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Millmead turns 75

The company has reflected on three quarters of a century of operation as it celebrates the milestone anniversary

Millmead balloons
Photographer London

Millmead Optical Group is celebrating its 75th anniversary, recognising the “continuous growth” of the company over several decades.

The group now includes Continental Eyewear, Jai Kudo Lenses, and Optoplast cases.

“What was once a small team of workers in Millmead, Guildford, is now one of the larger independently owned optical suppliers in the UK today,” the company shared.

Founded in 1946 by Walter Conway and Herbert Thorn, the company, then known as Optoplast, launched the first range of NHS glasses. The company also invented the patented PIMO machine, used in spectacle frame production to insert the metal reinforcements into acetate spectacle sides.

We are committed to becoming a major player in the future of sustainable eyewear


The company moved to larger premises, in Surbiton, where it began making spectacle cases and the second generation of the founding families joined the business.

After a relocation to Liverpool, the company began expanding in export markets, including setting up subsidiaries in Germany and Asia.

Current CEO, James Conway, joined the business in the 1990s alongside Daniel Thorn, introducing new optical frame collections, which the company suggested “proved pivotal for the company’s next phase of growth.”

In 2015, Millmead established frame manufacturing in the UK for the Water & Herbert range.

Jai Kudo Lenses joined the group in 2016, followed by Continental Eyewear in 2017.

In recent years, the company has committed to projects that seek to reduce the environmental impact of the eyewear industry. This October, the company launched sustainable spectacle cases produced in Liverpool, and also revealed plans to launch a range of eyewear made from recycled materials.

“We are committed to becoming a major player in the future of sustainable eyewear, lenses and accessories for the optical industry,” the company shared.