Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 1, Treasury Officials 1660-1870. Originally published by University of London, London, 1972.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


, 'Introduction', in Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 1, Treasury Officials 1660-1870, (London, 1972) pp. 1-15. British History Online [accessed 21 May 2024].

. "Introduction", in Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 1, Treasury Officials 1660-1870, (London, 1972) 1-15. British History Online, accessed May 21, 2024,

. "Introduction", Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 1, Treasury Officials 1660-1870, (London, 1972). 1-15. British History Online. Web. 21 May 2024,


At the Restoration the Treasury had little of the character of a settled institution. It largely lacked permanent records and established routines of business. As far as personnel was concerned the Treasurer or the Treasury Board had a general authority over a collection of salaried officials-a Serjeant at Arms, a Messenger of the Chamber and four Messengers of the Receipt-but their origins antedated the development of the Treasury office in its modern sense and they were, in any case, of relatively small importance. Apart from a Solicitor the only other official belonging to the Treasury at that time was the Secretary.

Although he received no instrument of appointment and no salary from public funds, the Secretary had by 1660 become indispensable to the exercise of the functions of the Treasury. His duties were already sufficiently onerous to require the assistance of Clerks. For the earlier part of the reign of Charles II there is no evidence to suggest that these Clerks had any expectation of remaining in employment after their masters had left office. This fact goes far to explain the lack of material concerning the recruitment, remuneration and general organisation of the clerical staff during this period. No records dealing specifically with these questions survive that are earlier in date than the reign of William III and it is doubtful whether many were ever created. One can learn of the names and activities of Clerks only incidentally from documents dealing with matters on which they happened to be engaged. Thus, while it is clear that such Clerks as Charnock, P. Lloyd and Fleetwood played an important part in the work of the Treasury, only an approximate idea can be formed of the limits of their periods of service. The sources of their remuneration and their standing relative to their colleagues are obscure. In all probability they did not regard their position as anything more than temporary. Such evidence as there is suggests that they looked for financial security not in a permanent career in the Treasury but in making use of the influence of their patrons to acquire profitable offices elsewhere. (fn. 1)

While it is right to stress the fluidity of the organisation of the Treasury office during the reign of Charles II, it should also be recognised that there were at the same time factors making for continuity and permanence. One of these factors was the growing complexity of the work undertaken by the Treasury. It became increasingly important to retain the services of Clerks who had acquired the specialised knowledge necessary for the efficient dispatch of business. Of comparable significance was the fact that the Treasury was in commission for a substantial part of the reign. Under a Treasurer there was a tendency towards informality in the conduct of business, but the existence of a Board necessitated the introduction and maintenance of settled procedures, which in their turn required the services of a body of Clerks familiar with the usual forms.

Perhaps the earliest indication that the Clerks of the Treasury had received recognition as a distinct body is the allocation to them of new year's gifts from the King. Payments of the relatively small sum of £25 are recorded for the years 1674-5 and 1677-8 but, since they are made to the Clerks collectively, they are of no assistance to an understanding of the organisation of the office. (fn. 2) From 1679 the Clerks received periodic payments from the secret service for travelling charges. Until 1690 these payments are recorded simply as totals although, as the sums differ in each case, it is clear that they were made up of particular amounts based on individual claims. (fn. 3)

The principal source of the remuneration of the Secretary and the Clerks were the office fees. These were payable on instruments prepared in the Treasury authorising such actions as the issue of money or the grant of offices. An important development in this context was the introduction of a permanent arrangement for the division of these fees. This arrangement apportioned two thirds of the product to the Secretary and one third to the Clerks and was to be observed until the introduction of fixed salaries in 1782. It is uncertain when this arrangement was made. The earliest surviving list of receipts of Treasury fees covers the years 1679 to 1685 during the period of Guy's first secretaryship. (fn. 4) This list discloses no information about the remuneration of Clerks. However, in the next surviving lists, which give details of the fees which fell to Gwyn, Guy's associate between April 1685 and December 1686, the monthly totals are divided, Gwyn taking two thirds and the Clerks one third. (fn. 5) It is conceivable that this apportionment had its origin in 1685 and that Guy, when making the arrangement for Gwyn to receive certain of the office fees, took the opportunity to make permanent provision for the Clerks. The lists for 1685-6 do not indicate who were the recipients of the one third share nor the basis on which it was apportioned.

The earliest document to throw any light on this question is the assessment for poll tax for Whitehall and St James's made in July 1689. In addition to the Commissioners, Secretary and Office Keeper (described as Under Clerk), this gives the names of six Clerks. Five of these, Glanville, Evelyn, Squibb, Langford and Lowndes are assessed at a common rate. The remaining Clerk, Powys, is assessed at a lower rate. (fn. 6) This document should be read in conjunction with that recording the payment made from the secret service on 4 February 1690 to the Clerks and other officers of the Treasury for coach hire. (fn. 7) As already stated earlier payments of this kind are recorded simply as totals. The entry in this case, however, lists fourteen recipients with payments at differential rates. One of the recipients was the Office Keeper and another the Serjeant at Arms. Three can be identified with reasonable certainty as Messengers. The remaining nine, with the exception of Southworth whose name does not occur elsewhere, are known from other evidence to have been Treasury Clerks. Five of them, Squibb, Lowndes, Langford, Glanville and Evelyn, received payment at the rate of 13s 4d a day and four, Southworth, Powys, Tilson and Taylor, at 10s a day. This evidence, taken in conjunction with that available for the years after 1695, would appear to support the identification of the five Clerks paid at the higher rate with the Chief Clerks, whose special position was defined by their right to equal shares in one third of the office fees. If this supposition is correct, the four Clerks paid at the lower rate would be equivalent to the later Under Clerks. In this connection it is significant that the second edition of Miège's New State of England, which appeared in 1693 and contains the first published account of Treasury officials, lists five 'First' Clerks. (fn. 8) The fact that Evelyn is said to have bought his chief clerkship in 1690 suggests that these posts were already well established by this date. The circumstances surrounding this transaction are obscure but it can reasonably be said that purchase would not have been contemplated unless the right to a share in the profits of the office had already been clearly defined. (fn. 9)

