Occupations: Confidential Clerk

The 1921 census occupation classifications described the work of a confidential clerk as follows:

confidential clerk; a clerk q.v., usually one who has been with firm for many years, who acts as amanuensis2 q.v. to partner, managing director, or head of firm, or solicitor or chartered accountant; deals with more private or special correspondence.2

It fell under the jobs described in the 1921 census Occupational Classification Code Number 939. This code came under the overall heading of ‘Other Clerks’ in the Clerks and Draughtsmen (not Civil Service or Local Authority, Typists’ category.

It goes without saying a good educational standard was essential.

In the Yorkshire newspaper situations vacant or wanted columns in the first two decades of the 20th century, book-keeping, general office duties, typing and shorthand featured amongst the other responsibilities of a confidential clerk. Further duties could include dealing with money, for example paying wages and keeping the wages book. Foreign language skills were occasionally referred to. Even being an ‘abstainer’ was mentioned by someone seeking employment in this role.

Other attributes for this job included a smart appearance, initiative, conscientiousness, reliability, trustworthiness, as well as a strict regard to duties and accuracy in their performances.

Incidentally, a popular short farce entitled Wanted: A Confidential Clerk by W. F. Chapman, about the tribulations of seeking someone for this role, would have been familiar in this period. The play was a popular production with local amateur dramatic societies.

Cast of Characters for W. F. Chapman’s ‘Wanted: A Confidential Clerk” – out of copyright

This was not a common Batley job, but local firms – including textile manufacturers – did require office workers for business administration. It was the employment undertaken by St Mary’s War Memorial man, and Batley Grammar School Old Boy, Edward Leonard.

1. Someone who is employed to write from dictation or copy manuscript.
2. A Dictionary of Occupational Terms: Ministry of Labour. Based on the Classification of Occupations Used in the Census of POPULATION, 1921. His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1927.