Heritage Crafts

Spectacle making

The hand making of glasses or spectacles from a wide range of materials.
Craft category
Metal, Wood, Glass
Current No. of professionals (Main income)
Estimated 11-20


Spectacle wearing became widespread in Europe in the 18th and 19th century and were widely manufactured in the UK and across Europe.

In the early 20th century this became even more widespread as glasses were supplied to troops in the First World War and then to the wider population through the NHS. The British spectacle making industry flourished until the abolition of the NHS frame range in 1985 and deregulation of the market at the end of the 1980s. The vast majority of frames and lenses are now made overseas.

Spectacle making went into steep decline in the 1980s, with the exception of a few bespoke frames for the higher end of the market. This has started to increase again in recent years as small, independent makers are starting up. This is encouraging but there is still a risk that skills could be lost.


Glasses can be made from a wide range of materials including horn, metal, plastic and wood.


  • Lens making

Issues affecting the viability

  • Market issues – British makers can’t compete with overseas competition

Support organisations


Training organisations


Craftspeople currently known

Individual craftspeople:

Other information




National Lottery Heritage Fund
Swire Charitable Trust
The Royal Mint
Pilgrim Trust
Maxwell/Hanrahan Foundation
William Grant Foundation

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