Financial Departments

At the beginning of the 19th century there existed a number of historical and anomalous  financial departments.  The Exchequer was of ancient origin.  The Revenue Board controlled a number of departments and had existed for several hundred years.

Three auditing offices were created at the end of the 18th century.  The Treasury, the Commission of Account and the Controller and Examiner of Army accounts.  The Treasury was responsible for the collection of revenue and expenditure.  The commissioners had to approve expenditure of public money.

At the start of the 19th century the Irish Treasury did not receive departmental estimates nor approve them.  Its role was in the nature of an accounting department rather than equivalent to modern Department of Finance with control over all departments.

The Exchequer was an ancient department with a common law equity and revenue side.  The revenue side comprised a number of ancient offices including some miscellaneous ancient revenue, fines and forfeit recognisance.  Another section of the exchequer assisted Treasury in in motoring receipts and expenditures.

The Treasury’s Commissioners were assisted by a Secretary, Chief Clerk, Revenue Clerks and a host of other clerks.   The revenue side of the Exchequer supervised collection of certain occasional revenue.

The three accounting officers connected with Exchequer, the Auditor General, Clerk of the Pells and Teller r employed officers and clerks. The Commissioners of Public Account had a relatively small staff.  They audited a number of bodies  receiving government grants and some government departments as well as institutions receiving state assistance.

The Lottery Commissioners consisted of nine part-time commissioners.  In the early years of 19th century, they employed a secretary and 10 clerks and an inspector.


The Revenue Commissioners controlled most revenue collection.  Its staff was divided between two major departments, Customs and Excise.  In 1806, two boards were established, one for customs and the other for inland excise and taxes.  In 1814, the Excise Department was divided into excise and other taxes.

Three other taxation offices, the  post office, the stamp office and lottery office, each dated from the end of the 18th century.  The commissioners for the reduction of the national debt were constituted in 1797.

The largest financial departments were the Revenue Commissioners Board of Stamps and the Postmaster General.  The customs section was divided between into three sections, a central office, the port of Dublin and other ports. The central office in the Custom House had 125 officials and clerks working in several departments including an accountant general, examiners and statistical officers.

Dublin Port had a staff of 150 officers and clerks working between the quays and custom house in clearing cargo.  They employed 200 boatmen and tide waiters who landed on boats to arrive on lawful landing.  There were a further 500 officials and clerks, 750 tide waiters and boatman at the other ports in the early 19th century.  There was also 19 Revenue cruisers with a crew totalling 700.

The Excise Department employed a total of 1,300, the bulk being  surveyors, 500 guagers (650) and hearth money collectors (100). In 1804, many of the officers were sinecures and were performed by deputies. Reforming legislation in 1808 was passed to prevent perceived abuses in excise collection and to introduce discipline into the operation of the Board.

The Stamp Board was managed by five commissioners, with a staff of about 150.  The officials included a secretary, receiver, inspectors of Law Courts, newspapers and hats.

Post Office

An independent Irish Post Office was established in 1854 under an Irish Postmaster General.  The post office comprised 70 senior officials, clerks and sorters and 50 porters and letter carriers.  They were about 260 post towns, each with its deputy postmaster throughout the country.

A new general Post Office was proposed and opened in Sackville Street in 1815. There were over a dozen departments in the Dublin Post Office in the early years of the 19th century.  This included the accountant general’s office, solicitors  general’s office, letter bill office, inland office, British Mail Office, post  restante, mis sent letter office, penny post office (4 miles radius  of GPO) mail coach  office, surveyor’s office and  writing office.

By 1832, there were over 430 post towns a deputy postmaster and small staff. The GPO employed 100 senior officials, 140 letter carriers and porters and 85 mail guards.

The Irish and British Post Offices were united by legislation in 1831.  A single Postmaster General for the United Kingdom was appointed.

Irish and British Bodies

The Act of Union provided that Ireland  should contribute to 2/15 of the expenses of United Kingdom, with each country keeping its revenue department and fiscal system.  The Act provided that when  national debts of the countries were in the same ratio, they would be amalgamated.  This happened in 1811, and by 1816 the British and Irish revenues were consolidated.

The British and Irish treasuries were united into a single Board responsible for the United Kingdom.  The Irish commissioners for the reduction of the national debt were transferred to the British commissioners.

In 1823, the British and Irish Customs and Excise boards were fused following an enquiry into the Irish revenue departments, which found that the Irish departments were less efficient.  In 1827, the Commissioner of Stamps for Great Britain was constituted as Stamps Commissioner for the United Kingdom.

As a  consequence of the amalgamation of the revenue boards, the land revenues of the Crown were placed under the management of the commissioners of woods and forests.  They took over control of the quit rent office and  abolished the forfeiture office.

By the 1830s, the Irish revenue was being collected by a United Kingdom Department.  Pursuant to the consolidation of the Treasuries in 1816, a vice treasurer for Ireland was appointed to be responsible for the Irish Exchequer.  His accounts were to be audited by the British commissioners.

Supervision by Treasury

The Treasury was given  power  to regulate the Office of Auditor General, Clerk of the Pells and Teller of the Exchequer.  Five years later, it was empowered to dispense with the offices and the functions were handed over to the vice treasurer for Ireland who kept the accounts, previously transmitted by the Auditor General and transmitted abstracts of the receipts and issues to the Treasury. The Vice Treasurer sat in parliament.

In 1832, legislation provided that Irish accounts were to be audited by the Commissioners Public Accounts in Great Britain.  The power of the Lord Lieutenant to refer accounts for audit was transferred to the Treasury.

In 1825, following the appointment of an Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer, most of the revenue officers of the Exchequer was abolished.  In 1836, the Treasury was given power to abolish the offices of Vice Treasurer and Teller of the Exchequer. They were duly abolished in 1837.  The  receipt and issues of revenue from Ireland was under the supervision of the Controller General of Exchequer with an account at Bank of Ireland.  Issues were made on the authority of a Treasury warrant.

The Paymaster of Civil Services in Ireland was appointed.  He was also responsible for the accounts of county treasurers  paying and issuing exchequer bills and carrying out other functions directed by Treasury. The Office of the Paymaster of Civil Services in Ireland was abolished in 1861 and the duties were transferred to a branch of the Paymaster General’s office in Dublin.

By the early part of 19th century, when new departments were established, Treasury was given a preeminent role.  Annual estimates have to be submitted to Treasury which could impose its views on issues relating to expenditure, salaries, deployment and numerous other matters where financial issues arose.

Many departments became closely supervised by the Treasury.  The Board of Works Valuation Office and the national schoolteachers’ superannuation office were placed under direct Treasury control.

In the middle of the 19th century the Treasury was represented in Dublin by the Paymaster of Civil Services.  In 1870, the post of Treasury Remembrancers  was created as a confidential adviser to the Treasury on Irish administrative and commercial problems.

As the 19th century progressed, the Treasury became more and more rigorous in its standards and concern over expenditure.  It superintended all the departments regarding expenditure and,  waste


Important Notice! This website is provided for informational purposes only! It is a fundamental condition of the use of this website that no liability is accepted for any loss or damage caused by reason of any error, omission, or misstatement in its contents. 

Draft Articles; The articles on this website are in draft form and are subject to further review for typographical errors and, in some cases, updating and correction. It is intended to include references to the sources of materials and acknowledgements in the final version. The content of articles with [EU] in the title and some of the articles in the section on Agriculture are a reproduction of or are based on European or Irish public sector information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *