The foundation stone of the old custom house building was laid by Lord Hastings on 12 February 1819. It was situated on the river bank and contiguous to the anchorage of trading vessel to the port of Calcutta.
The first vessel arrived at Calcutta Dock in June 1892. It was the Portuguese who first used Garden Reach anchorage about 450 years ago. Since then Garden Reach anchorage was used on maritime activities. Lord Cornwallis developed Diamond Harbour anchorage between 1759 and 1782, while Calcutta jetties were first commissioned in the middle of the nineteenth century.
In 1899, the custom house was renovated and re-established in the same place where it was earlier erected in 1819, having an extended area of seven bighas(approx). For additional construction, land was acquired at a price of Rs.1200 per cottah during 1890-91.
The Calcutta Custom House was under the overall administrative control of a collector of custom who in later days became a member of the Imperial Customs Service. The collector of customs was subject to the control of the Board of Revenue as the chief Customs authority and in the latter half of the nineteenth century was assisted by five Assistant Collectors. The examination and valuation of goods for assessment purposes was entrusted to a staff of eighteen Appraisers, while the guarding of vessels and patrolling of the port to prevent smuggling was assigned to 205 Preventive Officers under the control of the Superintendent of Preventive services and salt department. Those officers were also in charge of the discharge of cargo, the loading and unloading of salt at the warehouses, etc. The normal import duty was five per cent either ad valorem or on a tariff valuation where the value was fixed by the government.
New jetttes were commissioned and a radical change was introduced in the system of landing goods. From the trade statistics available during the contemporary period, it is seen that the to\tal export turnover in 1874-75 was Rs.28,60,74,128, while the total import turnover in that financial year was Rs.25,64,91,902. And the total amount of duty realized was Rs.3,33,30,512.