Tag Archives: Clerk of the Works

Personnel of the Office of Works

In the last post, I talked about the organizational structure of the Office of Works and we have seen the ripple effects of Kirby’s appointment as Clerk of the Works at Richmond and Kew. As all the Clerks of the Works attended a monthly meeting of the Board, Kirby would have become familiar with the members of the Board and with his Fellow Clerks. Here is a list of the people occupying those positions when Kirby was first appointed in 1761. This information is taken from Colvin’s History of the King’s Works, Volume 5.



Dates of Tenure

Surveyor General Thomas Worsley 1760—1778
Comptroller Henry Flitcroft 1758—1769
Deputy Surveyor and Master Mason Stephen Wright 1758—1780
Master Carpenter William Oram 1748—1777
Joint Architect William Chambers 1761—1769
Joint Architect Robert Adam 1761—1769
Paymaster George Augustus Selwyn 1756—1782
The Clerks of the Works
Mews at Charing Cross Kenton Couse 1750—1766
Greenwich Francis Bickerton 1754—1768
Hampton Court Palace William Rice 1758—1789
Kensington Palace John Smith 1761—1782
Kew and Richmond Joshua & William Kirby 1761—1774
Richmond New Park Lodge James Paine 1758—1780
Newmarket James Paine 1750—1780
Somerset House Thomas Kynaston 1720—1762
Tower of London Thomas Kynaston 1720—1762
Whitehall, Westminster, and St. James’s Palaces William Robinson 1754—1766
Winchester Palace Thomas Dubisson 1725—1775


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

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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Clerk of the Works at Richmond and Kew

The various palaces and estates of the royal household were managed by the Office of Works, headed by a Surveyor-General. Each location was supervised by a Clerk of the Works, usually with the assistance of a Labourer in Trust. The Clerk of the Works was responsible for construction, maintenance, decoration, and repair, and dealing with the various contractors who would do the actual work. The minutes of the weekly meeting of the Board of Works for February 24, 1761 note:

Order’d that Joshua and William Kirby be joint Clerks of the Works and Storekeepers at Richmond and Kew in the Room of John Smith Upon the Establish’d Salary and Allowances of the Clerkship at Kensington Palace

And John Smith to be Clerk of the Works at Kensington Palace in the Room of John Vardy, Upon the Established Salary and Allowances of Richmond and Kew.


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