History and Archive Data

Many people meeting us for the first time assume that the Spectacle Makers’ Company is one of the “modern Liveries” founded in the 20th Century. This is not the case!

The Company was founded in 1629 at the petition of craftsmen from within the Brewers’ Company who had established their own trade and wished to have it protected and recognised.

previous masters
previous clerks
SPECTACLE MAKER LORD MAYORS
history of apothEcaries' hall

 We know the names of the first Master and Wardens and the Clerk from the original Charter and some of the details of the lives of the members of the Company at that time from the Company’s rule book, the Book of Ordinances of 1630.  Important information has also recently come to light about the first Master, Edward Gregorie, who was a Master Goldsmith and Robert Alt, probably his Upper Warden and one of the founders and petitioners for incorporation of the Company.  After the death of Edward Gregorie, his widow Martha kept trade and family together by marrying Robert Alt.  She herself appears to have trained several Spectacle Maker apprentices.  Robert and Martha Alt were buried in the churchyard of St Ann, Blackfriars, only steps away from the Company's current base in Apothecares' Hall.  

Like most of London, the Company suffered in the flames of the Great Fire of 1666. All the records, other than the Charter and the Book of Ordinances were destroyed. It is only thanks to the quick thinking of the Clerk, we believe, that these documents were carried safely away out of the City.

Digital copies will be available on this website in the near future. In the meantime, both the Charter and the Book of Ordinances are held with the London Metropolitan Archive and are available for public inspection by advance request to the Guildhall Library.

Click here to see photos of the 1629 Charter and details of its cost.

The Guildhall Library also holds all other important records of the Company including quarterage registers and minute books, including the first Minute Book of 1666, begun just after the Fire. 

Family History Enquiries

If you wish to research the history of a member of your family who you think may have been a Spectacle Maker in London, the records in the Guildhall Library may be a good first port of call.

Whilst we are always sympathetic to requests, and take great delight in the stories of former members, the Spectacle Makers’ office has many demands on its time. We do not have a full time Archivist, nor are all our records catalogued and instantly accessible, so questions cannot be answered at the touch of a button.  The past also tended to focus on the most notable members of the Company. We have very little information about most Freemen.

We can try to help only if there is time available and the more information you can supply, the better. For example, knowing that one’s great grandfather was an optician and thinking he might have been a Spectacle Maker is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Details of the individual’s full name and birth and death dates, their qualifications, where he or she lived and practised and the dates of any certificates or information already held may help to generate more information. The archives held at the British Optical Association Museum can also be very helpful but we cannot possibly fill in all the gaps in your family history.  A subscription to the website Ancestry.com may produce better results.

Previous Masters of the Company

Since Incorporation
1629 Edward Gregorie
...
Records lost in the Great Fire of London 1666
...

