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A Brief History

1882  Formed as "The Clerk of Works Association"

Became the "Incorporated Clerks of Works Association of Great Britain"


Became "The Institute of Clerks of Works of Great Britain Incorporated"


Centenary Year


Centenary of Incorporation


Became the "Institute of Clerks of Works and Construction Inspectorate of Great Britain Incorporated"

Origins of the Title

The job title "Clerk of Works" is believed to derive from the thirteenth century when "Clerics" in Holy Orders were accepted as being more literate than their fellows, and were left to plan and supervise the "Works" associated with the erection of churches and other religious property. By the nineteenth century, the role had expanded to cover the majority of building works, and the Clerk of Works was drawn from experienced tradesmen who had a wide knowledge and understanding of the building process.

The role, to this day, is based on the impartiality of the incumbent in ensuring value for money for the client - rather than the contractor - is achieved through rigorous and detailed inspection of materials and workmanship throughout the build process. In many cases, the traditional title has been discarded to comply with modern trends, and replaced with "Site Inspector", however the requirement for the role today is as strong as it has ever been.

Purposes of Formation

The Clerk of Works, historically as well as now, is a very isolated profession on site. He/she is the person that must ensure quality of both materials and workmanship and, to this end, must be absolutely impartial and independent in his decisions and judgements. He/she cannot normally, by virtue of the quality role, be employed by the contractor - only the client, and normally by the architect on behalf of the client. His/her role is not to judge, but simply to report (through exhaustive and detailed diary notes) all occurrences that are relevant to the role.

Experience in the many facets of the building trade is essential and, in general terms, most practitioners will have "come from the tools". When originally formed, The Clerk of Works Association was there to allow those who were required to operate in isolation on site a central organisation to look after the interests of their chosen profession, be it through association with other professional bodies, educational means or simply through social intercourse amongst their own peers and contemporaries. Essential to this, as the association developed, was the development of a central body that could lobby parliament in relation to their profession, and the quality issues that it stands for.

Although the means of construction, the training of individuals and the way in which individuals are employed have changed dramatically over the years, the principles for which the association was originally formed remain sacrosanct.