Obituary: John Hockney 

Colleagues and friends described the former chairman of the Federation of Manufacturing Opticians as a “visionary” and “extraordinary character”

John Hockney in a smart suit with a deep red bow tie

Optometry Today is sad to report that John Hockney, the former chairman of the Federation of Manufacturing Opticians (FMO) and “visionary in the world of manufacturing optics,” has died.

Hockney (1948–2024), was the founder and owner of Cambridge Optical, which grew into the Cambridge Optical Group following a number of acquisitions of optical companies in the 1980s.

Bob Hutchinson, associate board member of Centre for Advanced Interprofessional Education, and a contemporary of Hockney, commented: “John was one of a number of highly respected manufacturing opticians during the 1970s and 1980s.”

“Starting his career in the spectacle frame business in London, his talents at running a business soon came to the fore when he opened a small unit for lens glazing in Histon, Cambridgeshire,” he said, adding: “Through long hours, and dedication to his customers, this business, like those to follow, grew.”

The business moved to Bar Hill in Cambridgeshire, to a purpose-built premises with glazing machinery, and later doubled in size. The new site was opened by comedian Eric Morecombe, in a celebration attended by customers and friends.

“John had a large personality and was constantly filling the old print magazines with PR and stories about Cambridge Optical. His success was in understanding what the public wanted in frame design, as well as quality lens production, and in the care he took for every one of his customers,” Hutchinson said.

Kingsley Sleep, a former vice-chairman of the FMO (now the Optical Suppliers Association), said: “I worked with John from 1981 to 1991, which was a time of rapid expansion, and there was never a dull moment.”

“John was an extraordinary character; extrovert, ebullient, clever and shrewd all at the same time. He was also a visionary in the world of manufacturing optics and changed the face of the sector in many ways,” Sleep continued.

He described Hockney as “Mr Optrafair” for his dedication to ensuring the event was a success.

“We shared a sense of humour and enjoyed a strong friendship. That never changed in subsequent years, and I shall miss him,” Sleep concluded.