Frequently Asked Questions

The Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers FAQs
Do you actually make spectacles?

As a Company, no. The purpose of the Company is the same now as it always was: to support the prevention, and treatment, of vision impairment. It is just that, in 1629 when the Company was founded, there was little more that could be done to improve vision but to attach basic lenses to a wooden or horn frame – hence "Spectacle Makers".

We do have members who make spectacles, from bespoke designer frames to high tech lens materials, but members now encompass professions in all sections of the optical world, and none – we have accountants, lawyers and insurance experts as well as ophthalmologists, optometrists, dispensing opticians, orthoptists, ophthalmic nurses, contact lens manufacturers, the heads of educational bodies and national regulators, surgeons, inventors and entrepreneurs.

Can you recommend an optician or deal with a complaint about the service I have received?

No. We are a City Livery Company, not a regulator. The principal regulator in the UK is the General Optical Council (GOC). Amongst other functions, they maintain the register of opticians and deal with allegations concerning fitness to practise for those working in eye health. Each practice will have its own complaints procedure and it is always best to work through that process first. However, the Optical Consumer Complaints Service, operated by Nickolds Solicitors, can also be accessed through the GOC.

Contacts: The General Optical Council, 10 Old Bailey, London EC4M 7NG
Tel: 020 7580 3898
Email: goc@optical.org
Website: www.optical.org

Online register of regulated practices and businesses: www.optical.org/en/utilities/online-registers.cfm

Optical Consumer Complaints Service: OCCS , 6 Market Square, Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, CM23 3UZ.

Contacts: The General Optical Council, 10 Old Bailey, London EC4M 7NG
Tel: 0844 800 5071
Email: enquiries@opticalcomplaints.co.uk
Website: www.opticalcomplaints.co.uk
Can you give me advice on a complex dispensing or fitting issue?

No. Our office is staffed by the Clerk and an Administrator; our members are located across the country in their own practices and, whilst there are very likely to be experts among them, you are more likely to get the help you need from one of the optical sector professional bodies. If you are an optometrist, the College of Optometrists may be able to help you; for Dispensing Opticians, try the Association of British Dispensing Opticians.

How do I join? Do I have to be involved with eyes?

The Company welcomes applications from anyone interested in its work, whether or not they work in the optical sector. Those who are optically qualified can apply to become a Freeman of the Company by right; others without a family history of connections with the Company will need to provide a CV and have support from two current members. Click here for more information and to download an application form.. The Clerk is also always happy to answer questions about membership.

How much does it cost to be a member?

Freeman pay an application fee of £120; then on admission they pay Quarterage (subscription fees) of £120 per annum up to the next renewal date of 1 June. The renewal date is 1 June each year and the fee amount is confirmed at least 6 weeks in advance of that date.

On moving from the Freedom to the Livery, new Liverymen pay an Admission Fine of £900, inclusive of VAT and their own silver Livery medal. Quarterage increases to the Livery rate (currently £300 per annum) at the next renewal date.

There is no requirement to attend a minimum number of Company events. The cost of lunches, dinners and other events varies. Typically a buffet lunch after Common Hall or the United Guilds' Service will range from £40-60 per head depending on the venue, lunch following the Presentation of Certificates is currently charged at £65 per head, attendance at a quarterly Court Luncheon £87.50 per head and the annual Livery Dinner £130-£140 per head. All Company lunches and dinners include a drinks reception, three course menu with wines at each course, coffee and VAT.

All Freemen and Liverymen are automatically members of The Spectacle Makers' Society. Society events range from a nominal cost only for guided walks, or pay as you go for certain tours, up to a three figure sum per head for a full weekend away, including accommodation and meals. Admission costs for privately arranged visits to buildings not normally open to the public are usually passed on at the Group rate, or rounded up with a small donation going to the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers' Charity.

All members are encouraged to commit to a regular donation to the WCSM Charity. At least £20 per month is suggested for Liverymen.

Costs of membership to be a Spectacle Maker are in the lower range of fees for Livery Companies.

Are all events in London?

No, but as a City Livery Company, our focus for formal occasions is our base at Apothecaries' Hall, in the City. The Spectacle Makers' Society organises events in different parts of the country, according to demand. Members of the Company also regularly attend optical trade shows, conferences and meetings in major cities outside London and there may be visits to schools, colleges and universities from time to time.

Do you have your own Hall? Can you arrange for me to visit or hire Apothecaries' Hall?

No.

There is no evidence that the Spectacle Makers ever had their own Hall. Of course, many Livery Halls were lost in the Great Fire of 1666 but the Spectacle Makers' records of later that year make no mention of such a loss and the regular meetings which then resumed took place in a succession of London inns, with no comment that this might have been a change in practice.

Since 1946 the Spectacle Makers have been fortunate to lease office premises within the Warehouses of Apothecaries' Hall and to be able to hire the wonderful 1672 Hall for Court meetings, Court Luncheons, Presentation Ceremonies and other significant events in the life of the Company.

However, the Company has no special rights of access and has no authority whatsoever to grant permission to visit or use Apothecaries' Hall. Enquiries about booking Apothecaries' Hall for an event, on a commercial basis, or about visits and guided tours of the Hall, should be addressed directly to The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries' Beadle, by calling 077 48 292920 or emailing beadle@apothecaries.org.uk.

Click here for more information about Apothecaries' Hall.

Does the Company give money to fund apprenticeships?

No. The WCSM Education Trust awards bursaries but the Company itself does not have the resources to sponsor individuals or practices wishing to take on their own apprentices.

Do you give money to charity?

The Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers' Charity is a grant-giving charity and invites grant appeals from organisations whose aims are linked to visual health. The Company supports charities nominated by the Lord Mayor and connected with its role as a Livery Company in the City of London. Please see the Charity section of this website for more information.

I have lots of old pairs of spectacles. Would you like them for your museum or to give to the visually impaired in other countries?

We do not have our own museum. The British Optical Association Museum, based within the College of Optometrists, has a limited amount of space and therefore has a strict acquisition policy. If you have spectacles which are no longer needed and you would like others to be able to use them, many high street opticians and optometrists have recycling arrangements in place in association with Vision Aid Overseas (registered charity no. 1081695). Click here to find your nearest local reception centre for old spectacles.

Do you still run the SMC (Tech) course? Where can I find out about WCSM exam fees and dates and training courses for your exams?

WCSM remains the Awarding Organisation for the Level 4 Diploma for Optical Technicians (SMC Tech) as well as many other examinations for optical support staff below GOC-registration level.

For exam dates and fees, please contact the ABDO examinations team, who deal with administration of our exams on our behalf. For further information please see the Qualifications section.

We do not deliver training ourselves. Training courses are available from a number of different providers, in colleges, through employers and principally via ABDO College. Contact www.abdocollege.org.uk, email info@abdocollege.org.uk or call 01227 733921.