The Charter

The Guildhall Library, London
The Guildhall Library, London
The original Charter is held by the London Metropolitan Archive and can be seen by contacting them in advance.  Please see their website: London Metropolitan Archives Collection Catalogue (

Using the Retail Sales Index, the sum of £98 10s 2d paid for the Charter would have been equivalent to more than 1400 days' work for a skilled craftsman.  It would have been no mean feat to collect this sum.

Included in the list of people involved in producing the  the Charter were Thomas Copley, the Company’s first Clerk, and John Turlington. John Turlington is the first named of 13 men who, according to the City of London Corporation’s records for 11 November 1634, were translated from the Brewers’ Company to “the Society of Spectacle Makers”. He was appointed one of the first Assistants of the Company in the Charter. The same man (or his son?) is listed as having been Master of the Company from 1665 to 1669.

The Bye-Laws of 1630

The original Book of Ordinances or Bye-Laws of 1630 is also held by the London Metropolitan Archive. It can be inspected at their research centre, 40 Northampton Road, London, EC1R 0HB.  Please note that documents will have to be ordered up from the archive stores 24 hours or more in advance. See their website or the details on the City of London Corporation website for opening hours.

The Supplemental Charter of 1956

Many livery companies found themselves a useful target for monarchs needing money.  The later Stuart kings, in particular, had a habit of withdrawing Charters and requiring payment for a new one. The Spectacle Makers, however, managed to stay under the royal radar and had no need of any further documents until they petitioned for a Supplemental Charter in 1956. 

The Company petitioned for an expansion in the number of people to be appointed to the Court of Assistants and for modernisation of the processes for decision making, to bring it more in line with business practice. The petition asked for confirmation of the Master's status as de facto Chair of the Court and set out specifically the rules on the quorum required for decisions to become effective.

The Supplemental Charter was granted by Queen Elizabeth II and signed and witnessed on 21 June 1956, on the recommendation of the Privy Council.

The Supplemental Charter reads as follows:

ELIZABETH THE SECOND by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Our other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.


WHEREAS by their humble Petition the Company of Spectacle Makers (hereinafter called “the said Company”) have represented unto Us that the said Company was incorporated as one body corporate and politic in deed and in name by Royal Charter of Incorporation granted by His Majesty King Charles the First on the sixteenth day of May and in the fifth year of His Reign in the year of our Lord One thousand six hundred and twenty-nine whereby it was ordained (inter alia) that the said Company should have continuance for ever by the name of the Master Wardens and Fellowship of Spectacle Makers of London and that there should be chosen and named one person to be and to be called the Master and two persons to be and to be called the Wardens of the said Fellowship and that there should be named and chosen eight of the said Fellowship to be and to be called the Assistants of the Said Fellowship with power for the Master, Wardens and Assistants from time to time to choose and name others of the said Fellowship to be Assistans in the place of any of the said Assistants who should die or be removed from his or their office or offices:

AND WHEREAS the said Company by their said Petition further showed and submitted that it would be to the advantage and benefit of the said Company that the number of persons who should be elected and chosen as Assistants of the said Company should be increased beyond the number of eight:

AND WHEREAS the said Company by their said Petition humbly prayed that having regard to the circumstances therein set out We should be graciously pleased to grant to the said Company a Supplemental Charter for the purposes aforesaid:

NOW KNOW YE that We being satisfied that it is to the interest of the said Company that the powers conferred by the said Charter of His Majesty King Charles the First should be extended and varied in manner hereinafter mentioned of Our Special Grace certain knowledge and mere motion have willed granted and declared and Do by these presents for Us Our Heirs and Successors will grant and declare (notwithstanding anything in the said Charter to the contrary) as follows:-

The Court of Assistants of the said Company shall consist of the Master Upper Warden Renter Warden and not more than fourteen Assistants and upon resignation removal or demise of any Assistant or Assistants other or others may be elected in their stead.

The Master or failing him the Immediate Past Master shall be the Chairman of all meetings of the Court of Assistants, but if neither of them be present a Chairman shall be elected from the Past Masters who are present.

The Chairman and six other members present (of whom one shall be a Past Master or Warden) shall form a Quorum.

For the avoidance of doubt it is hereby declared that the Common Seal of the Company shall be affixed in the presence of the Master or a Past Master or Warden and the Clerk or a Deputy Clerk.

AND WE do will ordain and declare that these presents shall be considered supplemental to the said Charter of His Majesty King Charles the First and shall be construed therewith as one instrument:

AND lastly We do for hide sp Our Heirs and Successors grant and declare that this Our Charter or the enrolment thereof shall be in all things valid and effectual in law according to the true intent and meaning thereof and shall be taken construed and adjudged in the most favourable and beneficial sense for the best advantage of the said Company as well in our Courts of Records and elsewhere by all Judges Justices Officers Ministers and other Subjects whatsoever of Us Our Heirs and Successors any non-recital mis-recital or other defect or thing to the contrary notwithstanding.

IN WITNESS whereof We have cause these Our Letters to be made Patent.

WITNESS Ourself at Westminster the Twenty-first day of June in the fifth year of Our Reign.