While the outlines of the later structure of Treasury organisation can already be discerned before 1695 it was not until William Lowndes became Secretary in that year that the surviving evidence is of a kind to make possible the study of the careers of individual Clerks in any sort of detail. The relevant material is at first confined to two principal types of record: the accounts of the office fees and the accounts of the secret service. The former are made up monthly and cover the period 1695 to 1715. (fn. 10) A number are missing but the series is sufficiently complete to provide a basis for generalisation. Each account contains a list of sums paid in by the Clerks and others. The total receipts are apportioned, in accordance with the principle already described, to give two thirds to the Secretary and one third to be divided equally amongst a fixed number of Chief Clerks. In 1695 and 1696 this number was five. No accounts survive for 1697 but when they resume in 1698 the number had been reduced to four at which level it remained until 1834. (fn. 11)

The accounts mention several Clerks who had no share in the third of the office fees. These can reasonably be identified as Under Clerks. They also record the payment of fixed salaries to two or three such Clerks between 1695 and 1713, the amounts required being met by proportional abatements in the dividends of the Secretary and Chief Clerks. It may be that the practice of paying such salaries in this way was in operation on a wider scale before 1695. (fn. 12) This possibility derives some support from the fact that from this date a number of Under Clerks began to receive regular salaries from the secret service. While it is conceivable that this development represents an entirely new departure, the more likely explanation would appear to be that these salaries were simply transferred from the fees to public funds. If this surmise is correct, the arrangement may have been part of a bargain made by Lowndes on his entry into office whereby, in return for the abolition of certain 'Gratuities' and the establishment of a fixed table of fees approved by the King, the crown undertook to assume responsibility for the bulk of the Under Clerks' salaries. (fn. 13) After 1695 even the few salaries that were paid from the fees were in each case eventually transferred to the secret service. The number of Clerks receiving salaries from these sources between 1695 and 1714 varied from seven to ten. The most usual salary was £50. Some Clerks received this at once; others after having served for a period at £40. Between 1704 and 1709 successive editions of Chamberlayne's Present State list three Clerks paid at the latter rate as 'Supernumeraries' but this designation is not found in the Treasury records at this date. (fn. 14) From 1696 to 1714 the secret service accounts also record payments to Chief and Under Clerks to reimburse them for the amounts they had paid in taxes, thus providing an additional means of identifying them. (fn. 15)

After 1714 the nature of the evidence is such as to make possible more confident statements about the personnel of the Treasury than is the case for the earlier period. The principal additional source to become relevant is the series of minute books of the Treasury. Before 1714 the minutes record practically no decisions concerning the appointment, promotion or remuneration of those in the employment of the office. Thereafter entries dealing with these questions occur with increasing frequency. (fn. 16) Not too much significance should be attached to this development. There was a general tendency for the minutes to become fuller after 1714. Their silence on establishment matters before this date should not be taken as evidence that the Treasurer or the Board were unaware of or unconcerned with developments in this field. Nevertheless the very fact of recording the relevant decisions in a permanent manner had the effect of creating a body of precedent and stabilising the structure and conventions of the office. (fn. 17)

In October 1715 the Board called for 'a list of the clerks, under clerks, doorkeepers, messengers and other officers of the Treasury'. It was delivered on the 17th of the month and the Board, after replacing the Office Keeper, ordered the rest of the officers to remain in their employments. The list itself is appended to the minutes for that day and is of considerable interest since it apparently represents the first conscious attempt which the Treasury made to define the rather heterogeneous group of officials who constituted the establishment in its wider sense. (fn. 18) The list, which also contains details of salaries, may be summarised as follows:

2 Secretaries

4 Chief Clerks

9 Under Clerks

3 Under Clerks for keeping accounts

1 Office Keeper

1 Doorkeeper

1 Sweeper

1 Bag Carrier

4 Messengers of the Receipt (and 3 deputies)

1 Messenger of the Chamber

1 Letter Carrier (also deputy Messenger of the Chamber).

Although the Treasury office was to grow continuously during the eighteenth century its basic structure, illustrated by this list, was to remain fundamentally unchanged until the reform of 1782. A general survey of its nature and functions during this period may therefore be appropriate.

At the head of the office were the Secretaries. Apart from the special arrangement of 1685-6 whereby Gwyn undertook the Irish business of the Treasury, there was only one Secretary until 1711. In that year a second secretaryship was created. This officer shared the two thirds of the office fees equally with his colleague and was, like him, usually a member of the House of Commons. However, while the senior secretaryship was held on what amounted to a permanent tenure until 1752, changes in the holders of the junior post were frequent and reflected alterations in the political complexion of the Board. It was not until the second half of the eighteenth century that the senior secretaryship came to be governed by similar considerations and the right of succession from the junior to the senior position was established. Arrangements for the division of responsibilities between the Secretaries must have been made from the first. They were not, however, the subject of Treasury minutes. A memorandum of about 1783 is the first document to deal specifically with this question. (fn. 19) It was unusual for Secretaries to be promoted from within the office. Apart from William Lowndes (1695) the only Clerks to achieve this distinction were Taylor (1714), Bradshaw (1767) and, after a period of retirement, C. Lowndes (1765). (fn. 20)

