PortCities London

The Customs Service

A brief history of the customs

The first customs duties

Edward I halfpenny.
View full size imageEdward I halfpenny. © NMM

The English customs system was created by Edward I, although there had been earlier taxes on goods moving through the ports.

His 'Great Custom' of 1275 imposed duties on wool, leather and hides exported through London and 13 other ports. Controllers and local officials oversaw the collection of the dues.


Tudor improvements

Henry VII, 1457-1509.
View full size imageHenry VII. © NMM
The customs system was improved steadily under the Tudors. Henry VII encouraged the growth of foreign trade, and raised the level of duties in 1507. Customs revenue increased under his reign, and his cautious approach to finances meant