1665-68 John Turlington
1669 Richard Twigg
1669-70 John Radford
1671 John Verney
1672-73 Joseph Howe
1674-76 Jonathan Alt
1677-78 Thomas Goodman
1679-80 Thomas Handford
1681 John Throckmorton
1682 John Hicketts
1683 John Hill
1684 John Yarwell
1685 (Gregory Tingay)
John Yarwell
1686 William Longland
1687 John Radford
1688 James Throckmorton
1689 Joseph Howe
1690-91 Thomas Hanford
1692 John Hicketts
1693 John Yarwell
1694 William Longland
1695-96 James Throckmorton
1697-1700 Thomas Mayle
1701 Thomas Stirrop
1702-08 Ralph Stirrop
1709-11 William Bembrick
1712-14 Joseph Cole
1715 William Saunders
1716 James Mann (senior)
1717 Isaac Burbridge
1718-19 Thomas Gay
1720-21 Edward Scarlett (senior)
1722-32 George Wildey
1733 Thomas Archer
1734 John Flower
1735-36 James Mann (junior)
1737-43 John Ward
1744 Mathew Loft
1745 Edward Scarlett (junior)
1746 Thomas Lincoln
1747 George Bass
1748 John Cuff
1749 John Howe
1750 George Stirrop
1751 Samuel Scatliff
1752 James Ayscough
1753-54 John Morris
1754-57 George Bass
1758-59 Thomas Ribright
1760 David Deane
1761-62 Peter Eglington
1763 Francis Watkins
1764-68 James Tomlinson
1769-73 Edward Nairne FRS
1774-81 Peter Dollond
1782-86 Henry Shuttleworth
1787-89 Charles Lincoln
1790-91 John Dollond
1792-93 Thomas Blunt
1794 John Bleuler
1795-96 Edward Nairne FRS
1797-98 Peter Dollond
1799-1800 John Field
1801-02 Peter Dollond
1803-04 Henry Lawson
1805-06 James Long
1807-08 William Gilbert
1809-10 John Bleuler
1811-12 George Dollond FRS
1813-14 Johnson Lawson FRS, FRAS
1815-16 Thomas Blunt
1817 Samuel Walker
1818-19 James Christie
1820-21 John Field
1822-23 Henry Lawson
1824-25 William Harris
1826-27 Richard Gude
1828-29 Robert Brettell Bate
1830 Andrew Smith
1831 James Harmer
1832 Thomas Bish MP
1833 George Carroll
1834 Ford Hale
1835-36 John Sivewright
1837-39 John Johnson (LORD MAYOR 1845)
1840-41 Alderman Sir James Duke MP
1842 Alderman Henry Lainson
1843 James Harmer
1844-45 Alderman Sir George Carroll (LORD MAYOR 1846)
1846 William Clarkson
1847 The Marquis of Downshire
1848-49 Alderman Sir James Duke MP (LORD MAYOR 1848)
1850 William Henry Palmer
1851 John Hill
1852 Sir Walter Buchannan Riddell Bt
1853 William Clarkson
1854 William Henry Palmer
1855 Ford Hale
1856-57 Frederick Salmon
1858 Alderman Sir William Anderson Rose (LORD MAYOR 1862)
1859 The Marquis of Downshire
1860 Alderman Sir James Duke MP
1861 William Tite MP
1862 George Dollond
1863 Thomas Carlyle Hayward
1864 William White
1865 Alderman Thomas Dakin
1866 Charles James Palmer
1867 Alderman Sir Benjamin Samuel Phillips (LORD MAYOR 1865)
1868 Alderman David Henry Stone (LORD MAYOR 1874)
1869-70 Alderman Andrew Lusk (LORD MAYOR 1873)
1871-72 Robert Nicholas Fowler MP (LORD MAYOR 1883 & 1885)
1873 Deputy Ben Slowman
1874 Philip Twells MP
1875 Alderman William A McArthur MP
1876 Alderman Sir Thomas Dakin (LORD MAYOR 1870)
1877 Alderman Sir William Anderson Rose
1878 The Rt. Hon. George Joachim Goschen MP
1879 Alderman Sir Benjamin Samuel Phillips
1880 Alderman Sir William McArthur KCMG, MP (LORD MAYOR 1880)
1881 Charles Hill JP
1882-88 Richard Septimus Wilkinson DL, JP
1889-90 William James Ford
1890 Alderman Sir Andrew Lusk Bt
1891 Alderman Sir Polydore de Keyser Bt (LORD MAYOR 1887)
1892 Colonel & Alderman Horatio Davies MP
1893 Alderman George Faudel-Phillips
1894 Sir Joseph Sebag-Montefiore JP
1895 William Martin Bickerstaff DL, JP
1896 Alderman Sir George Faudel-Phillips Bt, GCIE (LORD MAYOR 1896)
1897 Colonel & Alderman Sir Horatio Davies Bt, MP (LORD MAYOR 1897)
1898 William Henry Emilien Thornthwaite FRAS
1899 Colonel & Alderman Sir Reginald Hanson Bt, MP (LORD MAYOR 1886)