The four Chief Clerks ranked next in the structure of the office. Appointments to these offices were normally made from amongst the active Under Clerks, usually on the basis of seniority. (fn. 21) On five occasions between 1695 and 1782 appointments were made from outside the office. The appointments of Thomas (1713) and Kelsall (1714) appear to have been dictated by considerations of patronage alone. In the remaining cases-Postlethwaite and Yeates (1759) and Bradshaw (1761)-the same considerations undoubtedly applied, but the individuals in question seem to have owed their preferment at least as much to their special qualifications for the posts. (fn. 22) Once appointed the Chief Clerks enjoyed a secure tenure, generally remaining in office until death or voluntary resignation. (fn. 23) So far as the functions of the Chief Clerks were concerned the manner in which they received their remuneration, by freeing them from immediate dependence on particular types of business, made it possible for them to develop a general view which was important to their fulfilment of the role of advisers to the Secretaries and the Board which they exercised until 1805. Particular areas of responsibility were assigned to individual Chief Clerks although, when occasion arose, each was expected to be ready to undertake any of the business of the office. (fn. 24)

The year 1714 witnessed an alteration in the position of the Under Clerks. Down to the death of Queen Anne their salaries were provided from the secret service. Following the accession of George I, they were transferred to the civil list. No radically new principle was involved in this development. The salaries continued to be borne by public funds as they had been since 1695. So far as the internal organisation of the Treasury was concerned, however, the change was not without significance. Few formalities were involved in the disbursement of the secret service funds by the Secretary of the Treasury. Payments from the civil list, on the other hand, involved the preparation of a quarterly warrant to the Auditor of the Receipt, which required the authorisation of the Board. This procedure had two important consequences. In the first place, the warrant, being a formal document, listed the recipients in order of seniority. Secondly, the necessity for periodical authorisation enabled the Board to keep their identity and remuneration continuously under review. The Clerks who received salaries from this source constituted the 'establishment' in the sense in which it was usually understood in the eighteenth century. So defined the term never comprehended the whole clerical staff of the Treasury. It excluded, for example, the Chief Clerks and also the Clerks in the Revenue Department, unless they happened to draw salaries from the civil list. Nevertheless it was a concept of some value since it provided the yardstick by reference to which the Board was accustomed to measure the effects of changes in the number of Clerks employed in the office.

The number of Clerks on the establishment varied. Beginning at nine in 1715, it had doubled by 1761. Thereafter it rose rapidly, reaching a peak of twenty-seven in 1773. Until 1733 the three most senior Clerks enjoyed salaries of £100, while the rest received £50. From that year £100 was the normal salary for all. With rare exceptions Clerks were placed at the bottom of the salary warrant on their appointment to the establishment. They enjoyed a secure tenure and rose upwards on the principle of strict seniority, a convention which received specific endorsement in a minute of 1757 which laid down 'that the Under Clerks rise according to seniority as has been usual in the office ...'. (fn. 25) Finally when they had reached first place they became eligible for the offer of a chief clerkship. Although they might, from time to time, be given special tasks to perform, the principal function of the Under Clerks was the preparation of instruments authorising expenditure. The business undertaken by each Clerk was settled at successive 'divisions'. It was not until 1776 that these divisions were regu larly approved by the Board and recorded in the minutes. Before this date there is no consistent body of evidence on which to base detailed study. Nevertheless there is enough information to indicate the general principles which operated. Following each change in the composition of the group of Clerks involved, a re-arrangement of the work took place under the general authority of the Secretaries. Categories of business were grouped together and allocated to particular Clerks with the object of ensuring that those with the greater seniority received the larger income from fees. These fees were personal and distinct from those which were carried to the common fund that provided the remuneration of the Secretaries and Chief Clerks. (fn. 26)

Apart from the Clerks whose activities have just been described it was usual for the establishment to accommodate a number of individuals whose membership of the Treasury office was purely nominal. This seems to be accounted for by the Board's reluctance to dismiss Clerks who, for a variety of reasons, were unable or unwilling to undertake any duties. Evidence on this question is fragmentary. The career of E. Webster is, however, instructive. A Clerk from about 1691, there seems little doubt that he ceased to play an active part in the work of the office after his appointment as Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1717. Yet he remained on the establishment and continued to receive a salary of £100 from the civil list until his death in 1755. (fn. 27) His was, perhaps, an extreme case but it was not without parallel. (fn. 28) In a different category were those Clerks in the Revenue Department who were placed on the establishment as a means of augmenting their salaries from the customs.

Supernumerary Clerks may conveniently be considered at this point. These may be defined as those Clerks who were appointed with the expectation, either express or implied, of being placed on the establishment, although not necessarily at the next vacancy. The minutes during this period describe them indifferently as 'Supernumerary' and 'Extraordinary'. This creates a certain amount of confusion, since the latter term came to have a distinct meaning as will be seen in due course. Although they may have existed at an earlier date, the appointment of Supernumerary Clerks is recorded for the first time in the minutes in 1736. It was not until 1756, however, that they became a regular feature of the office. From this year it was usual for Under Clerks on the establishment to begin their service in the Treasury as Supernumerary Clerks.

The establishment was eventually regulated by a minute of 22 February 1776 which is of considerable importance since it represents the first step in the direction of a comprehensive reform of the office. (fn. 29) It had three main objects. The first was to dispense with the services of those individuals who were unable or unwilling to take an active part in the business of the Treasury and to ensure that the office was staffed by a body of working Clerks. The second was to provide a proper training for Clerks by arranging the business 'in such Manner that in future every Clerk may from his Entry into the Office be regularly instructed, and go through every Branch as he shall be promoted'. Finally it was laid down that for the future the considerations governing the promotion of Clerks should be their 'Ability, Attention, Care and Diligence ... and not their Seniority'. With these objects in view the Board 'superannuated' four Clerks, leaving twenty-one places on the active civil list establishment. Seven of these places were reserved for the Clerks in the Revenue Department who continued to receive the £100 annuities as contributions towards their remuneration. The business of expenditure was divided up amongst the remaining fourteen Clerks. The granting of retiring allowances to the four superannuated Clerks was the beginning of a regular practice whereby the Treasury pensioned off those of its staff who were incapable of carrying out their duties in person. (fn. 30)

