Retired Section Swansea Docks


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The items shown below were photographed by Peter Hopkins with the kind

permission of HM Revenue & Customs at Ty Nant, High Street Swansea


Coat of Arms from the former HM Customs & Excise Office at the Pierhead, Kings Dock, Swansea


Selection of HM Customs gauging, measuring, weighing, sampling and testing equipment

Selection of HM Customs gauging, measuring, weighing, sampling and testing equipment

The item bottom right is an optical instrument nicknamed a 'shuftyscope'. It was used by officers on rummage duties to see into confined enclosed spaces. It had a light source powered by batteries and a lens mounted at the end of the tube. In latter years it was superseded by the endoscope of medical fame.

Bottom left is a saccharometer hydrometer and top right is a saccarometer refractometer, these instruments are primarily used by winemakers and brewers to determine the sugar content in a solution. HMC&E would use them for revenue purposes.

The two books of tables are used in conjunction with readings taken from a Sikes's Hydrometer (not displayed), to determine the proof strength of spirits in a solution.

There is also a single glass alcoholometer (one of a set) used to determine the % of alcohol in a solution (ABV).

Note:- to convert ABV to degrees proof multiply by 7 and divide by 4 and vice versa. Therefore a bottle of scotch at 40% ABV is 70 degrees proof and pure alcohol 100% ABV is 175 degrees proof (or 75 degrees over proof).


Commissioners of Customs ‘Swansey Sail Cloth’ stamp

Commissioners of Customs ‘Swansey Sail Cloth’ stamp inverted

A framed explanation of the sail stamp (see text below)

Swansea Sail Stamp

In pre Elizabethan times best quality canvas for making ships sails was imported from France.  During the reign of Elizabeth, British craftsmen acquired the skill necessary to manufacture high quality sail cloth.  By 1604 however it was necessary to protect the trade (and seafarers) from inferior quality sail cloth masquerading as first class material.

In 1713 the existing customs duties on sails and sail cloth increased by a penny per *ell the additional yield being assigned as a subsidy on British sails or sail cloth exported.  By the time of George II this had so encouraged and developed British manufacture that it was urged that the duties payable on imported cloth should be “more effectively secured and enforced”.  In 1737 therefore an Act was passed requiring all foreign made sail cloth to be stamped at the port  of landing (after payment of the duty), and in 1746 this was extended to any British ship arriving with foreign made sails.  The Commissioners of Customs were to provide each port with a stamp so contrived “that the impression thereof may be durable, and so as the same may be least able to be forged or counterfeited”.  The stamps were to be “dipped in a liquor made of red lead well mixed with linseed oil well boiled, and the impression shall denote the place and port where the sails and sailcloth are entered”.

To the left is the stamp provided for the port of Swansey (Swansea).  The name of the port can be clearly seen; the depressions below the name of the port probably carried a distinguishing number or mark which was changed occasionally.

*ell: - A unit of Measurement mostly for measuring cloth, from fingertip of outstretched arm to opposite shoulder. -  20 nails =11/4 yards or 45inches. (One nail – three digits = 21/4 inches = 1/16 yard).


Customs & Excise weighing scales together with a burgee

(pennant) from the HM Revenue Cutter ‘Champion’




A selection of HM Customs rubber stamp impressions from Swansea,
Port Talbot, Burry Port and Pembrey

Chief Preventive officer’s uniform belonging to Swansea’s last serving CPO, Ken Colwill (1972)

The building on the left is the Custom House in Eagle Street, Port Talbot, which also housed Immigration staff.
On the right are the offices of the Port Talbot Railway & Docks Company 


The above photograph of Port Talbot Docks was taken in the early years of the 20th century. The Customs Waterguard Office, which in later years housed the Port Talbot Small Boat Club, can be seen at the tip of the funnel of the ship in the lock

 HMC&E occupied this watch house at the West Pier Swansea until about 1958, it was situated on the seaward side of the castellated pilot house.

Following HMC&E occupancy it was used by a blacksmith and then the Sea Scouts.

We Thank  Mr Rob James for giving us the two photos above.

Burry Port Dock

The photograph depicts the old Harbour Masters office on the L/H side and the hexagonal Custom House on the R/H side. There was a Customs presence in BP until about the late 1940's and people remember the old CH as a ruin in the early 1950's.

Our thanks to Michael Clement & Gaynor Mills of the Burry Port History Society for this photo


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