Our History

Adapted by Victor H. Sammut B.Sc., Senior Customs Analyst, from an article entitled "The Custom House" written by the late Chev. Joseph Borg K.M., Ph.C., L.P., and published in the quarterly review "Scientia" of April-June 1974.

The foundation block of the Malta Custom House was laid directly in the sea of the Grand Harbour just under the Lascaris Bastions in 1774. The magnificent and monumental building, the work of Luqa architect Joseph Bonnici (1707—1779) is one of the very few Government edifices which still serves the purpose for which it was constructed. Custom House at the Marina was officially inaugurated by the French Grandmaster Fra Emmanuel Marie de Rohan Polduc on the 27th July 1776 who was responsible for the completion of the building at his own expense. Count Augustine Formosa de Fremaux was appointed as Superintendent of Revenue or Vectigalibus Praefecto. A marble slab commemorating this event is affixed on the landing of the main staircase of the Custom House. It is of interest to record that the original marble slab then on the entrance leading to the former Customs Long Room and facing the main staircase was broken when the Custom House was damaged during World War II. A very fine multi-coloured inlaid marble slab with the coat-of-arms bearing the closed royal crown of Grandmaster De Rohan, now laying in a Customs store room, was reputedly to have been fixed along this marble slab.

The walls of Malta’s Custom House, many up to twelve feet thick, were built up to first floor level with coralline limestone to resist the damaging effect of sea spray. Normal globigerina limestone was used for the upper part. The lower floor is vaulted and the upper rooms have flat ceilings. It is also recorded that the facade overlooking the Grand Harbour was originally decorated with the coat-of-arms in stone of the same Grandmaster De Rohan with the figures of two mermaids on each side supporting a large frieze above them. It is thought that this coat-of-arms was obliterated along with many others by Napoleon, with the remaining part being destroyed by the action of strong north-east winds.

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