1900-01 The Rt. Hon. Sir William Hart-Dyke Bt, MP
1902 Alderman Sir Marcus Samuel Bt (afterwards Viscount Bearsted)(LORD MAYOR 1902)
1903-04 The Honourable Alban GH Gibbs MP (afterwards Lord Aldenham)
1905 Edward Levy-Lawson, 1st Baron Burnham
1906 Harry Hylton-Foster
1907 James Henry Davidson
1908 The Honourable WR Peel MP (afterwards Earl Peel)
1909-10 Colonel The Honourable Harry Lawson Webster Levy-Lawson MP (afterwards 1st Viscount Burnham GCMG, CH & 2nd Baron Burnham)
1911 The Lord Aldenham MA
1912-13 Alderman Sir Marcus Samuel Bt (afterwards Viscount Bearsted)
1914-17 Sir John FL Rolleston MP
1918-19 Alderman Sir Horace Brooks Marshall LLD (afterwards Lord Marshall of Chipstead KCVO, PC, MA, LLD) (LORD MAYOR 1918)
1920 Colonel & Alderman Sir Charles Cheers Wakefield Bt, CBE
1921 The Viscount Hill LCC
1922-23 Charles Edward Sebag-Montefiore
1924-25 Colonel & Alderman Sir Charles Cheers Wakefield Bt, CBE (afterwards Viscount Wakefield of Hythe)
1926-27 Lieutenant Colonel Edward Frederick Lawson DSO, MC (afterwards 4th Baron Burnham)
1928 Sir Osborn George Holmden KBE, DL, JP
1929-30 Sir Lionel Faudel-Phillips Bt, JP
1931 The Lord Aldenham MA
1932 Colonel The Viscount Burnham GCMG, CH
1933 Sir William Henry Champness, Deputy
1934-35 Sir Gomer Berry Bt, JP (afterwards first Viscount Kemsley GBE, KStJ)
1936-37 Charles Edward Sebag-Montefiore JP
1938-42 Alderman Sir William Coxen (LORD MAYOR 1939)
1943-44 Major General The Lord Burnham CB, DSO, MC. TD, MA (4th Baron Burnham)
1945 Lieutenant Colonel Gerald E Coke
1946 Alderman Sir Bracewell Smith Bt, KCVO, BSc (LORD MAYOR 1946)
1947-48 Alderman Sir Frank Newson-Smith Bt (LORD MAYOR 1943)
1949-50 The Honourable Lionel Berry (afterwards second Viscount Kemsley DL, KStJ)
1951-52 Walter Lucas Chance MA, JP
1953-54 Sir Frank William Morgan MC
1955-56 Frank William Law MA, MD, BChir, FRCS, LRCP, KStJ
1957-58 Gerald Edward Coke MA, JP
1959-60 The Honourable Lionel Berry (afterwards second Viscount Kemsley DL, KStJ)
1961-62 Roland Francis Champness MA, LLM, FSA, CC
1963-64 The Lord Crook KStJ, JP
1965-66 William Edwin Hardy FSMC
1967-68 Alfred William Hawes MC, FSMC
1969-70 Douglas Oldfield Rawling JP, FSMC
1971-72 Oliver Robert Marne Sebag-Montefiore TD, MA
1973-74 Leslie Eric Evershed-Martin OBE, FSMC, FBOA:HD, DCLP 1975-76
1975-76 Frank Max Wiseman OBE
1977-78 John Hart FSMC, FBOA:HD, DCLP
1979-80 Charles Alfred George Cook MC, GM, DSc, FRCS, FCOptom
1981-82 Richard Bertram Thorpe FCOptom
1983-84 Douglas Michael Rawling FCOptom
1985-86 Sir Richard Meyjes DL, FRSA, FInstD, CIMgt
1987-88 Professor Herbert James Ambrose Dartnall DSc, PhD, C Chem, FRSC
1989 Sir Nigel Mobbs JP, DL, DSc, CCIM, KStJ
1990 Mrs Anne Christine Arnold Silk FFDO, FBDO(Hons), FRSA, FRSM, Hon DSc
1991 James Leslie Kennerley Bankes MB, BS, FRCS, FRCOphth
1992 John Robert Stallwood FRSA
1993 Mohammed Jalie SMSA, FBDO(Hons), Hon FCGI, Hon FCOptom, MCIM
1994 David Evershed-Martin FCOptom
1995 Robert Alfred Ingham MA
1996 Clive Graham Stone FCOptom
1997 Peter Crockford Mills FCOptom
1998 Frank Goodwin Norville OBE, Hon. FCOptom.
1999 Anthony Hugh Chignell MBE, DO, FRCS, FRCOphth
2000 Brian Jack Mitchell FCA, FRCA
2001-02 George William Derek McLaren FBDO, FInstD, MCIM
2003 Robert William Chappell OBE, MPhil, DSc, FCOptom
2004 Nigel Homer Wingate FCOptom, FBDO
2005 John Roy Spencer Baker FBDO
2006 The Venerable John Anthony Morrison MA
2007 Robin Charles Henry Weathersbee, FCOptom, DCLP
2008 Joram Jacques (John) Fried FBDO
2009 John Stanley Shilling FRCS, DO, FRCOphth
2010 William Michael Barton FBDO(Hons), CL
2011 Professor John Marshall MBE, BSc, PhD, FMedSci, FRCPath, FSB, HonFRCOphth, HonFCOptom, FARVO, FLIA, FRSA
2012 Gordon Eric Jones C Chem, FRSC, FBCLA
2013 Christopher Ernest Hunt MBA, FBDO, FInstSMM
2014 Christine Margaret Tomkins BSc, MB, ChB(Hons), FRCS, DO, FRCOphth, FFFLM, FRCP, MBA
2015 Edward Bernard Middleton FCA
2016 Donald James Grocott TD, MA, FRSA, FIoD
2017 Felicity Mary Dorothy Harding MBA (OBE from 2019)
2018 John Alexander McGregor OBE