Immediately following the Under Clerks in the list of October 1715 are the 'under clerks for keeping accounts'. In order to place them in their context, some account must be given of the origin and development of the Revenue Department. Although it always formed part of the Treasury organisation in its wide sense, the Revenue Department had specialised functions which resulted in its remaining outside the ordinary establishment until 1834. As its name implies its basic function was the preparation of accounts of the revenue. The first indication that the Treasury was keeping such accounts is to be found in March 1681 in the payment from the secret service 'For keeping private accompts of the several branches of His Majesties Revenue' for the half year beginning in March 1680. This is the first of a series of payments from public funds which were made necessary by the fact that the service rendered gave rise to no fees. Beginning at £50 the annual rate was raised to £150 in 1685. (fn. 31)

Until 1688 the charge for this service formed part of the Treasury incidents received by the Secretary. At the accession of William III, however, the payments were transferred from the secret service to the customs and directed to a particular Treasury Clerk, Taylor, who may in consequence reasonably be regarded as the first identifiable Chief Clerk of the Revenue. (fn. 32) There is no evidence to indicate whether Taylor found it necessary to employ additional Clerks to assist him in the preparation of the accounts. It is, however, noteworthy that his successor, Tilson, was allowed to retain the £50 annuity from the secret service which he had received as an Under Clerk after his promotion to a chief clerkship about 1697. When in 1709 his allowance from this source was raised to £150, it was described as being paid 'for making up the accounts of the public revenues and defraying the charge he is at for clerks and other incidents in carrying on and performing that service'. Tilson's payment from the secret service in 1712 specifically refers to 'myself and two clerks'. (fn. 33)

It is clear, therefore, that the Revenue 'Department' had already been in existence in an embryonic form for some time before its Clerks were given formal recognition in the minute of October 1715. It is, however, impossible to give a complete account of the department during the first half of the eighteenth century since the minutes do not always record the appointments of the Clerks employed in it and the salary warrants name only the Chief Clerk without specifying his colleagues. In 1714 a sum of £260 a year was made available from the customs for the remuneration of the Revenue Clerks. (fn. 34) Down to 1725 the recipient was Frecker, an Under Clerk on the establishment, later promoted to a chief clerkship. In that year the number of Under Clerks had been reduced to two, who were said to be 'very diligent and give double the attendance of any other in the office, their business requiring them so to do, now having but 50 per annum each'. (fn. 35) Probably as a means of alleviating their lot the decision was made to transfer the annual payment from the customs to Beresford, the senior Under Clerk, to share with his colleague. In the light of subsequent events it is clear that this decision had the effect of underlining the differentiation of the Revenue Department from the ordinary establishment. In 1726 a clerk on the establishment was appointed to assist in the business of the department with 'such other of the Under Clerks as are little employed' (fn. 36) but there is no evidence to indicate that this arrangement remained effective. Probably of more significance was the reverse process whereby Revenue Clerks were transferred to the active establishment. (fn. 37) In 1745 the department was composed of four Clerks. After 1752 their number was progressively reduced. In 1757 the remaining two were placed formally on the establishment as a reward for their 'industry and fidelity'. At the same time the Board directed that 'two of the Junior Clerks (on the establishment) be appointed by the Secretaries to do business in the Accomptants Office in order thoroughly to understand that branch of business'. (fn. 38)

From 1758 it appears to have been accepted that the needs of the Revenue Department would be best served by the employment of a distinct group of Clerks. The number of such Clerks increased rapidly, reaching seven in 1767 at which level it remained with only minor variations until the department was fully absorbed into the Treasury office in 1834. From 1762 it was the rule for all of them to be members of the establishment in the formal sense of receiving £100 salaries from the civil list. From that date it was rare for a Clerk to be recruited directly, appointments usually being made from amongst the Supernumerary Clerks or the Clerks already on the establishment. Once appointed they almost invariably remained in the department for the rest of their service in the Treasury. This convention received explicit confirmation in 1776 when it was laid down that 'the Revenue Office ... should be kept as a distinct and separate department' and that 'the Persons named as Revenue Clerks (are) to succeed in that Office only'. (fn. 39)

The list of 1715 concludes with a group of officials who constituted the subordinate staff of the Treasury. The first is the Office (or Chamber) Keeper. This office originated about 1667 and its duties included the custody of the Treasury chambers and the provision of the usual necessaries. Out of his annual allowance he paid salaries to the Doorkeeper and the Sweeper. During the eighteenth century the two latter posts gradually rose in standing and profitability. The office of Doorkeeper had by 1763 become a sinecure, its duties being exercised by deputy. That of Sweeper, dignified successively by the designations 'Necessary Woman' and 'Housekeeper' came to involve responsibility for a number of inferior domestic staff. In 1762 a distinct House keeper was appointed to take care of the rooms, known commonly as the 'Levée Rooms' which had been transferred to the Treasury from the office of the Secretary of State for the Northern Department.

Finally there were the Messengers whose history is complex and to some extent obscure. The four Messengers of the Receipt were technically officers of the lower Exchequer and received their basic salaries as such. Having been originally attached to the Treasurer they came under the general authority of the Board. However, their offices were of great antiquity and at the Restoration conformed closely to the classic proprietary pattern. They were appointed for life and enjoyed the right of exercising their functions by deputy. The evidence suggests that the Treasury did not succeed in obtaining much useful service either from them or from their deputies even after 1689 when they were made theoretically more amenable to direction by having their tenure altered from life to pleasure. The situation of the Messenger of the Chamber was in some ways comparable to that of the Messengers of the Receipt. Until the early part of the eighteenth century he was employing a deputy although later he became a working official with useful functions.

