Mrs Dester’s Duster

Enquiry into the Duties of Mrs Dester

Minutes relating to Mrs Dester’s duties, 12 January 1839 (Ref: ZZ261/663096)

The Public Office was Birmingham’s first public building and opened in 1829. The Street Commissioners met there, the Magistrates and the parish poor law officials, and there was also a prison.

Public spaces always need cleaning, and the person in charge of that was Mrs Dester. In April 1839 Mrs Dester was paid £2-10-0 as salary and 2s for ‘sweeps’ and at the meeting of the Trustees of the Public Office on 18 April 1839, it was resolved that the following Report be entered on the Minutes:

‘ Committee of Trustees appointed to enquire into the Duties etc. of Mrs Dester, 12 January 1839
Present:  Messrs.
Turner Tongue  Rodway
Ivons & Whittle

Mrs Dester stated that the [Street] Commissioners’ Servants, clean all the Public Rooms and Passages, she supplies them with Black Lead for the Grates, rubbing stones, Bees Wax, Turpentine, & soap for cleaning.

She supplies all the meetings with Candles and occasionally with writing Paper, she is constantly in attendance to give answers, she has to superintend, to see that all the Rooms are properly cleaned, to have the fires lighted and to wait until the Meetings break up, to see the premises are properly secured, when all have left – and it’s frequently late before they leave –

Mrs Dester stated that she had the care of some Black Cloth which has been used to cover the Magistrates Desks at different times, which was ordered to be sent to the Workhouse.’

Fiona Tait, Archivist (Collections Development)


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