Notable Dates in the history of the WCSM

21st Century

 2019 WCSM announces its decision to withdraw from offering accredited qualifications for optical technicians and support staff by March 2021

Liveryman Alderman Vincent Keaveny is elected Sheriff of the City of London

The Company’s third female Master appoints the first female Honorary Chaplain, The Rev Christine Smith

The maximum permitted size of the Livery is increased to 450

Mrs Helen Perkins becomes the Company's first female Clerk

First Master’s Medal awarded for first author initial research in the field of ophthalmic and dispensing optics

The WCSM Education Trust is founded as a limited company by guarantee to engage in charitable activities in support of optical training.  Training and assessment are separated in accordance with regulatory requirements.

The Company’s qualifications are formally accredited in Scotland

The Company institutes the Ruskell bronze medal, assessed by annual competition, to encourage and reward those who are within three years of obtaining their first degree and make their first contribution to the advancement of vision science

The Company achieves accreditation as an Awarding Body by the regulatory authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

 20th Century


The Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers’ Charity is established by Deed of Trust. The Charity make grants to other charities and charitable enterprises supporting those with vision impairment, in the UK and overseas.

A silver medal (the Fincham medal) is instituted to honour exceptional work in research for those "mid-career".

The Company’s qualification for optical technicians is given statutory recognition under Schedule (2) of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992. Holders of this qualification may use the letters SMC(Tech) after their names.

Anne Christine Silk FBDO, FRSA, FRSM becomes the first female Master of the Compan.

The Crook medal, a gold medal award for research , is instituted to recognise those whose lifetime has been marked by outstanding contributions to the understanding or improvement of vision.

The Company and the British Optical Association set up the independent Faculty of Dispensing Opticians. A merger with the Association of Dispensing Opticians leads to establishment of the Association of British Dispensing Opticians in 1986.

The Company joins forces with the British Optical Association and the Scottish Association of Opticians to found the British College of Ophthalmic Opticians, now The College of Optometrists, as the single examining body for ophthalmic opticians (optometrists).

The arms of the Company are installed in a new stained glass window in the West Crypt of Guildhall to complete its restoration after damage in World War II.

Sir Frederick Hoare, a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers, becomes Lord Mayor of London

The arms of the Company are reproduced in stained glass in the front hall of Apothecaries Hall.

The Opticians Act finally receives Royal Assent in June, providing for the setting up of a statutory register of opticians and establishing the General Optical Council.

On 25 January, a Petition is submitted to the Privy Council for grant of a Supplemental Charter, increasing the number of Assistant s to the Court from 8 to 14. The Privy Council hears the Petition on 16 May 1956 and the Supplemental Charter is signed on 21 June.

The Company began a new examination in Dispensing Optics.

An request is made to the College of Arms for an official Achievement of Arms, which is granted on 18 September 1950.

The formal ceremony for Clothing as of the Livery was devised by Sir Frank Newson Smith, Master of the Company.

The Spectacle Makers become tenants of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries and establish a permanent home within the Warehouses at Apothecaries Hall, Black Friars Lane, London.

The Fellowship of Spectacle Makers (changed in 1972 to "The Spectacle Makers’ Society") is instituted by the then Assistant Clerk Roland Champness to provide opportunities for purely social meetings of members of the Company and their families.

Elizabeth Maud Weston FSMC is admitted to the Livery by right on 1 December after achieving the Company’s professional qualification for ophthalmic opticians.

Dame Laura Rebecca Marshall (wife of the then Master) is clothed as of the Livery on 25 September.

19th Century


The first technical examinations held by the Company take place at the Northampton Polytechnic in November. The first woman to qualify was Miss Frances Troulan, who later took and passed the Company’s Diploma examination in June 1904. Her certificate now hangs on the wall in the Spectacle Makers’ offices.

The British Optical Association is founded and institutes examinations for opticians in 1896.

The fist reference to a need for organised education, examination and certification of opticians appears in an editorial in "The Optician " of 13 August: the Spectacle Makers do not respond!

The maximum permitted size of the Livery is increased to 400.

John Johnson, Master of the Company, takes office as Lord Mayor of London.

James Harmer is elected as the first Master of the Company not in any way connected with the optical trade. He is subsequently appointed as Alderman and Sheriff of the City of London.

The maximum permitted size of the Livery is increased from 60 to 200 and celebrated with a dinner at the London Coffee House on Ludgate Hill.

The first admission fine to the Livery is levied. Fees begin to be paid to the Clerk and the Beadle.

A new device is produced by Henry Lawson to form a new seal for the Company, the original seal having been lost. Now called the "Pseudo-Heraldic Device", this confirmed the motto of the Company as "A Blessing to the Aged".

The Spectacle Makers petition the Court of Aldermen for a Livery – the right being granted in October 1809.

18th Century


US philosopher and statesman Benjamin Franklin writes about his experiments in putting together lenses of different types in the same circle – an early form of bifocals.

On 27 December, the Court decides to open up membership of the Company to those outside optical professions.

Court records for the first time use the word "optician".

James Ayscough, Master, produces spectacle frames with double hinged sidepieces and tinted glass.

17th Century and even earlier......


Lucretia Clarke is admitted as a Freeman of the Company (though even before that date, widows had been permitted to take on apprentices and paid Quarterage). The first official lady Liveryman was admitted in 1919.

After the "Glorious Revolution", King William and Queen Mary confirm by statute the Charters of all Companies incorporated in the Stuart period.

Court records confirm the judgement of the Lord Mayor’s Court at Guildhall that defective spectacles found on the premises of a widow Haberdasher, Elizabeth Bagnall, should be "with a hammber broken all in pieces" by the Master Spectacle Maker "on the remaining parte of London Stone"

The Court of Common Council grants the Company of Spectacle Makers the power to "search and survey" premises in the City of London and enforces their monopoly on binding apprentices to the craft of Spectacle making.

The Court of Aldermen of the City of London confirms the translation, with the consent of the Company of Brewers, of 13 Freemen from that Company to the Society of Spectacle Makers "lately incorporated by His Majesty’s Letters Patent".

The Company’s Bye-Laws come into effect on 30 October 1630. The Bye-Laws remain in force today and include the words of the Declarations by each new Master and Wardens, the Clerk, the Beadle and all new Freemen.

The Royal Charter signed on 16 May by King Charles I establishes "one body corporate and politic… the name of the Master, Wardens and Fellowshippe of Spectacle Makers of London".

On 9 June, led by Robert Alt, a group of spectacle makers petition King Charles I for authority to establish their own Company . The King’s orders to grant their petition are given on 1 November.
We know that the history of spectacle making and wearing goes much futher back in time. In 1458/9 Paul van der Bessen of Southwerk (sic) is recorded as a Spectacle Maker working in London.  There are many medieval paintings showing the use of spectacles but a fascinating primary source is the inventory of  items found in the rooms of Walter de Stapledon (Bishop of Exeter, and founder of Exeter College, Oxford) after his death in 1326. It includes mention of spectacles: "unum spectaculum cum duplici oculo", valued at two shillings.