Historical information

Customs duties were a means of raising revenue between the 1850’s and Federation. They were first introduced by NSW in November 1854 after it was separated from the colony of Victoria three years earlier. J P Hanify was appointed as sub-collector at Belvoir, the official name present day Wodonga at that time. Wodonga Customs House was built near the end of Union Bridge over the Murray River in 1859

Tariffs or customs duties greatly angered residents and it was little wonder the customs officer of the day was always an unpopular man. Tariffs had to be paid on articles such as tobacco, many food items and new clothing that were carried across the Border. The range of items was extended over time, leading to some farmers even swimming their livestock across the river to avoid duties at the Customs house. The levying of duties ended with Federation in 1901.

Francis Cobham depicted in this photograph, took up the position of Customs officer in 1867n and remained there until his retirement in 1890. The building was originally a 2 roomed custom house in 1856 but was extended to provide living quarters for the Cobham family while a nearby cottage became the Customs house.
The building was moved to a position south of the lagoon in the mid 1980’s and is now a restaurant.


This image represents an important stage in the development of colonial relationships and rivalries in Australia.

Physical description

Black and white photograph of Customs officer Francis Cobham in Wodonga c 1860