The Custom House, constructed in 1680, stands as a testament to Exeter's thriving woollen cloth industry during its prime. Today, this impressive building serves as an engaging visitor centre and the meeting point for Exeter Red Coat Guided Tours.
Exeter has been home to a quay since the Roman era. Rival merchants constructed weirs across the river near Topsham in the 13th and 14th centuries to prevent cargo from reaching Exeter. In response, John Trew built the first stretch of the Exeter Canal between 1564 and 1566 to bring cargo closer to the city. This increase in trade led to the construction of the Custom House, which now features a captivating visitor centre, complete with a sweeping staircase and ornate plaster ceilings.
The visitor centre showcases interactive displays, illustrations, and artefacts that bring Exeter's Quayside history to life. Visitors can explore models and items from the cloth industry, such as "tenter hooks and tillet blocks," while an immersive audiovisual presentation titled "Exeter, 2000 Years of History" highlights the city's evolution from Roman times to the present day.
Throughout the year, the Custom House hosts a diverse range of arts and cultural events and activities, including temporary exhibitions. Since 2019, it has served as a literature hub for Quay Words, offering a stimulating program that delves into stories and writing. To learn more, visit the Exeter Custom House website.
At the Custom House Visitor Centre, information primarily revolves around the Quayside, the River Exe, and the Historic Ship Canal. The centre also provides information about the broader city area, ensuring visitors have an enjoyable experience exploring Exeter. Details about local attractions, activities, and events can be found at the centre.
Visitors can also find unique Exeter souvenirs, such as replica maps, local pottery, and heritage books.
For more information, visit the Custom House website
The Custom House Visitor Centre is supported by the Exeter Canal & Quay Trust.