“The team are proud to be part of such a big milestone”

Rawlings Opticians in Winchester celebrated 100 years on the High Street

A large shop window, has large numbers reading ‘100’ and a poster stating ‘We are celebrating 100 years in Winchester’ photographs are arrayed behind.

Walk down Winchester’s historic streets, through the medieval city gateway, and to the top of the bustling pedestrianised High Street, and you will find an enduring facet of the local community, which recognised its 100-year anniversary this year.

Rawlings Opticians in Winchester first opened in 1923 and is currently managed by Christopher Hobbs. Previously, the practice had been managed by Sally Hake for more than 15 years.

Reflecting on how the location has changed in 100 years, Rachael Smith, optometrist and director at Rawlings Opticians in Winchester, explained to OT: “The High Street in Winchester, like most towns, has seen many changes over the years. When we first opened in 1923, the High Street had mainly small family-run businesses, such as Nash’s Tobacconists, Cusworth’s newsagents, Arthur Taylor’s fruiterers, and Easton’s Restaurant, but over the 100 years, these have been replaced by more chain shops on the High Street, and small boutiques in the lanes leading from it.”

“In fact, Rawlings Opticians is the only family-owned business still on our High Street after all that time.”

To celebrate the 100-year anniversary, the practice hosted a cheese and wine afternoon, inviting patients and former members of staff, as well as the Mayor of Winchester and Winchester Radio. The celebration also hosted performances by artists from Blue Apple Theatre.

Speaking to OT, Smith said of the anniversary: “The team are proud to be part of such a big milestone in the history of the company and loved being involved in the celebrations, creating and belonging to part of Rawlings legacy.”

Claire Shipway, chairperson and HR director, delivered a speech on the history of Rawlings Opticians & Hearing Care, and her own career, spanning more than 40 years from junior stockroom worker at the age of 16, through her training as a dispensing optician, to her current position.

A cutting from an old newspaper showing a photograph of a fire engine, its ladder extended towards a building. On the ground, several firefighters are at work
Rawlings Opticians in Winchester experienced a devastating fire in 1988
A raffle and ‘guess the name of the bear’ activity was also held, with the bear named ‘Alfred’ after Rawlings founder – Alfred Rawling.

As part of the celebrations, the practice raised money for Blue Apple Theatre, a theatre company that supports performers with learning disabilities to develop and present high quality productions.

“We chose Blue Apple Theatre as one of our beloved patients is involved in the charity, and it is a local and valuable charity in Winchester,” Smith shared. “We managed to donate £2000, from raffle prizes donated from local Winchester businesses, as well as Rawlings making a £1000 donation.”

Many patients were heavily involved in the celebrations, including long-standing patients. Reflecting on the anniversary party, Smith said: "This meant we got to see all the people who we have built solid relationships with over decades, with some of them coming to us for more than 70 years.”

The practice welcomed its newest optometrist, Jasnique, in October, with another optometrist joining in January. A fourth audiologist is also soon to join who will be working across several Rawlings branches.

“All are an excellent fit for Rawlings in Winchester, and we have a great future to look forward to,” Smith said.

Considering the history of the practice, both in the High Street, and as part of Rawlings Opticians, she explained: “Although our Winchester brand is 100 years old, Rawlings first opened its doors in 1895 [in Croydon], so we have 127 years of heritage in total. Our company-wide 125th anniversary celebrations were cancelled in 2020 for obvious reasons, but watch this space as there will be an opportunity to revive the plans for our next milestone.”