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The Office of Works was established in the English royal household in 1378 to oversee the building and maintenance of the royal castles and residences. In 1832 it became the Works Department forces within the Office of Woods, Forests, Land Revenues, Works and Buildings. It was reconstituted as a government department in 1851 and became part of the Ministry of Works in 1940.
The organisation of the office varied; senior posts included Surveyor of the King's Works (1578-1782) and Comptroller of the King's Works (1423-1782). In 1782 these offices were merged into Surveyor-General and Comptroller. From 1761 there were named Architects. The office also had posts of Secretary, Master Mason and Master Carpenter.
After James Wyatt's death in 1813 a non-professional Surveyor-General was appointed: Major-General Sir Benjamin Stephenson. He was assisted by three "Attached Architects": Sir John Soane, John Nash and Sir Robert Smirke. This arrangement ended in 1832 with the formation of the Works Department, when architect Henry Hake Seward was appointed Surveyor of Works and Buildings.