For the most part these officials constituted an intractable and largely useless legacy from the past and, in order to obtain efficient service, the Treasury was obliged to employ additional Messengers. During the reign of William III there were normally two such Messengers receiving regular salaries. One of these was usually also the deputy of the Messenger of the Chamber and appears as such in the list of 1715. The place of the other had by that year been taken by the Bag Carrier whose particular function was to attend the Secretaries at the House of Commons. In the course of time the Office Keeper's civil list bill on which the salaries of these officials were normally carried was increased by the addition of further charges. In 1717 a salary was made available for the post of Assistant to the Office Keeper and Messengers, or Bookranger. Further salaries were provided which, although originally intended for working Messengers, had by 1772 been absorbed by the four Messengers of the Receipt, the Messenger of the Chamber and the deputy Doorkeeper, who appear to have regarded them simply as supplementary perquisites of their offices. The Treasury was, therefore, thrown back on the expedient of employing a distinct body of Messengers who were paid weekly out of the incidents. In 1786 two of these were permanently attached to the Joint Secretaries.

The only officials belonging to the Treasury in 1715 who were not included in the list of that year were the two Solicitors who, in view of their special functions, remained apart from the ordinary structure of the office. The older solicitorship dated from the Restoration. In 1696 the duties were divided and a second office created. After 1716 the older office gradually became a complete sinecure while the holder of the second took over the whole of the work. An assistant solicitorship existed between 1685 and 1689 and between 1722 and 1730 but did not become established on a regular basis until 1746.

Between 1715 and 1782 changes in the organisation of the Treasury can largely be explained in terms of the development of offices already in existence. There were few innovations. In 1726 a Keeper of Papers was appointed. Although this post had useful functions attached to it, its effectiveness was limited by the fact that it was allowed to pass into the hands of deputies, the principals treating it simply as an additional source of income. In 1742 an act of Parliament disqualified the Clerks of the Treasury, together with the subordinate officials of a number of other departments, from membership of the House of Commons. (fn. 40) In 1769 the Treasury appointed a Counsel to undertake the drafting of its parliamentary bills and an Agent to supervise their passage through the House of Commons.

The year 1782 witnessed a major reform of the Treasury office. A minute of 30 November began by reaffirming the principles laid down in that of February 1776 and went on to introduce further changes. (fn. 41) In the first place it established fixed salaries for the Secretaries and the Clerks. The amounts in each case were settled after an examination of their receipts in representative years of peace and war. Provision was made for the charge of the salaries to be borne by the existing fee fund from which the Secretaries and Chief Clerks had received their dividends, augmented by the personal fees which had previously been taken by the Under Clerks for their own use. In the event of the product of the fund proving insufficient, the salaries were to suffer proportional reductions.

The reform paved the way for a reorganisation of the business of expenditure. The earlier arrangement by which the number of divisions had varied according to the number of clerks participating in the business was replaced by six fixed divisions in which its distribution was unaffected by changes in personnel. The new divisions were each manned by two Under Clerks who received the designations Senior and Junior Clerk. (fn. 42) The grouping of the various items of business was, however, still governed by the expected yield of the fees. This fact was reflected in the salaries of the Senior and Junior Clerks which, although of fixed amounts in each case, varied according to the division in which they served.

Under the new arrangements the number and functions of the Chief Clerks remained unaltered. There was no change in the position of the Clerks in the Revenue Department who had, as already indicated, always received their remuneration in the form of fixed salaries. The active civil list establishment continued to consist of twentyone places, of which seven were reserved for the Revenue Clerks and twelve for the Senior and Junior Clerks. There remained two Clerks, of whom one was appointed Copying Clerk and the other was apparently left without specific responsibilities. A Receiver of Fees was appointed but no alteration was made in the number or functions of the subordinate staff.

In 1786 the Treasury office was investigated by the Commissioners on Fees. Their second report, which includes the examinations of forty-six of the staff, contains much valuable information. In general the Commissioners professed themselves satisfied with the state of the office and praised the reforms introduced in 1782. No action was taken on the report until 1793. In that year an order in council gave effect to such of their recommendations as were acceptable to the Treasury. (fn. 43) The Treasury rejected a proposal that one of the Joint Secretaries should be placed on a permanent tenure and made ineligible for Parliament and also a suggested reduction of one in the number of Chief Clerks. On the other hand, it accepted an arrangement for the payment of salaries which was more favourable than that introduced in 1782. The effect of this was that all salaries which had previously been paid to officials of the Treasury from the civil list were discontinued. The amounts of these salaries were made good from the customs in the case of the Clerks in the Revenue Department and from the fee fund in the case of the rest. Deficiencies in the fee fund were not to result in reductions in salaries but were to be met by payments from the civil list to which any surplus was to be carried. (fn. 44) The Board also agreed to reduce the salaries of certain of the subordinate staff and, on the expiry of existing interests, to abolish the sinecure solicitorship and to insist that the holders of the offices of Keeper of Papers and Doorkeeper executed their duties in person.

Apart from the changes that flowed from the recommendations of the Commissioners of 1786, the main developments in the office between 1782 and the next major reorganisation in 1805 were occasioned by the rapid growth of business. To deal with this there was a considerable increase in the number of junior Clerks on the establishment, no fewer than five being added in 1797. In 1798 there was a general salary increase throughout the clerical organisation. (fn. 45) A new class of Extraordinary or Extra Clerks became a feature of the office. This development apparently dated from 1777. Unlike Supernumerary Clerks, Extra Clerks had, in ordinary circumstances, no expectation of being placed on the establishment. However, certain of them were retained in the office on a more or less permanent basis, several ultimately becoming established. As the Commissioners of 1786 remarked 'They have been found essentially useful in services which before, for want of proper Officers, had been much neglected'. (fn. 46) Together with the Supernumerary Clerks and those established Clerks who were awaiting promotion to the divisions the Extra Clerks formed a pool of labour which was principally employed in the copying of documents. Some of them were, however, assigned to particular work such as the recording of minutes, the registering of papers and the care of Treasury bills of exchange.

