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
Thomas Rowlandson, caricaturist and draughtsman, attended the Royal Academy Schools. After his studies he worked in watercolours and developed a style influenced by Gainsborough and French Rococo art. From 1784 he received commissions for publications and later gained the patronage of the Prince of Wales. He also produced satirical images, illustrating well-known scandals and characters. Despite gaining a substantial inheritance in 1789, by 1793 he was in poverty. However, his financial worries eased when he received commissions from Ackermann, which led to his involvement with A. C. Pugin in ‘The Microcosm of London’. Rowlandson later produced sketches for the adventures of ‘Dr Syntax’ (1812-21), also published by Ackermann.