youth Facility.
2012 Doors opened for the new Youth Facility which is now known as myPlace-Middlesbrough


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