The House of Commons Select Committee on Finance examined the Treasury in 1797. Their report was largely devoted to a review of the changes that had taken place since 1786. The Committee did, however, recommend the abolition of the practice whereby certain officers of the Treasury received new year's gifts from other departments. This recommendation was in due course carried into effect. (fn. 47)

A minute of 19 August 1805 made a number of important changes in the structure of the office. (fn. 48) In the first place it created the office of Assistant Secretary, a post whose holder was ineligible for the House of Commons. This development may have been partly occasioned by an alteration in the relationship between the Joint Secretaries. While the details are obscure it appears that the beginnings of the process whereby the Senior Secretary became detached from the departmental work of the Treasury and devoted his attention exclusively to patronage and the management of the House of Commons can be traced to the early years of the nineteenth century. Inevitably this had the effect of throwing a greater burden of work on the Junior or, as he was ultimately to be called, the Financial Secretary. In so far as the duties of the Assistant Secretary were not entirely new they involved taking an increasing share in the work formerly undertaken jointly by the two Secretaries. At the same time the Assistant Secretary displaced the Chief Clerks at the head of the permanent staff of the Treasury.

The minute of 1805 went on to introduce alterations in the organisation of the divisions. They remained six in number but the categories of business were redistributed among them on the basis of their affinity rather than their expected yield in fees. The four Chief Clerks were deprived of their generalised advisory functions and placed directly in charge of the divisions. Below them the clerical structure was divided into six Senior, nine Assistant and nine Junior Clerks. A Clerk, ranking as a Senior Clerk, was placed in charge of the minutes assisted by two others. Provision was made for two of the Assistant Clerks to undertake the registering and indexing of current papers. Uniform progressive salaries were established and the rotation of Clerks in the divisions and elsewhere thus facilitated. The Clerks in the Revenue Department, while remaining distinct from the ordinary establishment, were linked in point of rank and salary to the new structure. The class of Supernumerary Clerks was abolished and the temporary character of Extra Clerks carefully defined. Finally the offices of Receiver of Fees and Clerk of the Bills were regulated.

The principles laid down in 1805 continued to govern the organisation of the Treasury until 1834. During this period, however, a number of changes of detail were made. Three new senior posts were created or absorbed into the structure of the office. The first was the Principal Clerk Assistant appointed in 1815 to assist the Secretaries. In due course he was joined by the Auditor of the Civil List (1831) and the Clerk for Colonial Business (1832) who had similar functions when they were not engaged in the particular duties of their respective offices. In 1807 an arrangement was made whereby two senior members of the office acted as Treasury Auditors. In 1812 the work involved in the preparation of returns to Parliament led to the appointment of one of the Assistant Clerks in the Revenue Department to superintend them. This work continued to grow and in 1824 it was found necessary to recruit a Clerk specially to undertake it. In 1816 a Commissariat Department was created which was directly under the authority of the Board but which remained distinct from the ordinary establishment. (fn. 49) In 1817 following the consolidation of the English and Irish revenues two Clerks of the Irish revenue were transferred to the Treasury.

A minute of 13 July 1808 introduced a probationary period for newly appointed Junior Clerks. (fn. 50) This lasted for three months after which they were to be placed on the establishment if the Board were satisfied of their fitness. The minute went on to lay down as a rule what had generally been observed in practice, that all vacancies in the Revenue Department should be filled from among the Junior Clerks on the establishment. At the same time the establishment was increased by the addition of two Assistant and two Junior Clerks. A further increase in the number of Junior Clerks in 1813 was occasioned by the depletion of the effective establishment due to the employment of Clerks as full-time Private Secretaries to the First Lord, Chancellor of the Exchequer and the three Secretaries. At the same time salary scales were improved. (fn. 51) In 1821, as a result of parliamentary pressure for economy, the Treasury was obliged to take steps to reduce the size and cost of the establishment. As a result salaries were revised and the number of Junior Clerks reduced. (fn. 52)

The abolition of the Receipt of the Exchequer in 1834 occasioned the next major reorganisation of the Treasury. A Paymaster of Civil Services was appointed to undertake some of the functions previously performed by that department. This official was placed under the immediate authority of the Board but he and his staff remained outside the ordinary establishment. (fn. 53) The latter was regulated by a minute of 17 October 1834. (fn. 54) This made explicit the distinction between those officials who were concerned with matters to be submitted to the Board for decision and those who were responsible for carrying the decisions into effect. In the first category were the Assistant Secretary, the Auditor of the Civil List, the Principal Clerk Assistant and the Principal Clerk for Colonial Business. Under them the work was redistributed in five divisions. The business of expenditure which had formerly been undertaken in six divisions was now allocated amongst four. The fifth took over the responsibilities of the Revenue Department which ceased from this date to have an existence separate from the ordinary establishment. Each of the new divisions was presided over by a Chief Clerk. The rest of the establishment was fixed at five Senior, thirteen Assistant and thirteen Junior Clerks.

The next twenty years witnessed several developments in Treasury organisation. In 1835 a Law Clerk was appointed and the work of registering the books and papers of the office was placed under the immediate direction of an Assistant Clerk with the title of Superintendent of the Registry. In the same year the various Messengers attached to the office were consolidated into a unified structure, divided into three classes and placed under the authority of the Office Keeper. In 1836 the position of the four Messengers of the Receipt and that of the two Messengers attending the Chancellor of the Exchequer were regulated.

Following the report of the House of Commons Select Committee on Miscellaneous Expenditure of 1848 the Treasury set up a committee of its own to investigate the office. As a result of the recommendations of this body the number of divisions dealing with expenditure was reduced from four to two with a corresponding reduction in the number of Chief Clerks. (fn. 55) In 1854 the special responsibilities of the division dealing with revenue matters were recognised and entrusted to a Principal Clerk of Finance. In the following year a Treasury Accountant was appointed.

