Customs records date from the late 13th onwards and were created locally for central government. It was normal practice for the Exchequer to send out books for the customs officers of each port to enter the 'official' record of dues paid on imported or exported goods such as wool, cloth, lead and wine. As with Port Books, all movement of vessels carrying dutiable cargo into and out of a port should have been recorded in them, although this will rarely have been the case. Entries normally include:
The name of the ship, master and merchants;
The date of arrival or departure;
Details of the cargo.
Approximately 8000 documents survive in the PRO and an unknown number in other record offices. This represents only a small percentage of those created. They are hand written in English or Latin.
From the mid-17th Century, records exist for the Board of Customs and Excise and its predecessors. These records are variable in type and content but include documents containing records of imports and exports from Britain and its colonies. The PRO is the main repository for these records. The total number of documents held there, which date from 1660 to 1990, is unknown.
In addition to national customs, a wide range of dues were imposed and recorded locally. Records of some of these dues are held in the PRO, whilst others are held in county record offices.