Q. Do you actually make spectacles?
A. As a Company, no. The purpose of the Company is the same now as it always was: to support the prevention, and treatment, of visual 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 teachers, secretaries, accountants, regulators, charity executives, researchers and business entrepreneurs too!
Q. Can you recommend an optometrist or dispensing optician in my area?
A. We have members working across the country but every patient's needs are different and we would not single out one practice above another. You can find qualified eye health practitioners in your area by checking the register of the General Optical Council (see below).
Q. I want to complain about the service I have received. Can you help me?
A. No. We are a City Livery Company, not a regulator. The principal regulator in the UK for eye care is the General Optical Council (GOC). Amongst other functions, they 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. The Optical Consumer Complaints Service, operated by Nickolds Solicitors, can also be accessed through the GOC.
Contact: The General Optical Council, 10 Old Bailey, London EC4M 7NG Tel: 020 7580 3898 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Complaints Service: OCCS , 6 Market Square, Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, CM23
Tel: 0844 800 5071 Email: email@example.com Website: www.opticalcomplaints.co.uk
Q. Why does it cost so much?
A. Eye health is a complex matter and your eyecare practitioner will want to give you the best care they can. You will be given a prescription for the lenses you need and will be referred for specialist treatment if necessary. The sale of spectacles or lenses is a separate matter. You will get good advice from the practitioner who knows you best but you can shop around if you wish to do so.
Q. How do I join?
A. 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 without the need for formal sponsorship by a current member. The Clerk is also always happy to answer questions about membership. Click here to go to our Membership page.
Q. How much does it cost to be a member of a Livery Company?
A. Membership fees vary within livery companies. Spectacle Maker Freemen currently pay Quarterage (membership fees) of £130 per year. Liverymen pay £350 per year. There is a separate admission fee for new Liverymen which demonstrates a commitment on both sides. Spaces in the Livery are limited and Liverymen usually remain as members for many years.
The cost of lunches, dinners and other events varies and all events are optional. Typically a buffet lunch after a Common Hall Election or major festival service may be £50-60 per head, quarterly Court Luncheon is priced at around £100 per head and the annual Livery Dinner around £150 per head. Costs for lunches and dinners include a drinks reception, three course menu with wines at each course, coffee, service and VAT.
Society events can cost only a nominal amount for a self-guided City walk or a specially negotiated small group visit to an optical museum, £30-40 per head for a private tour of a house or museum and as much as a three figure sum for a full weekend away, including accommodation, meals and activities.
All Livery Company members are strongly encouraged to commit to a regular donation to charity, though this remains entirely voluntary. We recommend a donation of at least £20 per month for those who are able and willing to do so.
Q. Are all events in London?
A. 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 for Freemen and Liverymen and there is a Brigantes' Association which organises at least two gatherings per year for Liverymen in the North of England.
Q. How can I hire Apothecaries’ Hall?
A. Since 1946 the Spectacle Makers have been fortunate to lease office premises within the Warehouses of Apothecaries’ Hall and to be able to book several months ahead the wonderful 1672 Hall for Court meetings, Court Luncheons, Presentation Ceremonies and other significant events in the life of the Company. However, we are just tenants. The Hall is owned and managed by our landlords, The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries. Our members do not have free or discounted access to the Hall by virtue of our tenancy and we cannot negotiate special rates for optically-related businesses or charities. Any enquiries about Hall hire or events must be made directly to the Apothecaries' Office by calling 020 7236 1189.
Q. Do you give grants to students or to fund apprenticeships?
A. The WCSM Education Trust offers a bursary scheme each year which is open to new students starting optical training in the UK. There is strong competition for these awards and applications can only be considered if they are in the right form and submitted within the timetable set each year. The Company itself does not have the resources to sponsor individuals or company training programmes and we will not respond to speculative requests for money. Click here to see more about the WCSM Education Trust Bursary and Travel Award Schemes.
Charities who wish to apply for support must also follow a set application process, set out on our Charity page.