Major changes in the organisation of the Treasury were made by a minute of 4 July 1856. (fn. 56) This put an end to the distinction which had existed since the early nineteenth century between permanent officials with general advisory functions and those with specific executive duties. The offices of Principal Clerk Assistant and Principal Clerk for Colonial Business were abolished and the work of the department was redistributed among six divisions, presided over by the Assistant Secretary, the Auditor of the Civil List and four Principal Clerks. The old grades of Chief, Senior, Assistant and Junior Clerk were superseded and the rest of the establishment fixed at ten First Class, six teen Second Class and seven Third Class Clerks. One of the First Class Clerks was given responsibility for the parliamentary accounts and another was placed in charge of the Registry and Copying Department.

In 1859 and 1867 the Assistant Secretary and the Auditor of the Civil List were successively relieved of responsibility for divisions, the number of which was in consequence reduced to four. Both these officers were given more general functions. These were defined in a minute of May 1867 which also changed the title of the Assistant Secretary to Permanent Secretary. (fn. 57) In 1860 two Clerks were transferred from the establishment to a newly created County Court Department. (fn. 58) In 1861 the supplementary branch of the Treasury was reorganised. This was composed of those who had formerly been known as Extra Clerks. They were at this time seventeen in number and were for the most part concentrated in the Registry and Copying Department. They had for long occupied a rather ambiguous position in the clerical organisation of the office. Their status was now defined and they were divided into three categories to which were attached uniform progressive salaries.

The lists have been carried down to the eve of the reorganisation initiated by the minute of 25 May 1870 which, by introducing the principle of open competition for clerkships and by enforcing a division of labour which enabled the members of the 'superior' establishment to free themselves from routine and concentrate on the formation of policy, largely completed the process of reform and laid the foundations of the modern Treasury. (fn. 59)


