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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:

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