Do you actually make spectacles?

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, to support those who prevent and treat impaired vision. 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 are involved in every aspect of making spectacles, from designing and producing complex and bespoke frames to those developing high tech, sustainable 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.

No. Every patient’s needs are different. You can find a register of qualified eye health practitioners in practice in your area by checking the register of the General Optical Council at www.optical.org.

No. Our name is historic. We do not ourselves make or mend glasses. Your starting point should always be the place where you bought your spectacles.

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: goc@optical.org

Website: www.optical.org

Optical Consumer Complaints Service:

Telephone: 0344 800 5071

Email: enquiries@opticalcomplaints.co.uk

Website: www.opticalcomplaints.co.uk

Eye health is a complex matter and many years of training and experience go into the development and design of vision aids, for all sorts of purposes. There have been many developments over the years in frame and lens materials and there is a strong emphasis in the 21st Century on sustainability. The spectacles or lenses you wear are not just a retail product, they are an aid to vision - perhaps the most precious sense of all.

 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 separate from the eye examination. You will get good advice from the practitioner who knows you best but you can shop around for frames and lenses 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.  If your mother or father was a Freeman of the Company at the time you were born, you will qualify to apply through the right of Patrimony. Other members join by recommendation of 2 Liverymen. All applications have to go to our governing Court for approval. 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 £155 per year, plus an initial administrative charge of £20 on joining. Liverymen pay £415 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 £80 per head, a quarterly Court Luncheon is priced at around £125 per head and the annual Livery Dinner £175 per head. Costs for lunches and dinners include a welcoming reception, three course menu with wines or soft drinks at each course, coffee or tea, service and VAT.  The surroundings and the conversations you will have with other members are unrivalled.  This is an experience which is simply not available anywhere else.

Society events are open to Freemen and Liverymen and their families and friends. 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 or costume workshop, £30-40 per head for a private tour of a house or garden and up to £500 for a full weekend away for a couple, including accommodation, meals and activities.  

Charity is an integral part of Livery life and all Livery Company members are strongly encouraged to make to a regular donation to charity. 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.

Members are encouraged to organise local get-togethers, to meet others who live close by informally at low or no cost.  The meeting point could be in a local hotel, restaurant, museum, park or even a football stadium. The office helps by advertising local gatherings - what happens on the day depends on the mood and who arrives! Some participants have gone on to dinner together, others have invited others round for tea.  

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. The Clerk can provide contact details and dates and venues for Brigantes events appear on the Livery Committee website www.liverycommittee.org

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 as a Company 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 a private building and a working office and events venue. Neither we nor our members have any automatic right of access and we have no control over bookings.  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 www.apothecarieshall.com

 Hall hire for most Livery Halls will be in the region of £1500-£2000 for daytime hire and up to £3000 for an evening booking, before costs for food, wine and service. 
Guided tours of the Hall are sometimes available. Enquiries should be addressed to the Apothecaries’ Office (call 020 7236 1189).

The Spectacle Makers’ Charity offers a bursary scheme which is open to new students starting degree or diploma courses in the UK, designed to lead directly to a career in eye health. The application period opens in November each year, with bursaries paid in the following March. It is a competitive scheme so there is no guarantee of obtaining funds. 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, nor can we help with the costs of research studies at Master's level.

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 London Metropolitan Archive research facility and reading room in London. See https://search.lma.gov.uk/ .

The British Optical Association Museum at 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.