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AHS advises Rockhampton City Council on maintenance and heritage protection of the iconic Rockhampton Customs House


Rockhampton Customs House is rightly celebrated for its architectural aesthetics, with the iconic building retaining its prominent place along the Quay Street riverfront.

While the site owes its historical significance to Rockhampton’s flourishing as one of Queensland’s most important early cities, Rockhampton Customs House has been re-purposed frequently since the end of its role as a customs office.

AHS was asked by Rockhampton City Council to prepare a new Conservation Management Plan (CMP) for the site which includes the Customs House building, the Bond Store and former stables.

In addition to providing heritage advice about ongoing maintenance for the site, AHS also considered proposed works to the Bond Store excluding the development of the adjacent building at 212 Quay Street.

The Rockhampton Customs House CMP is one of many recent projects that we have successfully delivered for our valued client Rockhampton City Council, however this is undoubtedly our most prestigious project in Rockhampton, given the building’s nationally recognised status.

Queensland’s second largest river port

The first Europeans to settle in the Rockhampton area arrived in 1853. A brief gold rush in nearby Canoona and the emerging pastoral economy saw Rockhampton proclaimed as a town and declared a ‘port of entry’ in 1858 with land already set aside as a Customs Reserve on Quay Street.

Despite the lack of a deep natural harbour, Rockhampton became established as Queensland’s second largest river port by the 1890s. During this period the town’s first two Customs House buildings were constructed but became inadequate due to size limitations and structural issues.

The third Customs House, which stands today, was constructed between 1899 and 1901. It is attributed to Thomas Pye and George Payne – although Pye designed the building, Payne is considered to be responsible for many of its innovative and unique details.

At the time Thomas Pye was considered to be the Department of Public Works’ finest architect. His other significant work includes the Lands Administration and Treasury buildings in Brisbane.

Undated view of Rockhampton Customs House, Queensland State Archives


Muntz metal panelled dome and sandstone drum

The Rockhampton Customs House is a substantial sandstone and rendered brick building which is set back from Quay Street on a wide frontage.

A portico extends centrally from the facade to create the main public entrance, with Corinthian columns forming a semi-circular colonnade. Two symmetrical arcades with rusticated sandstone facing flank the portico on the upper floor.

The Muntz metal panelled dome and sandstone drum projecting above the parapet is one of Rockhampton Customs House’s most impressive architectural elements.

This prominent dome and drum are features shared with Queensland’s best-known Customs House which is located on Queen Street in Brisbane. Both were constructed using similar classical forms, defining the style of early customs service buildings in the state.

Details of the Muntz metal dome and sandstone drum


A powerful connection to the Fitzroy River

The AHS team found that many elements of the Rockhampton Customs House are of primary heritage significance, with none being more vital than the views of the site within the local streetscape and from the Fitzroy River.

The building’s form, including its height, wide frontage and prominent dome, retains a powerful connection to the river and the city’s former port which is befitting of its original purpose within the customs service.

These views and vistas are of exceptional importance to Rockhampton and also to the wider region, so any future changes to the local streetscape should be carefully managed.

The Art Gallery, which is proposed on an adjacent site at 212 Quay Street, presents an outstanding opportunity for adaptive re-use of the Customs House by creating connections to the new development. This could allow for cultural and gallery-related functions to be located within the Long Room and other internal spaces.

To discover how we may be able to assist on your next project, contact us today here or phone (07) 3221 0000. You can also connect with us on LinkedIn.

Contemporary view of Rockhampton Customs House

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The Challenge

The first Europeans to settle in the Rockhampton area arrived in 1853. A brief gold rush in nearby Canoona and the emerging pastoral economy saw Rockhampton proclaimed as a town and declared a ‘port of entry’ in 1858 with land already set aside as a Customs Reserve on Quay Street.

Despite the lack of a deep natural harbour, Rockhampton became established as Queensland’s second largest river port by the 1890s. During this period the town’s first two Customs House buildings were constructed but became inadequate due to size limitations and structural issues.

The third Customs House, which stands today, was constructed between 1899 and 1901. It is attributed to Thomas Pye and George Payne – although Pye designed the building, Payne is considered to be responsible for many of its innovative and unique details.

At the time Thomas Pye was considered to be the Department of Public Works’ finest architect. His other significant work includes the Lands Administration and Treasury buildings in Brisbane.



How we helped

The Rockhampton Customs House is a substantial sandstone and rendered brick building which is set back from Quay Street on a wide frontage.

A portico extends centrally from the facade to create the main public entrance, with Corinthian columns forming a semi-circular colonnade. Two symmetrical arcades with rusticated sandstone facing flank the portico on the upper floor.

The Muntz metal panelled dome and sandstone drum projecting above the parapet is one of Rockhampton Customs House’s most impressive architectural elements.

This prominent dome and drum are features shared with Queensland’s best-known Customs House which is located on Queen Street in Brisbane. Both were constructed using similar classical forms, defining the style of early customs service buildings in the state.

Results

The AHS team found that many elements of the Rockhampton Customs House are of primary heritage significance, with none being more vital than the views of the site within the local streetscape and from the Fitzroy River.

The building’s form, including its height, wide frontage and prominent dome, retains a powerful connection to the river and the city’s former port which is befitting of its original purpose within the customs service.

These views and vistas are of exceptional importance to Rockhampton and also to the wider region, so any future changes to the local streetscape should be carefully managed.

The Art Gallery, which is proposed on an adjacent site at 212 Quay Street, presents an outstanding opportunity for adaptive re-use of the Customs House by creating connections to the new development. This could allow for cultural and gallery-related functions to be located within the Long Room and other internal spaces.

To discover how we may be able to assist on your next project, contact us today here or phone (07) 3221 0000. You can also connect with us on LinkedIn.

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Delivering heritage services including an Archival Recording at the Coffs Harbour Forestry Building

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