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The Customs House is an arts venue in South Shields, South Tyneside, North East England. It is the only non-amateur theatre in the borough, the local arts development agency, the largest gallery and, until recently, the only cinema.

Customs House, South Shields
The Customs House, South Tyneside - - 958781.jpg
Customs House, South Shields is located in Tyne and Wear
Customs House, South Shields
Location in Tyne and Wear
General information
LocationTyne and Wear, England, UK
Coordinates54°59′35″N 1°26′35″W / 54.993°N 1.443°W / 54.993; -1.443Coordinates: 54°59′35″N 1°26′35″W / 54.993°N 1.443°W / 54.993; -1.443
OS gridNZ357665



The Customs House was established in 1848 at Mill Dam.[1]

When the Daltons Lane warehouses were refurbished in 2004 the builder found old mortuary slabs. With further research it was discovered that the building had previously been a morgue. The flats in front of this building were once a police station and it was concluded that any bodies found in the river in Mill Dam during that time were then transported into the mortuary directly behind the station.[2]

The Customs House was acquired by the Tyne and Wear Development Corporation as part of the redevelopment plans, along with the Daltons Lane warehouses. Both are leased to the Customs House Trust on a 99 year lease with a peppercorn rent. With the demise of the Development Corporation, the freehold of both buildings transferred to South Tyneside MBC.


The building comprises a theatre of 441 seats, a 145 seat studio, a gallery, a restaurant, a bar, a box-office and a community room that holds 100 people. The offices, rehearsal room and community room are located in refurbished warehouses running alongside the main building (Daltons Lane).

The Customs House is managed by the Customs House Trust, a company limited by guarantee with charitable status. The founding members of the Trust were South Tyneside MBC, Tyne and Wear Development Corporation and Northern Arts and each had the right to nominate two members to the Board. The current Executive Director of the Customs House is Ray Spencer MBE,[3] who has been in the position since 2000.


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