As our thoughts turn to Summer holidays we can be thankful that our working conditions are much better than those experienced by some of our ancestors.
Historically many opticians have worked for themselves and to that extent could decide their own holidays though shutting the business for a week might have had its own financial consequences. Our document this month demonstrates that a master optician could nevertheless be reasonably generous (by the standards of the time) to his apprentice. It is the Indenture of Apprenticeship for one Harry Arthur Boatman of Grays, Essex to train as an ophthalmic optician, jeweller and watch and clock maker under Henry William Freeman of Sidcup, Kent.
Beginning in October 1899, young Boatman's training was to last five years. In the first year he would be paid two shillings and sixpence per week, rising to 13 shillings per week by the fifth year. The hours were to be a rather demanding 9am-8pm (though on Thursdays he only need to stay at work until 2pm) but the other terms and conditions appear quite good even in our eyes. He was to have an hour for dinner, half an hour for tea and '1 week's holiday twice yearly'. If he wanted to leave after the term, he promised he would not open a rival shop to Freeman's within a radius of four miles. On the reverse is a note by his master dated 17 September 1904 to the effect that Boatman completed his term, his conduct and progress being 'very satisfactory'.
H.W. Freeman was one of the earliest members of the British Optical Association, having joined in 1897. The work of the ophthalmic optician was becoming professionalised in a trend which would eventually put paid to the apprenticeship system altogether, though even today UK optometrists train 'on the job' during their Pre-Registration Year. Towards the end of his apprenticeship, in December 1903, Boatman also passed the BOA's Dioptric Exam. Subsequently he went to join the family firm of Boatman & Sons in the holiday resort of Southend-on-Sea where he worked up until the Second World War.