As a Company, no. The purpose of the Company is the same now as it always was: to support better vision for all – in particular, the prevention and treatment, of visual impairment. The name comes from the fact that when the Company was founded, the only thing that could be done more to improve vision was 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. Alongside them are representatives of all the different optical professions but also teachers, secretaries, accountants and lawyers, regulators, charity executives, researchers, sales and marketing professionals and business entrepreneurs. Anyone who shares our aims is welcome to apply for membership.
Every patient’s needs are different. You can find qualified eye health practitioners in your area by checking the register of the General Optical Council www.optical.org.
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 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
Optical Consumer Complaints Service:
Telephone: 0344 800 5071
Eye health is a complex matter and involves specific training and experience. A qualified eyecare practitioner will want to give you the best care they can. A full eye examination can tell you so much more than just whether you need spectacles. If you would benefit from spectacles or lenses, you will be given a prescription. If tests reveal an eye condition which needs further investigation, you may receive treatment on the spot or be referred to a hospital department or specific consultant.
The sale of spectacles and contact 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.
The Company welcomes applications from anyone interested in its work, whether or not they work in the optical sector. If you are optically qualified, you can apply by right to become a Freeman of the Company. Other members join by recommendation. If you do not know Liverymen who could support your application, the Clerk will be willing to make an introduction. The Clerk is also always happy to answer questions about membership.
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 of £900 for new Liverymen. This represents a significant commitment on both sides. Invitations to the Livery are a mark of honour and respect. There are a limited number of spaces so invitations to the Livery are much prized. It is expected that members who move up into the Livery will stay with us for many years, as members of the Spectacle Maker family.
The cost of lunches, dinners and other events varies. All events are optional. The Company offers discussions and virtual gatherings by Zoom which cost nothing. Typically a buffet lunch after a Common Hall Election or major festival service may be around £60 per head, a 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 are open to Freemen and Liverymen. Example costs are £0-10 for a self-guided City walk, family picnic in a park or a specially negotiated small group visit to an optical museum, £30-40 per head for a private tour of a house or museum or lunch in the City on Lord Mayor’s Show day and up to £500 for a full weekend away for a couple, including accommodation, meals and activities.
All Livery Company members are strongly encouraged to make to a regular donation to charity, though this remains entirely voluntary. We recommend a donation of at least £20 per month to The Spectacle Makers’ Charity for those who are able and willing to do so.
Our focus for formal occasions is our base at Apothecaries’ Hall in the City of London. We also hold our annual Livery Dinner in one of the larger Livery Halls in the City. However, the Master’s Weekend moves to a different place in the UK each year and the Spectacle Makers’ Society organises social events in different parts of the country throughout the year. Virtual events also help in bringing people together from across the world without any need to travel.
The cross-Livery Brigantes’ Association organises two gatherings per year and a Golf Day in the North of England for those who want to enjoy some of the fellowship of Livery Companies without having to travel to London.
Since 1946 the Spectacle Makers have been fortunate to lease office premises within the Warehouses of Apothecaries’ Hall. The Hall is owned and managed by our landlords, The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries.
We are able to book the wonderful 1672 Hall for Court meetings, Luncheons and other significant events in the life of the Company. Dates are fixed around two years in advance and we pay agreed rates for both hall Hire and catering.
The Hall remains private and neither we nor our members have any automatic right of access. Anyone who wishes to organise a guided tour of the Hall must speak directly to the Apothecaries’ Office by calling 020 7236 1189 or you can look at the website: https://www.apothecaries.org/make-a-booking/. Enquiries about lunches, dinners, weddings and other social functions are co-ordinated by the caterers, Party Ingredients, who also manage bookings for a number of other Livery Halls and memorable venues – see https://www.partyingredients.co.uk/venues/.
The Spectacle Makers’ Charity offers a bursary scheme each year which is open to new students starting optical training in the UK. The application period opens in late Autumn, with bursaries being paid in the second term. CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS OF THE BURSARY SCHEME AND TRAVEL AWARDS FOR OPHTHALMOLOGISTS IN TRAINING.
Funding requests will not be considered at any other time in the year and we are sorry but we cannot help pay for specialist school or college fees outside the terms of the bursary scheme.
All our charitable support is directed through The Spectacle Makers’ Charity. Under its constitution, the Charity is limited to supporting other charities and not-for-profit organisations seeking to help vision impaired people, and education, training and research in optical fields.
It cannot give money to causes which do not fit those criteria and it will not respond to speculative “round robin” appeals. Please see our Charity page for more information on how to apply for a grant.
We do not have any original records about past Freemen and Liverymen available for inspection within our offices.
Our historic records, including minutes of meetings, are held within the London Metropolitan Archive and can be accessed via the Guildhall Library in London. See https://search.lma.gov.uk/.
The British Optical Association Museum within the College of Optometrists holds examination registers, a huge amount of information relating to the history of optics and a variety of business directories and records to track the history of optical businesses in the UK. Visits are by appointment only. You can contact the Curator, Liveryman Neil Handley, on +44 (0)20 7766 4353 or look at the collections catalogue at https://www.college-optometrists.org/the-college/museum/museum-collections.html/.
The easiest source of information for family history enquiries is Ancestry.com (in its UK form, Ancestry.co.uk) https://www.ancestry.co.uk/. This will have far more information that we can provide.