The Long Room, Custom House
Coloured aquatint1 July 1808
About the work
In 1275 the first Custom House was built to administer and collect duties on imported goods at the Old Wool Quay in east London. Sir Christopher Wren designed the second Custom House (built 1669-71) in Lower Thames Street. However, in 1714 Wren's building was severely damaged when a store of gunpowder exploded nearby. It was replaced with a design by Thomas Ripley (built 1717-25; see GAC 9469), constructed on the foundations of Wren’s building. An innovation in Ripley's design was the first Long Room (seen here), where customs officials received documents.
About the artist
Augustus Charles Pugin fled to England in the 1790s, either because of his Royalism or on account of a duel. He seems to have landed in Wales, where he became a friend of the architect John Nash (1752–1835). He worked as a general artist, providing designs for Nash and painting scenery, before moving to London and studying at the Royal Academy Schools. He first exhibited architectural designs at the Academy in 1799 and, from 1807, began to exhibit at the Old Watercolour Society. Pugin worked on several projects for Rudolf Ackermann, including plates for The Microcosm of London and The Abbey Church of Westminster (1811–12). During this period he set up a school of architectural drawing and began to publish his own works. He was the father of A. W. N. Pugin, who designed the interiors of the Houses of Parliament.
Joseph Constantine Stadler was a prolific German émigré engraver of images after his contemporaries. His engravings are wide-ranging in subject matter and include landscapes, seascapes and portraits, as well as military, sporting and decorative subjects. Stadler was employed by the leading print publisher of the time, John Boydell (1720-1804). On 23 March 1799 Stadler married Ann Elizabeth Sandman at St Anne’s Church, Soho, in London. He was living in Knightsbridge when he died at the age of 73.
Thomas Rowlandson was born in London, the son of a bankrupt wool and silk merchant. He studied at the Royal Academy Schools, making a trip to Paris during his time there, and won the silver medal in 1777. During the next two decades he made several continental tours, visiting France, Italy, Germany and Holland, as well as travelling extensively in England and Wales. He exhibited from 1775 to 1787 and, in 1789, received a legacy from an aunt, which he is said to have gambled away. From 1798, much of his work was for Rudolf Ackermann, most notably his illustrations for the three Tours of Dr Syntax (published 1812, 1820, and 1821) and The Microcosm of London (1808–10). He revisited France in 1814 and Italy in about 1820. Rowland continued to work almost until the end of his life. He is most famous as a caricaturist, but his work also included figure studies, portraits, marine subjects and landscapes.