The Structure of the Office of Works

Between the reforms of 1719 and the Economical Reform of 1782, the Office of Works did not change in organization very much.

The Board was formed of the Surveyor General, the Comptroller, the Master Mason, and the Master Carpenter. The organization and regulation of the Office of Works depended on the sovereign and technically the rules of the organization did not outlive the king. When the king died all work came to a shuddering halt and the organization went into a sort of suspension until the new monarch promulgated new rules or revived the old ones. This limbo was more technical than real though. When George III became king it took five or six years before the new regulations were formulated. Meanwhile, work continued.

George III’s one innovation to the Board was the addition of two Architects and consequent adjustment of the quorum.

The Board held regular weekly meetings, usually on a Wednesday or Friday, with a week or two off after Christmas. They also had additional meetings as necessary and went on a number of site visits to check on work in progress.

Each month there was a general meeting of the Board with the Paymaster, Purveyor, and all the Clerks of the Works in attendance, where the monthly itemized accounts were cleared and estimates supplied for future work, which needed Treasury approval before they could be started. A lot of the basic fare of the office was routine maintenance on the various royal residences. By the time Kirby became Clerk of the Works at Kew and Richmond, the Clerks sent in weekly estimates to the Board. They had also increased in number from seven at the time of George I to eleven under George III, reflecting the increase in the number of royal houses and palaces.

Each Clerk of the Works had a Labourer in Trust to look after the stores. The Labourer was supposed to lodge in the storeyard and maintain a dog to guard the stores both day and night.

[Much of this information comes from J Mordaunt Crook’s excellent chapter, `The Office of Works, 1719—1782′, in Colvin’s History of the King’s Works, volume 5.]

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

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4 thoughts on “The Structure of the Office of Works

  1. Pingback: Personnel of the Office of Works | Kirby and his world

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