Development of Arms

On the 27th June 1771, a Mr. Kittle was paid the sum of £5 12s. 6d. for painting the Arms of the Company and, according to the Master’s and Wardens’ Account Books, he was given a further 10s 6d. to alter his original depiction. On 3rd October 1771 a “sash Case for Arms” was purchased for the munificent sum of £12, and on 1st January 1778 £2 12s. 6d. was paid for the seal of the Company’s Arms.

Were these the Arms painted on the side of the “Norville Chest” (see First Arms (1739?) picture)? Perhaps, and it is probably safe to assume that the Company adopted them at some time before 1739, for that is the date given in Bromley and Childs “ The Armorial Bearings of the Guilds of London” for the first reference to the Company’s Arms in W. Maitland’s “History of London”, published the same year. But bear in mind that the Spectacle Makers had no official right to a coat of Arms at that stage; the College of Arms has confirmed that it received no approach from the Company until the grant in 1950.

By 1810, the “1739/1778” seal had been lost, prompting the Upper Warden to report to the Court on 29th March that, “stock could not be properly bought as ordered at the last special Court by reason of his not having the seal of the Company” - from which it seems reasonable to deduce that a similar difficulty with the purchase of stock lay behind the adoption of the “1739” Arms and Seal. (It is a pity that so much conjecture surrounds this issue, but that is the price to be paid for previous Clerks’ failure to write full and accurate minutes!) Be that as it may, the Court resolved to remedy the situation forthwith (but without reference to the College of Arms), and on 28 June 1810 it adopted the “pseudoheraldic device” designed by Henry Lawson (Master 1803-04 & 1822-23), which today forms the basis of the Spectacle Makers’ Society’s emblem.

The '1739' Arms as depicted on the Norville Chest

The “1739” Arms as depicted on the Norville Chest.

Henry Lawson’s 'pseudoheraldic device'

Henry Lawson’s “pseudoheraldic device”.