Family and Local history enquiries

The Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers

We receive many emails and phone calls along these lines: “I believe one of my relatives was an optician. They were probably a member of your Company. Can you send me copies of any papers you have about them? ”

Unfortunately, we do not have a professional full time Archivist and no original records are held on site in our office. All we can do is point you towards potential alternative sources of information.

Before you start you should try to gather details such as full names, dates of birth, a home or practice address and dates of Company membership and/or qualification. Details of other memberships or registrations (such as a General Optical Council registration number) are also helpful. The more precise you can be, the better.

Freemen are not usually mentioned by name in our minutes. The best source of information will be the Freedom records held by the London Metropolitan Archive. For Liverymen, there may be slightly more but in most cases, you would find much more information through online searches. Our records usually only show the name of the individual, their address at the time of membership and the date of their admission.

The following links may be helpful: (a subscription is needed) – online searches of parish and electoral registers, by name and district

London Metropolitan Archives – holds census records, registers of London parishes and organisations and thousands and documents and images relating to life in the City of London across its history. Freedom records of several Livery Companies and documents such as minute books can be called up in advance for private consultation in the LMA reading room at 540, Northampton Road, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 0HB.

ROLL – Records of London Liveries – an online database of apprenticeship records from some of the older Livery Companies. These records have indicated links between the early Spectacle Makers, Clock Makers and Goldsmiths

The British Optical Association Museum at The College of Optometrists  – which holds examination registers for both the British Optical Association and the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers as well as thousands of objects telling the history of optics, including historic items from the Spectacle Makers’ Company

If you do find a wonderful story, we would be delighted to share it with members in our journal “From The Master & Wardens”.

We are always pleased to hear from people whose ancestors were Freemen of the Company and who are interested in continuing the family tradition. Children who were born after their mother or father became a Freeman of the Company or a Freeman of the City of London can apply for membership by the ancient right of Patrimony. Where the direct link has been lost or has skipped one or more generations, membership is still possible and is positively welcomed. Please contact The Clerk for more information.