Previous Clerks

1629 Thomas Copley
...
Records lost in the Great Fire of London 1666
...
1629 Thomas Copley
166- Edward Winne
1677 Henry Burman
1687 Charles Burman
1689 Robert Smith
1690 Richard Mallaber
1698 Francis Speidell
1719 George Stone
1723 John Williams
1727 Thomas Bury
1737 William Adams
1749 James Lowther
1754 James Wharton
1759 Edward Bennett
1770 Thomas Whittell
1800 James Boudon
1811 John Sewell
1866 Colonel Thomas Davies Sewell FRAS
1916 W Sewell Singer
1926 Sir William Champness, Deputy
1948 Roland Champness MA, LLM, FSA
1966 Colin James Eldridge LLB
1998 Lieutenant Colonel John Salmon OBE, LLB
2015 Mrs Helen Margaret Perkins MA(Oxon), FCIS, FCSI

History of Apothecaries' Hall

The Society of Apothecaries was incorporated by royal charter from James I in 1617. The Letters Patent gave the Society the right to "have, purchase, retain and appoint a certain Hall, or Counsel-House" in the City, but it was 15 years before it could afford one.

Cobham House in Blackfriars was chosen. Situated in the precinct of the former Dominican Priory of the Black Friars, the property had originally been their guesthouse. The Society bought it for £1,800 in October 1632 from the executors of Lady Anne Howard, sister-in-law of Lady Cobham (who was the wife of the 11th Baron and daughter of Lord Howard of Effingham).

Destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, the Society immediately set about re-building the Hall. Work was completed in 1672 and an 'Elaboratory' was included for the first ever large-scale manufacture of drugs. This was located at ground level along the eastern side of the courtyard, underneath the Great Hall.

A major restoration and building programme was carried out in the 1780s, in part because of the huge expansion in the pharmaceutical trade operations at the Hall. This resulted in a new west and south range to the courtyard and additional premises behind the original, eastern block. Formerly bounded by large iron gates on the western side, entry to the Hall was now from the street through a central archway.

The Apothecaries' retail pharmacy, which had been located on the northern side of the courtyard, gained a separate entrance on Water Lane (now Black Friars Lane) in 1823. Its steps and wrought-iron railings are still evident. The colonnade in the courtyard where the main door, surmounted by the Society's Arms, is now located was enclosed in 1929. The Entrance Hall features the main staircase which was constructed in 1670.

Although the Hall underwent major re-development in the 1980s, its external appearance has altered little since the late-eighteenth century. It is the oldest extant livery company Hall in the City, with the first-floor structure and arrangement of the Great Hall, Court Room and Parlour remaining as re-built between 1668 and 1670.

The central 24-branch candelabrum suspended from the ceiling was presented to the Society by Sir Benjamin Rawling, who was Sheriff of London and Master in 1736.

The windows on the east and west sides of the Hall contain stained glass Coats of Arms of Past Masters and former Officers of the Society, and portraits hang on the walls.

The Irish oak panelling in the Great Hall dates from 1671. There is a carved screen at the south end of the room, a minstrels' gallery at the north end, and an oak floor.

The Court Room is carpeted, and completely panelled in oak in a style similar to that in the Great Hall.

The room is dominated by two large stained glass windows, one depicting the Society's Coat of Arms, the other the Stuart royal Arms. Portraits adorn the walls and the painting which hangs over the fireplace is that of Gideon de Laune, Royal Apothecary to Queen Anne and founder of the Society. It was presented to the Society of Apothecaries in 1641.

The Parlour is a carpeted, brightly-lit and air-conditioned room and is well suited for small meetings and receptions.

The room contains a large, wall-to-wall showcase in which many of the Society's apothecaries' drug jars and pill tiles are displayed. It adjoins the Court Room and there is a connecting door between them.

The Spectacle Makers' Office within the Apothecaries' Courtyard was established in 1946, after a previously nomadic existence in taverns, originally, and then in other Livery Halls.  There is no clear evidence to suppose that Spectacle Makers before the Fire of 1666 had their own Hall.  The minute books of 1666 carry no mention of the Company having been deprived of a Hall or a regular meeting place.