  • 1. For the careers of some of the Clerks during this period, see Baxter, Treasury, 214-39.
  • 2. CTB, iv, 277; ibid. v, 834.
  • 3. Secret Service Expenses, 7, 20, 29, 66, 79, 97, 114, 141, 176, 210.
  • 4. Baxter, Treasury, 272-4.
  • 5. T 38/436; totals printed in Baxter, Treasury, 274-5.
  • 6. LS 13/231 p. 13.
  • 7. CTB, xvii, 553-4.
  • 8. Miège, New State (1693), pt. iii, 404; all subsequent editions of Miège's work contain lists of Treasury officials. Chamberlayne's Present State began to include such lists only from the twenty-first edition (1704). The information contained in these publications, while not without value, is often at variance with the evidence in Treasury sources.
  • 9. Memoirs of John Evelyn, ed. W. Bray, 2nd ed. (1819), i p. xxii. While the Evelyn MSS at Christ Church, Oxford, have a few items referring to the younger Evelyn's period at the Treasury, including his father's account of his dismissal in 1691, they do not appear to contain any evidence to support Bray's assertion that the office had been purchased. The Treasury condemned the practice of selling clerkships in TM 16 March 1722 (T 29/24, pt. ii, 152).
  • 10. These accounts are amongst the Treasury Papers. The totals between 1695 and 1701 are printed in Baxter, Treasury, 276-82.
  • 11. See, however, the petition of the 'Four Chief Clerks of the Treasury' endorsed 'Read Aug. 1696' (CTP 1557-1696, 543).
  • 12. See the case of Dorney (CTB, v, 1348).
  • 13. TM 24 April 1695 (CTB, x, 1369); see also Lowndes' evidence to the Commissioners of Public Accounts in Nov. 1702 (T 64/126 pp. 232, 264).
  • 14. In some cases the names of Clerks occur in the accounts of the fees before they begin to receive salaries which may mean that they began their service in the office as supernumeraries.
  • 15. This practice appears to have arisen following the petition of the Chief Clerks of 1696 which sought this privilege; see p. 3 n. 11. Later the reimbursements were made out of the incidents; see also 2nd Rept. on Fees, 55.
  • 16. Appointments of Under Clerks began to be recorded in the minutes in 1718; those of Secretaries and Chief Clerks were not regularly so recorded until 1730 and 1742 respectively. The appointments of certain officials of the Treasury were embodied in instruments. The Treasurer and Commissioners of the Treasury, the Chancellor and Under Treasurer of the Exchequer, the Serjeant at Arms and the Messengers of the Receipt (until 1825) were appointed by letters patent under the great seal. The Solicitors, the Messenger of the Chamber, the Office Keeper and the Keeper of Papers were, at various times, appointed by Treasury constitution.
  • 17. As a general rule all minutes were entered in the minute books until 1849. Thereafter many that were considered of relatively small importance were excluded. After 1859 the books contain practically no material relating to establishment matters. From 1805 'Arrangement Books' were kept by the Treasury into which minutes and other documents concerning appointments and the organisation of the office were transcribed. For the purpose of these lists the Arrangement Books have been used as the principal source for the years 1860-70.
  • 18. TM 13 and 17 Oct. 1715 (CTB, xxix, 296, 297-8). There is a similar list dated 6 June 1711, amongst the Harley MSS (BM Loan 29/45B f. 12/259). I am grateful to Mr Thomas K. Moore for drawing my attention to this document.
  • 19. Memorandum on office organisation in Chatham MSS (PRO 30/8/231); for the distribution of duties in 1804, see Thomas, Notes of Materials, 17.
  • 20. In 1782 E. Chamberlayne was nominated a Secretary but died before actually entering office.
  • 21. H. Fane was appointed from the place of seventh Under Clerk in 1742. On three occasions Under Clerks were recorded as having declined promotion; see TM 22 Dec. 1761 (T 29/34 p. 207), 18 Aug. 1767 (T 29/38 p. 451), 22 Feb. 1776 (T 29/45 p. 53). For the question of active Under Clerks, see below.
  • 22. Thomas was Private Secretary to Treasurer Oxford; Kelsall was appointed at the age of twentyone; Postlethwaite was the author of a History of the Public Revenue (1759); Yeates was a Clerk in the House of Commons and was responsible for the drafting of parliamentary bills for the Treasury; Bradshaw had been First Clerk in the War Office.
  • 23. Only Leheup was dismissed (1755). W. Lowndes and Burnaby, who retired in 1759 to make way for Postlethwaite and Yeates, were both granted pensions (T 29/33 p. 218). C. Lowndes was allowed to retain the office of Keeper of Papers, probably as a means of providing him with a pension, on his resignation in 1762 (T 29/34 p. 232).
  • 24. TM 18 Nov. 1714 (CTB, xxix, 30-2), 31 July 1759 (T 29/33 pp. 218-19).
  • 25. TM 27 July 1757 (T 29/32 p. 475). The dismissal of Under Clerks was rare. The following cases are recorded: Martin (1722), Plaxton (1758), Chowne (1772) and H. Webster (1782).
  • 26. TM 22 Feb. 1776 (T 29/45 pp. 55-6); for a division of 23 Nov. 1752, see T 48/64; for a list of 'Perquisites' of about 1760, apparently representing the expected yield of fees to particular Under Clerks, see BM Add. MS 34736 f. 121.
  • 27. For Webster, see Hist. Reg. Chron. (1717), ii, 20, TM 14 May 1717, 6 Sept. 1721 (CTB, xxxi, 16; T 29/24, pt. ii, 92) and BM Add. MS 34736 f. 105. He was passed over for promotion to a chief clerkship in 1724, 1738, 1742 and 1752 and was not included in the division of the latter year.
  • 28. De Grey was not included in the division of 1752 and was not considered for promotion to a chief clerkship in 1761. For the position of Schutz, see BM Add. MS 34736 f. 121. For the case of Beldam, held in 1762 to have been 'a clerk to the Duke of Newcastle, not the Treasury', see BM Add. MS 35597 f. 96.
  • 29. T 29/45 pp. 53-8.
  • 30. This practice attracted the favourable comment of the Commissioners on Fees of 1786 (2nd Rept. on Fees, 55). Before 1776 no such allowances were granted to Under Clerks, presumably because they were usually permitted to remain on the establishment until death, whether they were active or not. The practice with regard to Chief Clerks was different since, as a general rule, they were required always to exercise their functions in person. See p. 6 n. 23.
  • 31. Secret Service Expenses, 25, 31, 44, 52, 64, 71, 80, 85, 94, 100, 108, 114, 120, 127, 136, 140, 148, 150, 168, 174, 183, 190, 201, 210.
  • 32. CTB, viii, 2151; ibid. ix, 19. The bulk of the charge of the Revenue Department continued to be borne by the customs until 1831 when the salaries were transferred to the annual estimates.
  • 33. CTB, xxviii, 466-7, 491.
  • 34. Ibid. xxix, 628.
  • 35. BM Add. MS 34736 f. 105.
  • 36. TM 3 May 1726 (T 29/25 p. 173).
  • 37. Plaxton (1754) and Kerrick (1755).
  • 38. TM 11 Oct. 1752 (T 29/32 p. 71), 27 July 1757 (ibid. p. 475).
  • 39. TM 22 Feb. 1776 (T 29/45 p. 57).
  • 40. 15 Geo. II, c 22. The following were members of the Commons while holding clerkships in the Treasury: Shaw (1685), Kelsall (1791-34) and Tilson (1727-34). Bendish was a candidate in 1710 (Luttrell, Hist. Relation, vi, 541, 543). Pennington (1745) and H. Fane (1757) relinquished their clerkships on election. E. Webster was a member of the Irish parliament of George I.
  • 41. T 29/52 pp. 516-24.
  • 42. In the lists below the Junior Clerks have been designated 'Junior (Assistant) Clerks' in order to distinguish them from the undifferentiated Junior Clerks on the establishment.
  • 43. 15th Rept. on Finance, 288-9.
  • 44. See also Civil List Act 1810 (50 Geo. III, c 117, s 9). Following the Civil List Act 1816 (56 Geo. III, c 46) estimates of the amount of the deficiency of the fee fund were laid before the House of Commons and the sums required voted annually. It was not until 1837 that the estimates presented and the sums voted were described as being for the Treasury itself. The great majority of the fees were abolished in 1835 (1st Rept. of Treasury Committee of Enquiry into Fees 1837 (HC 1837, xliv), 176-8).
  • 45. TM 5 July 1798 (T 29/73 pp. 207-12).
  • 46. 2nd Rept. on Fees, 52.
  • 47. TM 10 Oct. 1797 (T 29/71 p. 235) which also provided that an equivalent amount should be paid to those Clerks who had received such gifts.
  • 48. T 29/85 pp. 346-51; see also TM 6 Jan. 1806 (T 29/86 p. 1).
  • 49. TM 16 Aug. 1816 (T 29/142 pp. 735-43). The officials of the Commissariat are not included in these lists.
  • 50. T 29/95 pp. 384-9. For recruitment and probation generally during the nineteenth century, see H. G. Roseveare, The Treasury: The Evolution of a British Institution (London 1969), 161-81.
  • 51. TM 23 Feb. 1813 (T 29/121 pp. 704-15).
  • 52. TM 10 Aug. 1821 (T 29/200 pp. 237-55).
  • 53. TM 30 Sept. 1834 (T 29/357 pp. 677-80). The staff of the department of the Paymaster of Civil Services is not included in these lists.
  • 54. T 29/358 pp. 317-37.
  • 55. TM 27 March 1849 (T 29/505 p. 30).
  • 56. T 29/564 p. 47.
  • 57. TM 24 Dec. 1859 (T 29/577 pp. 427-33), 10 May 1867 (AB, iv, 272-6).
  • 58. TM 6 Jan. 1860 (AB, iv, 88-90).
  • 59. AB, v, 27. The principles laid down on this occasion were carried into effect by TM 31 Dec. 1870 (ibid. 43). See also Roseveare, Treasury, 175-6 and M. Wright, Treasury Control of the Civil Service 1854-1874 (Oxford 1969), 33-4.