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British Industrial History

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United Kingdom Optical Co

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of Mill Hill, London, NW7. T.A.: Ukoptik, Phone, London. Telephone: Finchley 538. (1922)

Ditto Address. Telephone: Finchley 0538. Cables: "Ukoptic, Phone, London". (1929)

of Bittacy Hill, Mill Hill, London, NW7. Telephone: Finchley 2660. Cables: Ditto. (1947)

1919 The United Kingdom Optical Company Limited (UKO) was founded as a private company, with the object of strengthening the British ophthalmic lens making industry in the light of the United Kingdom's experience during the First World War. It took over a factory at Mill Hill, London, originally established before the First World War by a German optical company named Zeiss but was closed under the Trading with the Enemy Act and sold to Ross.

1922 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of all kinds of Ophthalmic Lenses, Photographic Lenses, and complete optical systems for Scientific Instruments. (Stand No. G.60) [1]

1929 Advert in British Industries Fair Catalogue as an Optical, Scientific and Photographic Exhibit. Manufacturers of All kinds of Ophthalmic Lenses ("Univis", "Akro-Univis", "Twofo" and "Akro" Fused Bifocals), "Pervextor" Toric Lenses; Photographic Lenses; Readers, Condensers; Lenses and Prisms for Binoculars, Instruments of Precision; Laboratory Lenses and Mirrors; Galvanometer Mirrors. (Scientific Section - Stand No. N.22) [2]

By 1930 the company had expanded and had taken over a number of small lens makers, and was competing technically and financially with established German and French manufacturers.

1936 Amalgamated with Taylor and Ustonson

1936 The company became public.

WWII During the Second World War it produced optical components for military purposes as well as its normal range of ophthalmic products.

1945 It established a factory at Lurgan in Northern Ireland.

1947 British Industries Fair Advert for Lenses for Better Vision. Manufacturers of Frames and Cases for Spectacles. Lenses, Mirrors and Prisms for Optical Instruments and systems. "Sira" abrasive. Metallic Deposits on Glass such as Aluminium and Chromium. (Scientific and Optical Section - Olympia, Ground Floor, Stand No. A.1045) [3]

1950 It acquired a group of ophthalmic wholesale and prescription houses, J. and H. Taylor (Holdings) and the company's name was changed to UK Optical Holdings Limited.

The company had varied fortunes during the fifties, towards the end of which a technical agreement was signed with Bausch and Lomb Inc, USA, a large glass maker and lens manufacturer.

1964 The company diversified by acquiring an old established company manufacturing catering equipment, W. M. Still and Sons. The growth of the Still division kept pace with the development of UK-Wiseman, and represented about 19 per cent of the total UKO group sales.

1967 The Hadley Co, which manufactured spectacle frames, was acquired.

1969 There was an agreed merger between the company and M. Wiseman and Co, a British company comparable in size with UKO, which made and distributed a similar range of ophthalmic products. This merger gave scope for rationalisation of production between the two companies although they still marketed overlapping ranges of products as separate enterprises and competed in service. Wiseman had overseas activities. Following the merger the group concentrated on developing and expanding export markets, especially in Europe.

1976 UKO employed about 3,500 in the United Kingdom and about 500 overseas.

See Also

  • [1] Competition Commission

Sources of Information