Location: 65-67 Commercial Street
This is an A listed neo-classical Georgian building in the Greek Doric style.As a busy seaport since before the 13th Century Leith had its own customs facilities in order that the monarch’s agents could collect taxes from ships’ cargoes on import and export.
The original “Custom House” was located within the nearby King’s Wark (or fortification) and dated from the 1430’s. A separate “new” Custom House was opened in 1812 to dominate the harbour entrance and streamline the collection of customs and excise. (A plaque on the wall confusingly identifies it as the “old” Custom House.)
It continued to do so until 1980 when it was taken over by National Museums of Scotland who used it as a store until 2014.
Edinburgh Council acquired the building in 2015 and appointed Scottish Historical Buildings Trust to lead its regeneration and restoration. The initial focus has been to make the building wind and watertight and repurposed it as a Community Hub with galleries and a café. Multi-million pound plans are now afoot for more extensive remodelling which will improve gallery space, add studios and provide a local heritage centre.
The diverse outlets which the Custom House now houses have employed many staff from various countries in the European Union. Perhaps unsurprising then that one bench has a plaque, manufactured on-site, reading “In Loving Memory of the EU”.
Find out more about Leith Custom House at this link.
Continue along Commercial Street over the bridge over the Water of Leith for about 50 metres. The Kings Wark (now a pub) is at the cross roads with the street called The Shore.
Picture Credits: Denise Fisher, Bill Rodger/Edinburgh4Europe 2021