Eighteenth-Century Salaries

In 1761, Joshua Kirby and his son William were appointed joint Clerks of the Works and Storekeepers at Richmond and Kew. The two positions of Richmond and Kew always went together, with that of Richmond being considered the more important. Later in the 1760s and 1770s, there was more construction and redecoration at Kew and the pace of work picked up. The basic salary for Richmond was 2s 3d a day, while for Kew it was only 1s. This was not a great deal of money. The Labourer in Trust received 2s 2d, and a regular labourer could earn 2s a day.

Headline salaries are misleading, though. William Hogarth’s official payment as Serjeant painter to the King was only £10, but he boasted that the post was worth two or three hundred pounds a year to him. There were all sorts of perquisites and ways of generating additional income. The arcane system of allowances extended down as far as the Clerk of the Works. The details of the accounts for the period when Kirby was Clerk of the Works are no longer available, just the monthly summaries, but the accounts do exist for 1781 (in the volume WORK 5/69 at the National Archives). These accounts give the breakdown of payments to Kirby’s successor, Thomas Fülling. Given that Kirby’s income never changed over the period he held the position, and that Fülling received the same payment, we can be fairly sure that the same set of allowances were in force for Kirby. Here is the account for January 1781:

Clerk of the Works at Richmond:

Thomas Fülling 31 Days at     2.03   3.09.09

Travelling charges 5 Days     4.0     1.0.0

Dog Meat                                           0.5.0

6 ½ dozen of candles              8.0    2.12.0

4 ½ dozen of birch brooms     3.0    0.13.6

12 loads of sand                        3.6    2.2.0

4 Bushels of hair                      1.4    0.5.4


The amount received from the daily rate varied as the number of days in a month varied, but the other allowances were constant. Once a quarter, there was an extra allowance for coal:

March: additional:

2 ¾ Chaldrons of Coals        40.0    5.10.0

Total                     15.17.07

When Kirby first started, the coal allowance was paid twice a year, rather than quarterly, but this is the only change. In 1762, Kirby was paid a total of £145 15s 3d for Clerk of the Works at Richmond, of which only £41 1s 3d came from the daily rate.

The picture is similar at Kew, except there is no coal allowance (or 5s for dog meat):

Kew: Jan 1781

Clerk of the Works

Thomas Fülling 31 Days         1.0    1.11.00

Travelling charges 5 Days    4.0    1.00.00

6 ½ dozen of candles        8.0    2.12.00

4 ½ dozen of birch brooms    3.0    0.13.06

7 ½ loads of sand        3.6    1.06.03


Total pay for Clerk of the Works in 1762 was thus £85 6s. and for the two places together, a total of £231 1s 3d, a respectable income.

For related posts, see the Office of Works and Kew category.

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