early  occupational pension schemes 

Occupational pensions were provided for a limited number of government employees in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (see the    Medieval and Early Modern Periods    section of the website for more information). Some private companies began to follow suit in the nineteenth century. The majority covered middle class workers in clerical and administrative positions.

Early company pension schemes

The first company pension schemes were set up in the late seventeenth century in private firms associated with the government, such as the Bank of England and East India Company.[1] At the Bank of England the first pension was granted in 1739 and further grants were made on a discretionary basis. The Bank's Superannuation Fund was established in 1933: prior to that date pensions had been paid out of the Bank's profits.[2]

One of the earliest private occupational pension schemes was the Chartered Gas Light and Coke Company Superannuation Fund, set up in 1841. This fund was uncovered in the course of PAT's Pensions Research Guide Project's survey of London Metropolitan Archives' collections. Many railway companies established pension schemes for their staff in the from the middle of the nineteenth century, and firms such as Reuters (1882), WH Smith (1894), Colmans (1899), Courtaulds, Boots, Kenricks, and J and P Coats also set up pension schemes for their staff in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.[3]

More information on the Chartered Gas Light and Coke Company Superannuation Fund

More information on the history of railway pensions

More information on the Reuters Pension Fund

Pat Thane suggests that some of the companies who first adopted pension schemes for their staff in the nineteenth century were motivated by the desire to retain staff by encouraging loyalty to the company[4], but many were also motivated by a paternal concern for the welfare of long serving staff. For example Rowntree's and Cadbury, firms who demonstrated great concern for the welfare of their staff, established pension schemes at the start of the twentieth century. It also represented a way of ensuring efficiency in manual occupations by encouraging older staff to retire and in some industries, such as mining, pension benefits may have been used as a way of calming industrial relations.[5]

Expansion of public sector pensions

The 1890s saw other public sector employees being granted pensions modelled on the civil service scheme, including teachers, the police (1890) and poor law officials (1896). A uniform pension scheme for local government staff was established in 1922.


[1] Pat Thane, Old Age in English History, p. 244. 

[2]Information from The Bank of England Archive Guide.

[3] Pat Thane, Old Age in English History, p. 247.

[4] Pat Thane, Old Age in English History, p. 245. 

[5] Pat Thane, Old Age in English History, p. 245.


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