Newry was always a ‘border’ town – at first as a monastic settlement ….
… then under Bagenal on the border of the Gaelic chieftains’ territory. Thereafter it was on the border of the English Pale – and in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, on the border with the Irish Free State/Republic. In every instance it was able to exact taxes – or customs – from its hinterland, its imports and exports.
As a consequence there were over time a variety of Customs buildings in different locations. Some reflect the different modes of transport over time.
The oldest of living memory was the large Customs House on Kilmorey Street, below Quay Street – it later became the Bridewell prison – that catered for goods carried by river. There was another on Merchants Quay for goods carried by canal. In more recent times there was a Customs Post at the border at Carrickcarnon. Later the huge facility at Carnbane was built – quickly becoming redundant as the European Community harmonised tariffs. Today it is workplace for a small number of VAT collectors.