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The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts


Spectacle making


The hand making of glasses or spectacles from a wide range of materials.


Status Endangered
Historic area of significance
Area currently practised
Origin in the UK
Current no. of professionals (main income) Estimated 11-20
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Current no. of trainees
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers



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.


Local forms




  • Lens making


Issues affecting the viability of the craft

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


Support organisations


Craftspeople currently known

Individual craftspeople:


Other information